After attending Educon this year, I decided to teach my next unit 100% Project Based Learning using the PBL Essentials Checklist from bie.org. One of the elements on the checklist is Reflection, so near the end of the project I put together a series of reflective questions for my students. I also explained to them that I put a high value on reflection and believe that you can learn as much from reflecting on the project as you can from doing it. As my students began submitting their “completed” reflections, I was very disappointed. They just weren’t getting it. Self-reflection is not something they are asked to do very often and it showed. I talked to a few individual students and tried to push them a little more. The same thing happened in the next period. By this time I was frustrated. I kept finding more and more adjectives to describe what I wanted and nothing was working.
Suddenly I remembered a blog post I read recently, “Monkeys Can Teach Good Kids”. The whole post is great and the part that’s most relevant here is, “ If more than 15% of my kids don’t understand my teachings I simply…GO LOOK IN THE MIRROR! I take responsibility that my teachings didn’t hit the target. “ Now, this doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it can be very rare in school culture. As soon as I remembered this, I knew I had to do something different. That “something” was to answer the same questions as the students, but from my own perspective. This ended up being a great exercise for me. I often reflect mentally and informally, but to go through the more formal process of answering all the questions in writing wasn’t easy. One of the better ideas that came to me was in response to the “What would you have done differently?” question. My answer was that I would have organized the group roles differently, “For example, if a group was working on the legislative branch, one person might research basic information on the that branch, while a second person might look more closely at a law made by the legislative branch that has a direct impact on us. The third group member could possibly find information on how we, as citizens, might be able to impact the legislative branch’s decision making.”
Showing my students a genuine example of what I was looking for did the trick. Thank you Ben Gilpin for the the great post!