Monday, November 14, 2011

The Art of Reflection

Ximena and I have been seriously considering the role of reflection in our Basic Writing classes. On the one hand, we have very little time with them before the CUNY Assessment Test in Writing (the test comes in week 10), so every minute of class time is essential. Additionally, many students simply will not do homework, so we try to keep as much of the course content in the classroom. They read in class and write in class. The upside is we can see how they read and how they write. The downside is we can only really count on the 40 hours we have them in class for work. And, honestly, we do not have enough time to change their counter-productive behaviors either. A few, sure--but not all of them.

In any case, we have 4 units in our classes that run approximately 2 weeks each. I had always favored a "reflection" blog entry at the end of each unit that I would use as the basis for their evaluation. You can see our basic evaluation rubric HERE (this is its maiden voyage, so we are still negotiating the points and etc.) However, this semester the schedule seemed very tight as we changed the schedule a bit to have a preliminary unit on writing and rhetoric. We ended up dropping the reflection for the second unit at the last minute as it seemed an excessive amount of work for the students that they were unlikely to do in any case.

Epic fail. Though we did not notice at the time. We picked the reflection back up for the third unit and the students, by and large, really hit it. Overall, we were shocked by how well the students have been able to gauge their own performance in the class and in writing. We were also very impressed by the level of engagement in the course that the students demonstrate in their entries. Here are three examples from Ximena's class. I am particularly impressed with their sense of audience.

Student 1
Student 2
Student 3

We are reviewing this blog series now, so I will have a follow-up to this post shortly. But I can tell you now, I am never dropping reflection out of an instructional unit ever again.

Photo thanks to killer_muffin.


  1. A great reminder for all of us about the power of reflection. I've been really persauded this semester by the power of reflection just in terms of guaging a student's sense of 'where they are' in class. I've also used very short reflections to see what they feel uncomfortable with in terms of writing strategies we go over in class - they are, indeed, accuarely aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.

    I was also drawn to another point you raise in your blog: how students simply don't do homework. I've noticed the same thing. And I don't know what I would do without the computer labs -- I really don't. I assign blogs they don't do except in class, and the same for Twitter - particularly for one of the classes.

  2. This inspires me to have students do a reflection about blogging on their blogs tomorrow in class, among other activities we will do on the blogs!

  3. As to the point about students not doing homework -- I have continually been astounded at the expectations students have of passing classes without doing any readings or assignments outside of class! How can we inspire them to do so?