Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Challenge of Reflection-Writing

Session Eight: What skills does it take to be part of a team? 
Reflection Post by Joy 
January 26, 2014

** In keeping with the spirit of capturing one's thinking in writing, I am going to use the "Four Point Evidence" framework we have been using with the kids to compose this post: 

          We brought our two groups together this week for a "big" Think Tank session. The purpose was twofold:   1) Work together on the focus lesson: What skills does it take to be part of a team
                2) Facilitate the kids' ability to write and capture their thinking in writing
     Since we are expecting students to demonstrate how their thinking dispositions have developed over the year, we realized we needed to do some explicit teaching on how to "capture your thinking in writing". Our opening circle time, lab time discussions and reflection circle discussions have revealed a lot of growth in students' understanding and awareness of their thinking dispositions, however their written reflections have not demonstrated the deep learning and understandings the students have articulated to us orally. With this in mind, we decided to put greater emphasis on reflection-writing, while still continuing with the focus lessons on the Habits of Mind. 

         In our focus lesson, we guided the students through a talk sequence to create a class list of positive team skills and attitudes. We asked the students to notice what teams skills and attitudes they had in action during their group activity of mining chocolate chips out of a cookie "mine". I won't go into the details of the activity, but suffice to say it was very engaging and fun. There was that hum of learning (you know the one - the noisy learning hum!!?) going on. 

Here are a couple of pictures of teams skills and attitudes in action! 
(Here we are discussing...)
Here we are working with our teams.
After the students engaged in the group activity, we gathered them for our reflection circle to discuss what team skills and attitudes they had in action during the activity. We guided them through the discussion using the frame What, So What, What's the Connection and Now What? 

The following chart guided the discussion and then provided a framework for the kids to write :

          By setting the kids up for success by using the framework in our talk session as well as the writing session, there was a noticeable difference in the focus and attention of the whole group while they were writing. We had very few "I don't know what to write" interventions and students spent more time, and were more prolific, at the task of writing. We also knew that we had to spend some time teaching the students how to write reflectively, because it is a skill into itself, and must be taught. We realize we have only just begun, but we will continue to persevere in this, because we understand that the very act of putting our thoughts to writing helps solidify and create understandings. We hope that through the (somewhat painful...yes, we know) practice of capturing our thinking processes in writing, the students will come to see how their thinking dispositions have developed.
Here are a few of the students' reflections: 

Overall, there is a slight improvement in the level of writing (when looking at the group as a whole). We have a lot more work to do here...

          The students are expected to note some development, over time, in their thinking dispositions. The only way we know for them to do this, is to engage in what is known as "reflective practice". Donald Schon (1983) introduced the concept of reflective practice in his book The Reflective Practitioner.  What, So What, What's the Connection and Now What? is borrowed from Rolf's (2001) reflective model used to reflect "in action", by describing, scrutinizing and then making plans for future action (What, So What, Now What?). Adding the What's the connection to our framework provides the opportunity to connect to past learning or also make a connection to literature. For the reflective practitioner, it is a way of integrating practice with theory. If it works for us, as teacher-learners, why can't the kids use the same cycle of experience and reflection?  

          Our next session will also be as a whole group. We are going to use student writing to create a criteria for future written reflections. We are also going to continue using our Four Point Evidence framework for capturing student thinking about thinking. I believe the ability to self-reflect is intrinsically connected to the awareness of one's thinking dispositions. By making reflection writing part of our daily and weekly routines, we will build and develop the students' capacity for self reflection.  If we expect them to notice any growth or change in their thinking. we will need to develop their fitness in self-reflection, as Johnson (2003) suggested: "building fitness in self-reflection is the foundation of all emotional capacities and competencies". Awareness of the development of their thinking dispositions will only come if we develop their ability to self-reflect. And so we begin....

 Stay tuned next week to hear how our criteria-building session went! 

No comments:

Post a Comment