Reflecting on Reflecting on Failure to Reflect: Part 1

This is the first of multiple entries about an assignment I recently did in class, how it challenged students, how feedback works, and how to get students to be more reflective. It will also examine my own feats and failures along the way.


Ever have this one before?

You roll out a huge assignment/project, aimed at allowing students to be collaborative, to be interactive and to be reflective. A week’s time to dig in with some ideas and focus on being a more aware learner and to be able to answer why and how something went the way it did.

Still smiling, still feeling great about watching this process play out, there awaits a message from a student: “hey, where can I turn this in?”

Oh no.

We all know and recognize the problem. So many of our students have been conditioned, and rewarded, to just “get things done.”

What happens when this mindset meets an assignment deliberately designed to force students to slow down and reflect? Well, that’s what I learned about last week.

Here were the assignment ingredients.

The students: seniors in a dual credit speech class.

Goals: students were to better realize the power of communication, were to better understand the role of questioning, and to better reflect on their own ability (or inability) to engage with other speakers/listeners.

The materials and process: Utilizing the learning management system Canvas, students used the discussion feature of the site to answer a discussion topic, interact with one another, and then reflect on the kinds of conversations they had with one another.

Further directions: Students has one week to finish these steps…post an answer to a discussion question with a detailed answer, interact and engage others in dialogue about their topics, respond to ideas aimed at your post, and, finally, to reflect about how your own thinking on the topic changed.

Personal goals: I want interaction. I want a classroom environment where students will challenge one another to press further with ideas, to disagree with one another on occasion, and a space where things aren’t often “good enough”. This is a huge challenge, but at the front of what I try to achieve in my classroom. You know, all of this stuff equals thinking.

So, what happened?

As I alluded to earlier, the biggest shock came when I had two students messaging me with the final reflection less than 24 hours after it had been assigned. Further, I had another student messaging me to alert me that no one had responded to her post. It had been live less than 12 hours.

I realized immediately that I needed to do a whole lot more to emphasize and model what it meant to engage with an audience and to be a reflective learner. I responded to those students to address their concerns. Then, I began to think a lot about why it is students have these issues.

More on that next time. I still have some more reflecting to do.