George Lucas Educational Foundation

Scaffolding Student Reflections + Sample Questions

Scaffolding Student Reflections + Sample Questions

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We might all agree that reflection is a powerful tool but how can we help students to reflect in the classroom. Of course reflection should be a component that builds onto knowledge they have acquired throughout the lesson. So why is reflection so important?

Benefits of Reflection:

  • Significance: It allows students to see the importance of their own learning process.
  • Process Recognition: Students can identify what they did well, what they failed at, what they need to change.
  • Solutions/Strategies: Provides students an opportunities to come up with solutions and strategies to improve on their learning.
  • Motivation: Reflection provides students with motivation to learn and enjoy the process of learning. This motivation comes from them reflecting on their thoughts, feelings and emotions. 
  • Analysis: The most important benefit of reflection in the classroom is for students to be able to know *why* they needed to learn these concepts, theories, and ideas.
  • LEARNING WON'T BE CONTENT DRIVEN: It's important for students to know "how" to learn and how to continue to be learners. Memorizing content will not help students become critical thinkers. Critical thinking stems from pausing, reflecting, and knowing "how" and "why" learning should be happening at that moment. 

Levels of scaffolding to help students Reflect:

When we practice reflection in my classroom I try a process of scaffolding to help students understand the learning process. This provides an opportunity for iteration for myself as well as the students. The scaffolding of students reflection allows students to see the learning process holistically. 

Level One: The student before learning

The student comes with his/her prior knowledge, preference, assumptions, bias, feelings about a topic/subject. At this level, we should work closely with students to understand all of these complex feelings. As teachers, this knowledge for us would help us understand the pathway the student uses throughout their learning process. In other words, we will empathize more with them knowing these feelings, thoughts and ideas. For students, it will allow them to speak/write openly about their feelings, thoughts and ideas. This provides a basis for their reflection of their learning.

Level Two: The student while learning

The questions here provide an opportunity to scaffold reflections about the teacher's pedagogical style to teach that particular lesson. Students will provide their thoughts and ideas on "how" they're learning, which informs "how" we're teaching. Here is where the teacher becomes once again the learner and tries to navigate, change, iterate teaching techniques and strategies to best help the students. 

For the student, this level of reflection allows them become familiar with how they learn, what they're comfortable with, and what they would change in the process of their learning.

Level three: The student after learning

Here is where this level of reflection is able to guide the student to "analyze" what they learned and "why" it was important to learn. Reflecting on the significance of what they learned is vital in helping students see the relevance in our lessons. 


Level four: The student going forward

For this level of reflection, students will synthesize their learning. They will be able to take what they learned and apply it elsewhere. Here is where they take the prior reflection on the relevance of the lesson and try to make sense of it to be applied in different scenarios. While most of these levels help students to think critically, level four students will be applying strong critical thinking skills to their reflections as they will be reflecting on their learning process as a whole. 

What to do with these reflections? 

  • Use them to provide feedback for students
  • Use them for peer feedback
  • Use them to understand and inform teaching strategies and pedagogy in the classroom (student evaluating teacher)
  • Blogging
  • Digital portfolios
  • Class discussions
  • Online discussions, community posts, chats as a class

Here is a sample of questions based on the 4 levels mentioned above:

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (10) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Fabulous post, Rusul! I know how valuable it is to have my students reflect on their learning, but I often forget that they need instruction and practice in what it means to reflect. I'll be using your steps to guide them, starting this week. Thank you!

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you Laura! That means a lot coming from you! I find that doing these reflections builds a strong teacher student relationship. Plus the activities that come with it just make for a fun class! Good luck on your January start!

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Love it, Rusul! I can't tell you how many times I see the lightbulb go on at home when talking to my kids about what they learned at school...when they finally connect lesson at school to their world. Wish there was more time for reflection during their classes.

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you Gwen, I am wondering how do you talk with your kids about what they learned at school? My kids are still very very young so haven't started the game of school yet, I am always interested in how other educators talk about learning and school with their own kids. But I realize that's a totally different topic all together :).

I think it's so important to connect the lesson to the real world, but more importantly for students to know the process, and understand why they did what they did. When I was a teacher assistant, the professor that I worked for called it "signposting" where you tell the students what they will be doing and why. Yes, this was for university students! Just goes to show its importance.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Having my students reflect is always an internal struggle. How much? How often? How far should I push them. It changes each year and with each student.

I created a universal reflection/participation card for students to fill out. It's a combination of writing and just circling numbers in a rubric. I think it's grade appropriate (3rd grade). You can check it out here.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

This is great, Gaetan! And honestly, it looks pretty grade-appropriate for my 8th graders, too. I think it's really valuable to just help our kids pay attention to, identify and take responsibility for whatever their part is in their learning. Whether it's their energy level or their effort or their application of skills, the more they understand their part in it, I think the more they will be able to see how they can take charge of their learning. Thanks for sharing your visual - helps a lot to see the actual card you use.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Love it! Reflection is absolutely key to student success. Sheesh, it is essential to my success as well. I learned much about reflection when I did National Board Certification. It has become a vital part of my practice ever since. Thanks for the reminders and great info Rasul!


Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thanks Don! agree, it's important for us as teachers and learners. I read somewhere that you should write 3 pages everyday at the start of your day about things you're thinking about. 3 small pages. Many of us don't have time to do this, but I started doing it recently, aside from blogging. I am hoping it'll benefit me to meet my goals and just reflect.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

I somehow missed this reply, Rusul.

Understanding what my children are doing and learning in school is a big part of how I begin most conversations. If it wasn't for teachers tweeting, sending weekly updates, or sharing links to a lesson in class - my conversations would be far more limited. Kids simply do not share the same detail (whether it's by choice or lack of memory).

For me, I obviously am more focused on #3 and 4. I follow up more to see if they understand the lessons beyond memorizing and are able to relate/make connection to real life. The why. Sometimes that means just talking, other times it drives book selection when we're in a book store, selecting a movie to watch, choosing a museum exhibit to see...or just pointing out where those connections are. Some examples from this last month, we went to a museum for a weather exhibit, connected news of an earth quake to vocab words, and discussed what purposes are served in studying a foreign language and how to go about choosing one to study. Anything I can do to help them see the lessons in the real world.

With 3 kids, it's not perfect. I don't get to every subject every day with each child - but I try to get to at least one each day. I find that, similar to how kids are more active when they have a family member joining them in play kids take more interest in what they're learning when we discuss outside of school.

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