Having just read @jgravel‘s post on integrating reflection into her practice, I’ve been inspired to examine my own use of reflection in my sphere of influence. One area that I am responsible for is experiential learning. One of the key parts of really good experiential learning is the reflecting on experiences. This is captured in the Kolb Cycle:

The Kolb Cycle is recognized as the best practice when it comes to creating experiential learning


I struggle to make the moments of time required for this to be effective. I think that most schools struggle with this – where do we put the time? We tend to put it into the experience itself. Which is amazing; however, what are we losing when we send the message that the experience is the thing?

After a Day 9 experience, where students might be working with neurosurgeons or a circus camp, or working with a start-up company, or exploring curriculum deeply at the AGO or at the Toronto Zoo, students are asked to complete a survey. In this survey, I ask them to rate their experience on a scale of 1 -5. Following this question is “Tell us why you made the rating you did”. They are then asked to rate how much they enjoyed their experience, and then “Tell us why you made the rating you did”.

These are reflections on their experience, and I think that this is the right step to take. However, I wonder how to take this further…

I’ve been doing research on digital portfolios as a lever to press for students to curate and reflect upon their learning journey. Having instigated digital portfolios in previous schools, I have every confidence in their ability to deepen the learning and allow students to paint a picture of themselves as a learner, and then give them the ability to step back and take a good look at that portrait: What would I change? What would I do differently? What questions do I have about this portrait? What do I like or love about this portrait? These are all key questions to put in front of our students, and ourselves.

I think that one of the key pieces to something like school-wide adoption of a digital portfolio is figuring out how it best fits into the current culture of the school, and how it might shape that culture to create a practice that the school values. Such an adoption requires faculty and students to think differently about what learning is and what it means to learn because it requires them to work differently.

It requires educators to think strategically about classroom time: If I am saying ‘yes’ to building meta-cognitive skills in my Math classroom, what am I saying ‘no’ to?

It requires educators to think differently about assessments: Do I want my students to only study the content, or do I want them to analyse how they study as well?

For our students, it requires them to approach learning differently: If I can no longer do well just by knowing and repeating, how can I think differently about how I approach learning? 

And ultimately, we have to ask ourselves as a school community: If school is no longer transactional, HOW do we know we are succeeding? How can we reflect this to our parents, our students and to post-secondary institutions?

There are many of us in Cohort 21 past and present who are pursuing this as well. I know that in my own school there are teachers that are doing their bit to allow students to better understand who they are, and what they are capable of now, and to get them thinking about the future. I wonder what would happen if we could capture this in a scope and sequence? What would this look like? Where would this live in the lives of the students: in classes, courses, advisory, or other spots?

Where does it live in your schools? I’d love to hear more…


1 thought on “A Time to Reflect

  1. With the help of @ljensen, I am trying this very thing. I am using SeeSaw as a way to try and get students to collect and keep their learning journey. I would say this year has been very experimental. It has allowed me access to student thinking, getting them to connect with me beyond the time we have in class. It lacks consistency as I am really running blind with it and don’t have a clear goal in mind. I am going to create a blog about this. Stay tuned and hopefully, we can continue to share and grow! Also, I loved your part about moving on from the transactional approach and really redefining ourselves, therefore needing to redefine success.

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