Tag Archives: self reflection

Remote Reflection in PBL

Fake Dewey quote that we all love…

This is the ninth of a series of posts about what Project Based Learning infused with Social and Emotional Learning looks like when teaching remotely. Is it the ideal situation? Probably not, but it is the reality that many of us are dealing with. I will share my ideas and what others are doing to hopefully inspire you to action.

Velcro Moments

Reflection is an act of metacognition, thinking about one’s one thinking. Although the quote on the top of this post can’t be directly attributed to John Dewey, it’s an accurate portrayal of his ideas. I am a huge proponent of active, hands-on learning. I believe whoever is doing, is learning. If the teacher prepares an engaging lecture, the teacher is the primarily benefactor from the research and preparation of it. Students who passively listen to the lecture gain only slight knowledge. But as Dewey advocated, we need students to be actively engaged with their hands and their minds. Word searches, crafts, or even projects without direct ties to content concepts can just end up being busy work.

Taking time out for student reflection creates velcro moments where the learning sticks.

Slowing down, silently thinking, and sharing thoughts with each other cements moments of clarity in learner’s minds. In Constructivist theory, reflection gives mental space for learners to place their new knowledge or skill in relationship to what they already know.

Reflect on What?

Reflection is about self-assessment of one’s knowledge, performance, abilities, or state of mind. It is important to be clear on what we want students to reflect on. The kinds of reflection topics should mirror the Areas of Assessment. Reflection should not be limited to only one area but be balanced between the social-emotional state of the learner, content, and SEL skills.

It’s important that teachers check in with each student daily to build relationships with them. We are gauging the state of the learner and making sure that they are ready to learn. But we should teach students to reflect on their own emotional state. For example, when students enter the classroom we might use a mood meter to have them consider their social-emotional state and ask themselves if they are ready to learn. Some teachers use a calm corner as a designated spot for students to reflect or decompress if they are upset. It is important for students of all ages to recognize their emotions, how they affect their feelings, and to develop coping skills for when they are upset or unhappy.

Mood Meter

Other times we want students to reflect on new concepts or skills that are the purpose of the day’s activities. Consider prompts that ask them to analyze problems or situations, evaluate evidence and sources, rate their confidence with a newly learned skill, or connect to previous learning. Creating their own concept maps is an excellent way for building content connections. Reflection builds bridges between the different schema in our brains connecting new learning to old knowledge.

Lastly, sometimes we should have students reflect on their Social and Emotional Skills. How is their group functioning? What personal areas of strength are they contributing to their team? How might they function more efficiently? What are their next steps in their project? How have they shown empathy with their audience? What is their SEL goal and how are they achieving it? You may choose to focus on one competency at a time or have students reflect on all of the competencies at different times throughout the project cycle. Reflecting on SEL practices is essential part of teaching, practicing, and assessing the competencies.

Mixing in a variety of all three types of reflection throughout the day or week leads to consistent improvement in all areas. Ultimately all three areas are connected and addressing each one in turn leads to the greatest growth in both content knowledge and development of the entire child.

Protocols

In the classroom, reflection takes on many forms and does not need to be time consuming. It can be a private, written reflection such as a 3-2-1 exit ticket.

  • 3 things I learned
  • 2 things I wonder
  • 1 area where I am stuck

Other written approaches are a quick response on individual whiteboards or in a journal as part of a daily warmup routine. Mixing up topics and focus areas keeps reflection fresh.

Reflection can be verbal and communal as well with a Think, Pair, Share or Turn and Talk with an elbow partner. Something as simple as 1 minute of silent think time before allowing responses in a class discussion integrates reflection into classroom culture. This is an equitable practice because it accommodates slower processors. Each of these protocols starts with individual thinking and then adds social aspects of sharing with a partner or small group. Students build upon their own knowledge with the reflections of others.

Reflection can be a simple, non-verbal checkin with Thumbs up/Thumbs down or Fist to Five. These formative assessments instruct the teacher on how students are feeling about their understanding of a topic or a skill, revealing vital information from students self-assessing their current level.

Other times, like at the end of a project, reflection might be longer, with a paragraph of writing. I like to use open-ended questions on a Google Form to have student evaluate me, the entire project, and their group collaboration. I also have a class discussion on the same topics. Some student will write things that they would never say out loud, while others will share verbally what they wouldn’t write so everyone reflects and gives feedback in ways that they feel comfortable.

Remote Strategies

All of these areas of reflection and the protocols translate easily online. I often use a mood meter or “On the scale of…” to checkin with students as they enter the virtual room to check on the emotional state. Even my students who don’t want to turn on their cameras or unmute themselves will share in the chat.

There are probably a thousand apps and tools to collect answers from students. As I have said before, it’s not about the tools, but picking a few that you and your students are comfortable with. I like to use Google forms and Padlet for students to submit exit tickets. Flipgrid is great for students to record talk alouds of their verbal reflections. I use protocols such as Visible Thinking Routines with Google Slides. Concept mapping can be done in Jamboard or other online whiteboards.

