Reflecting on the purpose of reflection

We had a great discussion in our Library Instruction Team this morning about how valuable reflection is to the process of learning. Our starting point for this discussion was an article written by some Harvard Business School researchers, titled Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance. It’s a big lengthy, but it provides excellent details about the research the group did in investigating if having people reflect on the process of completing a task improves their performance. And, of course, it did.

In the course of our conversation, we talked about how to bring reflection into a one-shot library instruction session. A lot of good ideas were thrown around, including doing a 3-2-1 paper, or a one-minute paper. We discussed ways to add reflective questions to the online assessment activities we already use in our classes. We talked about our preferences for trying to bring actual, pen-to-paper writing into classroom activities. (There have been a number of studies that look into the effect of handwriting versus typing on learning.)

We also talked about using reflection in our own practices. How important it can be to reflect on your teaching after you have done it. To think about what worked well, what didn’t work, how it felt, how students or faculty reacted. We also talked about putting reflection to use after attending conferences or other types of professional development in order to aid our retention of ideas, feelings, and actions.

So this is my blog, reflecting on our discussion about reflection, hoping that it will reinforce these ideas and that I will commit to trying more reflective practices in my teaching. So I’ll try my own 3-2-1 reflection:

3 things ideas or issues that were presented:

  1. Reflection after doing a task aids in the ability to perform that task in the future.
  2. This type of reflection is valuable not just for students, but for teachers to learn and grow in their own practice.
  3. There are simple, quick, easy ways to build reflection into one-shot sessions, by asking to students answer questions like: Describe the process you went through to find this article; or, List the criteria you used to determine if the article you chose was scholarly or not.

2 examples or uses of the information covered:

  1. Using part of our regular meetings times as a reflective discussion about our teaching experiences, highs, lows, lessons learned, etc.
  2. Incorporating a short reflective exercise into a one-shot library session.

1 remaining question or unresolved idea:

  1. How can we measure students’ performance or retention of the information or ideas after the one-shot session is over?

So what am I going to do now that I have reflected on the value of reflection?

I am going to try to bring some reflection strategies into courses that I teach over the rest of the semester, paying attention to not only the students’ responses, but also to gauge how they react to being asked to reflect on the class. I am also going to write more often about my teaching, and definitely will write up a post-conference reflection after ACRL in March. I have always used writing as a way to sort through my experiences and feelings, but now I will try to be more intentional about my reflective process.

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