Rediscovering the Power of Reflection

There are days when, as educators, so many tasks are vying for our attention that our to-do lists feel endless. During these hectic days, reflection — a key piece of teaching and learning – is often the first thing to go. Many of us find ourselves careening from one point in the day to the next with little time to breathe, let alone time to stop and reflect. Similarly, when class schedules get busy, student reflection is often what gets cut for time. This frantic pace is often rewarded by a culture that celebrates busyness and multitasking. But what are we sacrificing when we don’t make time to slow down and reflect?

Reflection IS Learning

Natural Learning CycleAs modern education pioneer John Dewey wisely stated: “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
Reflection — whether it’s the student reflection at the end of a lesson, class reflection at the end of a day of learning, or your own professional and personal reflection on choices, habits, and success — is one-third of the natural learning cycle.

Other Benefits of Reflection

When students reflect throughout the school day, it allows them to:

  • Make sense of their experiences — academic, social, and emotional
  • Build metacognition skills
  • Consolidate new learning
  • Gradually broaden knowledge, making them more sophisticated thinkers

When teachers reflect, it allows them to:

  • Learn more about who they are as a teacher
  • Consider what they’ve learned from the past to guide future planning
  • Gain a new perspective on events
  • Become more strategic and intentional moving forward

For both adults and students, each school day is full of listening, observing, creating, interacting, and problem-solving. When we move through all of that without pausing to reflect, we miss the opportunity to consider what was learned, what went well, what was challenging, what strategies were helpful and which were not, and what we might do differently next time. Reflection questions like those are deceptively simple yet hold the potential to foster a growth mindset and further your movement through the learning cycle.

As you look ahead, consider the power that reflection has in the learning cycle and gift yourself and your students with opportunities for purposeful reflection throughout the day. And remember, reflection is not just one more thing on your to-do list — reflection is learning.


Written by Michelle Gill, Responsive Classroom Professional Development Designer
Tags: Encouragement, Joyful Classrooms, Professional Development, Reflection

2 Replies to “Rediscovering the Power of Reflection”

  • Thank you for this article and perspective. Right on. I will quote parts of this in a senior adult creative writing class I’m teaching. I always try to make time for participants to reflect on the class that day. I call it: Comments for the Good of The Order, an old term I used to use when I was in student government in college. We did this at the end of each meeting. I also ask participants to reflect when they return for the Next class, assuming they have been processing since the last class but may not even be conscious of it. I want to bring their new learnings and insights into the consciousness of the group. It also reinforces why we learned what we did last time and how it enhances our internalization of concepts. You spelled it out beautifully, succinctly, and meaningfully. Thanks, Michelle Gill.

  • I use reflection as a component of students’ weekly journal writings. They consider the learning experiences for that week, identify what they mastered, what they need to re-visit, and which strategies or elements of lessons were effective or ineffective and why. They evaluate their performance and even mine. Reflection is a method for growth and improvement for the students, as well as the teacher, in this English II course.

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