Self-Reflection Is Crucial for Students (and Adults)

Students do not like dwelling on negative experiences in school, but, then again, neither do adults. Reflection is a crucial step in learning, whether you’re teaching executive function strategies or how to change a tire.

It’s not enough to explicitly model a strategy and allow students to practice it independently. Instead, we must revisit and reflect upon the strategy after the student has had a chance to apply the strategy to a test, homework assignment, or an essay.

Too often, students (and their teachers) skip the reflection step. From the teacher’s point of view, it may be a time saver, but from the student’s point of view, it’s psychologically unpleasant to reflect on a task that may not have gone very well.

As an adult, think back to an unpleasant task you may have faced recently (splitting a dinner check seven ways for example, or planning a trip to the beach on a hot, humid day). Your first instinct may be to think about something more pleasant; however, you are missing an opportunity to learn and save yourself grief in the future.

In SMARTS, we use strategy reflection sheets to ask students what they thought of the strategy. Did they find it useful? Why or why not? Would they use it again? If we can guide students through these questions, we can help them develop a more nuanced understanding of what they did well and where they can improve. In the future, they will be better able to apply the strategies they are learning to the challenges they face in school and beyond.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director