A Reflection on Reflecting

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“How’s school going for Tyler?”  I asked my friend the other night.  “Awesome!” she enthusiastically replied, without missing a beat.  “He loves it.  And he’s really learning a lot.  My favorite part is that he has to do a weekly reflection that I can read by logging into the portal.  And it’s actually good.  He actually gets it!”  My heart burst with happiness.  I was thrilled for my friend, who, over the past year struggled with school placement issues and finding the right fit for her son.  These weekly reflections were like snow globe, allowing her to see a snapshot of the mind of her 16 year old who’s conversational vocabulary is typically limited to a grunt, nod, “ok,” “not bad,” or “pretty good.”

Even more so, I was elated for Tyler.  Instead of coasting though school putting the minimum amount of effort in on each assignment, he was being stretched – not only with content knowledge, but with the process of reflecting.  “At first it was hard,” he told me, “but after a while I realized there wasn’t really a right answer.  That I just had to think about what I did well and what I want to get better at.  It actually makes me realize how much I learn in just one week.”  I swear I heard angels singing!  Tyler shared more about school with me in that one conversation than he did all of last year.

Tyler’s mom shared his latest reflection with me – isn’t it just exuding growth mindset?!

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The entire #IMMOOC experience is reflective in nature.  Instead of simply consuming articles, podcasts, and tweets, I am connecting, revising, writing about, and reflecting on others’ ideas.  It takes me at least 2 hours to listen to each #IMMOOC episode because I regularly pause the video and write down my own reflections and ideas related to the material.  I have always thought of myself as a “good learner,” but this process – reading and listening to others’ ideas and then reflecting on how they relate to my own life, beliefs, and experiences – seems to have maximized my potential for learning.

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Below are 5 reflections on reflecting:


Reflection can occur:

  • before learning (looking back, preparing)
  • during learning (looking inward, assessing)
  • after learning (looking outward, seeing a larger whole)
  • going forward (application, synthesis, transformation)

Don’t limit yourself to reflecting after learning (how often does your lesson take more time than anticipated so you skip the time allotted for reflection?).  Learning is an infinite and iterative process.  As @TracyZager says, “Instead of asking, ‘So what did you learn?’ ask, “So what are you wondering now?”

Access Higher Order Thinking

Pose reflection questions that foster metacognition, transformation, creativity, exploration, empathy, and a growth mindset.  Peter Pappas has done some amazing work thinking about reflection parallel to Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Check out his Taxonomy of Reflection:

Taxonomy of Reflection




Narrate your own reflection process.  Show learners that you think about how things are going and how you can adapt and improve, both personally and professionally.  Reflect with your head, heart, and gut…avoid being myopic with your thoughts and considerations.

Teach Learn


Reflection breeds reflection.  Others’ ideas provide more prompts, and another perspective to help solidify knowledge and connect ideas in a way that you may not have been able to do on your own.  Carve out time for your learners to reflect – if you’re unable to provide the space and time to share thoughts in person, utilize Google Classroom, Twitter, or Flipgrid (just to name a few).  Although reflection intended for an audience of one (the reflector), can be powerful, the domino effect that stems from reflecting in an open space can be exponentially rewarding for all involved.



Reflection is a cumulative process – the more you reflect, the more you get out of it.  Give yourself and the learners you work with time to hone their craft.




Margaret Wheatley claims, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”  The ability to reflect separates the

-good from the great

-the complacent from the productive

-the comfortable from the risk-taking


So…where will you go from here?  What are you wondering now?  What will you do next?

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