** 1 Year Later Reflection, see end of post
Something that I do well in my classes is consistently asking my students to be reflective. I've learned and discovered that the most authentic learning happens in reflection, thinking back over a completed project and thinking into the future about what you will do differently. I wish that I could say that I put as much effort into asking the students to practice their critical creative thinking. I hope to be explicit about leading a class that can defend and justify decisions and choices in projects based on evidence, research and experience.
To plan my lessons first I make sure that I have completed my example of the project that I will be leading the class in so I can back fill a calendar with what steps everyone will need to take and complete week by week. So on a given week I'm expecting everyone to have finished some particular deliverable or part of a deliverable. For a specific skill lessons I will give a brief demonstration then provide the class with all the videos and articles that I used when learning the skill and also show them my example to guide their work. For a specific content lesson I will usually expose students to the concept through a guided group discussion and give them problems to work on. Accuracy is not important and I grade them on a written reflection that they send me where they justify what they learned and how they spent their time.
From Boaler's article "Thinking Through a Lesson" I was inspired to be more intentional about defining a goal for what everyone will learn in each lesson. This seems obvious but I've never been so specific before. She says "The challenge is to be clear about what ... ideas students are to learn and understand from their work on the task, not just what they will do." If I have clarified to myself what I want everyone to know by the end of the lesson, according to Boaler, " you will be better positioned to capitalize on opportunities to advance the mathematics (content) in the lesson and make decisions about what to emphasize and de-emphasize." For each of my future lessons I think clarifying the learning goal into one sentence before hand will be a huge benefit to me and my students.
1 Year Later...
It's crazy what one takes for granted! I still am getting better and better at these 1 sentence summaries, and still use them, though now I use them in more contexts than just lessons. With a goal on the board for open work time, I find that students are much more clear on what is happening and more likely to finish their work.
Examples from the last few weeks:
- I can draw a diagram of a glider that somebody else understands
- Materials list finished and plans critiqued by End of Period
- Measure the Center of Gravity of your kite and mark it on both the diagram and your actual kite so that we can figure out why your kite isn't flying correctly.
Even my reflection style has changed. I used to always have the class reflect introspectively on the way they completed a project, and not the content that they learned. Now I am much more focused on their reflection on what they learned and the skills they've picked up.
Philip Estrada is a teacher at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego California. He teaches Physics by having kids build things in a woodshop.