The built in features of video conferencing work great. Students can click on Thumbs Up/Down emojis to share their current level of confidence or submit Fist to Five as a private message to you in the chat. Small group reflections such as Turn and Talk or Think, Pair, Share can be done in breakout rooms.

In many ways, reflection is easier online as students are already isolated from each other so they have physical and mental space without distractions. Be aware that some homes may not have this advantage with multiple siblings or other interruptions beyond their control.

The most important takeaway on reflecting, whether virtual or face-to-face, is that it is vital for deeper learning. Teachers need to intentionally plan it into their lessons daily and make it a part of the culture of the classroom. Reflection builds thoughtful students who can solve problems with empathy and creativity.

Questions? Interested in an SEL infused PBL workshop or consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele on Twitter.

Remote Assessment in PBL

This is the fourth of a series of posts about what Project Based Learning infused with Social and Emotional Learning looks like when teaching remotely. Is it the ideal situation? Probably not, but it is the reality that many of us are dealing with. I will share my ideas and what others are doing to hopefully inspire you to action.

Exhausting!

Many teachers are overwhelmed with remote or hybrid teaching. It is so much work and is exhausting. Connecting with students is hard! They miss scheduled Zoom calls. Don’t respond to emails or messages. It sometimes feels like beyond a few self-motivated kids, student effort is dependent on how much parents or caretakers are monitoring them.

I recently saw a teacher post about how overwhelmed she was with daily grading in this environment. She stayed up late nightly marking papers. She asked about how much formative vs. summative assessment others were doing. For me the ratio should be about 99% formative vs. 1% summative.

Hope

I, of course, love assessment, but hate grading. My advice to teachers is to use formative assessments daily, even multiple ones. This shouldn’t be overwhelming because you do NOT need to grade them. The purpose of formative assessments is to figure out where your students are to plan your next teacher moves to make.

Think of formative assessment as a thermostat taking the temperature of the room, then you adjust the heat or air based on your reading. As students complete an activity in your class, listen and observe, looking for common misconceptions or gaps in understanding. Then sequence the next day’s lessons based on student needs. This means you may have to differentiate for different groups of kids.

boring pic, but important analogy

Formative assessments are not your sole responsibility. As you create a student-centered classroom, you release control to students. You are not the only source of knowledge in the room. Formative assessments should include peer assessments, community feedback, and self reflections, on top of your observations. Let’s consider each one and what it might look like in remote learning.

Peer Assessment

There are many ways that students can assess each other, and most can be adapted for online learning. For writing pieces in Google Docs, they can leave suggestions in comments. Many teachers have students post pictures of drafts of final products on Padlet or videos on Flipgrid and then have other students add feedback for refinement. Use a Visible Thinking Routine within breakout rooms to structure productive peer assessment. Remember to model what constructive feedback looks like and provide sentence stems.

Community Feedback

Outside experts can provide excellent feedback, especially in areas of the project that may be outside of the teacher’s expertise. You can use some of the same tools mentioned above: Padlet, Flipgrid, Google Docs, etc. Students can connect via email or video conferencing to get feedback on their products, advice for research topics and resources, and coaching around content topics. In a design project, students should be surveying the community for their perspective on the problem being addressed. Social media is another way for students to get their message out and to connect to local aspects of their project.

Self Reflection

In reality, self-reflection is the single most powerful assessment. When we decide something for ourselves, it leads to substantive action. Students should be reflecting on content, SEL skills that they are developing, and the PBL process. Reserve time daily for reflection on one of these areas. Use rubrics to have students evaluate themselves. They can journal or fill out an exit ticket. This can be done many ways online. My favorite for its simplicity is a Google Form. Mix it up by having students do a Turn and Talk with random pairs in a breakout room.

Teacher Observations

My favorite teacher assessment is just listening to conversations of students during group work. Put them into breakout rooms with a protocol to follow and a task to submit at the end. Hop in to notice how they interact with each other and what they are learning. Pull small groups or individuals into a separate breakout room for conferencing to assess them. Document students’ levels on content standards or SEL competencies in a spreadsheet (note: I am not the creator of this template and the author did put their name on it).

When you need to look at handed-in classwork, read 8-10 papers looking for themes of strengths and missing aspects. Once you establish what you need to know, don’t read the rest. Don’t grade them at all! Plan an engaging way to address the pattern that you discovered.

Finally here’s two of my favorite sites for formative assessment ideas: 60 Formative Assessments and K-20 Assessment Cards.

My Mantra:

Assess more;

Grade less;

Plan cool stuff for kids!

We only have so much time in a day. Every minute wasted grading busy work that doesn’t inform our next teacher move is wasted time. Let’s use our time wisely to plan work worthy of the children in front of us. Assess in real time and use your planning period to plan and adjust, not mark papers.

Questions? Interested in a PBL workshop or consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele on Twitter.