Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reflective Friday: Time out to think

Posted by Tara Della Rocca

Douillard, K. (2000). Reflective Friday: Time out to think. The Quarterly, 22(4). Retrieved from

In this article, Kim Douillard reflects on her experience of implementing "Reflective Fridays... a day set aside for reflective thinking, talking and writing" in her multiage classroom of six- through nine-year-old students.

"Reflection, as I define it in our classroom, is thinking about the ways new learning fits into what we already know. It allows us to make connections between new learning and previous experiences... Reflective activities in the classroom help to make thinking visible, enabling students to learn from one another and to gain greater insights into their own thinking and learning processes."

Douillard's schedule for the day included reflection in all different forms. She began with "focused reflection about classroom learning for the week and ended with time for students to have an opportunity for unstructured thinking about topics of their choice." There was also time built in for sharing reflections among classmates and she, as the teacher, carried on dialogues with students in written conversation, as well.

"A teacher aspiring to cultive reflectiveness in students needs patience." Students began simply by  recounting experiences from the week; but this developed into more complex thinking - the types of which Douillard labels: observation, questions, connections, evaluation, self-awareness, new information, and details.

"While developing different types of thinking is not, by itself, the goal of reflective thinking, it is clear that students show greater understanding as they are able to move past telling what happened toward drawing conclusions, connecting their learning to their own experiences, making observations, and evaluating their own learning."

She cautions that the results of this implementation were slow and students responded with varying degrees of thought.
"...students develop different skills at varying rates... need for patience and trust in the belief that students will become more reflective over time."

Douillard did recognize that the results of these Reflective Fridays were similar to the results of our own reflective behavior as adults. As students reflect they "become more aware of their own learning" and "they are able to set goals and evaluate their progress."

I was immediately struck in reading through this article by the idea that she set aside an entire day of each week for reflection. This is so powerful! I imagine it creates a culture of reflection in the classroom and teaches students to think about their experiences (and their thinking) in very deep ways. Douillard mentions that initially, students would get stuck trying to reflect and she would ask them questions to "nudge them forward." I wonder what other strategies she used to motivate students to write and to "go past done" as they began to get restless with writing or thinking about their experiences. Though she says she refrained from giving written prompts because she didn't want to limit her students, I wonder what methods she used to scaffold reflection (beyond the one or two she mentioned in the article). Perhaps, it was the variation of reflective activities, that kept the students interested and inspired to participate in Reflective Fridays. The day included a schedule of thinking time, writing, time, reading time, sharing time, goal setting, etc. With all of these activities, I imagine students become very aware of what is necessary to be self-directed learners.

I wonder how incorporating such a large amount of time to reflection can contribute to helping students become more aware of their thinking. Douillard suggests in her article that "Reflective activities in the classroom help to make thinking visible" but I wonder if she incorporates conversations to help students see their thinking (in their writing and reflective discussions) or if the thinking of the students is merely visible to the teacher. And is it even necessary that it be explicitly visible to students? Must the teacher point out the various types of thinking to students to promote more use of these types in further reflection? Or does the experience of just doing these reflections drive students to more advanced thinking in their reflections without the need to explicitly 'teach' about or model deep reflection?

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