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Volume 11, Number 3 Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc. Spring/Summer 1992

Hearing Students' Yoices:

The Role of Reflection in Learning
by Kathy G. Short and Gloria Kauffman
Before we did not look back on our
learning. This year we look back on our
learning and learn more. Before I got
frustrated when I got something wrong.
This year I don't because it is
the learning that counts.
Julie, Grade 3
It seems appropriate that an article on
student reflection and self-evaluation
should begin with a student's voice.
We know of no better way to demonstrate
how powerful children's voices become
when they are given the opportunity to
reflect on their leaming. Of course,
students do notjust walk into school able
to reflect and talk about their leaming. As
teachers, we have spent many years Kathy G. Short Gloria Kauffman
exploring how to build powerful leaming
environments with our students that but have continuedto think togetherabout traditional curriculum structure based in
encourage both action and reflection. curriculum and evaluation. When we textbooks and teacher imposition. While
Here, we share how we have worked to first began working together, we
make reflection and self-evaluation an struggled with moving beyond a continued on page 3
ongoing part of daily classroom life and
we describe a more formal strategy, self-
evaluation portfolios, which allows
students to periodically step back even
The Power of Thlk
further in self-evaluating their leaming. by Mary Giard

The Need for Reflection Welc'ome to our room! Some of the a short time. They don't understand our
things v,e do are : reading, writing, pub- room because they are not here long
Our joumey in understanding the role
lishing, having mini lessons, doing re- enough to know us. I wondered if some
of reflection began eight years ago. when
search, tolking, drawing and math. We kids wanted to get together to make a
we co-taught and co-researched in a first
'r'alue lots of things about out"room: Mrs. handout for visitors so they would begin
grade class (Short, 1986). Since that time,
G iard, our books, maki n g choi ce s, mate - to know what we do and what we value."
we have taught in different places an
elementary school and a university
- rials, sharing ideas, solving problems, About half the class expressed the same
- and learningfi'om each other. concem and wanted to be part of the
planning group. They drafted their plan
Gloria Kauffman teaches fourth and brought it back to the class. Everyone
grade at Maldonado Elementary During amoming meeting inJanuary
decided that the group had clearly repre-
School in Tucson Unified School of this school year, one of the girls in my
sented the class as a whole. Sarah, who
Disn'ic't. Kathy G. Short teaches in class shared a frustration she had. "We
the Defoartment of Language, have so many visitors coming to our
Reading and Culture at the room that it is hard to explain what we're
University of Arizona in Tucson.
like to them when they are here for such continued on page I4
Hgaring Students' VOiCeS continuedfrompage t

both of us used literature, writing, and did as teachers, to evaluate and plan, reflecting on that leaming, they often
thematic units in the classroom, they were but not what children did. By not make choices which are not productive.
supplementary to the core of the encouraging and trusting children's Dewey points out that the ability to reflect
curriculum, which was based on the reflections on their leaming, however, on leaming allows self-control to develop.
school's scope and sequence charts. We we kept them dependent on us to Instead of acting on impulse or having
wanted to establish a curriculum based determine what was to be valued. others determine what will be leamed,
on children and our understandings learners reflect on the possible
about leaming. We wondered, however, If we truly wanted curriculum to be a consequences of their actions. Self-
whether it was possible to create a collaborative process in which children control combines choice with reflection
curriculum in which students actively took control of their own learning, then and so brings freedom to leamers because
engaged in meaningful learning we needed more than choice and active they can intellectually formulate their
experiences as an ongoing feature of engagements. Children were making purposes and plans of action.
the classroom, rather than an occasional decisions about their actions, but were
experience. excluded from refl ective decision-making
about the meanings of those actions. For
Establishing a
We did not want the curriculum to their voices to become part of the Reflective Learning
become just a set of "neat" activities, and curriculum, we needed to encourage Environment
so we searched for a framework within reflection as well as action.
which we could create curriculum with Reflection can support students in
children. The Authoring Cycle (Jerome connecting with what they already know,
Harste, Kathy Shon, & Carolyn Burke, considering alternative perspectives.
1988) became that framework for us. try to make
.. . t ve solving problems, and summarizing and
More importantly, we realized that in organizing their experiences for future
order to determine what would happen
reflection a natural, use. We searched lor ways to invite
next in the classroom, we could no longer daily part of the students to reflect on their leaming. We
did not want to turn reflection into
refer to the scope and sequence charts.
Out of desperation, we began closely
curriculum. mechanical, orderly responses to teacher-
observing children as they engaged in posed prompts. Students do need support
classroom activities and spent hours and strategies for reflection, but not a
talking together about their responses and In order for leaming to occur, leamers workbook approach in which they must
the implications for what should happen need to pose their own questions. When fill out endless forms and checklists. We
next. these questions arise, a cycle of inquiry is also did not want to force leamers to
put into motion in which learners form overfocus on reflection at the expense of
With the students as our curricular ideas or hypotheses and then act on those actively engaging in leaming. Rather than
informants, we moved from "doing" ideas to observe what happens. John reflecting on every leaming experience,
curriculum to reflecting on that "doing." Dewey argues, however, that this action learners choose those that are most
Earlier in our teaching careers, we would is not enough. The leamer needs time to significant to them.
have argued that we were too busy reflect and look back over what has
teaching to think, but now we realized occurred, to organize ideas for future use. Instead of formal self-evaluation
we needed to think in order to teach. Action provides the content for reflection, techniques, we try to make reflection a
Through our observations and reflections but reflection is the driving force behind natural, daily part of the curriculum. We
on their leaming, we were able to create action. Children need many extensive have found that strategies such as
an environment characterized by choice engagements with reading, writing, brainstorming, webbing, conferencing,
and active engagements in meaningful talking, listening, drawing, and author's circles, literature circles, inquiry
leaming. experimenting so they have something groups, class discussions, and various
on which to reflect. This action needs to types of journals and learning logs
We felt, however, that something was be balanced with reflection so they can encourage reflection on leaming.
still missing. As we listened to children pull together important meanings
talk about their rough drafts in Authors from their experiences, which will, in We frequently pull leamers together
Circles and explore interpretations in turn, lead them to new questions for short oral reflections on how particular
Literature Circles, we realized that we and engagements. experiences have affected their learning.
had underestimated their ability to
reflect on their own learning. We had When students are involved in making
assumed that reflection was what we choices about their leaming, but not in continued on next page

Volume I I, Number 3
Hgafing StUdents' VOiCgS continuedfromprevious page

These discussions occur when students pull together the content and process of discussing what they had leamed and
try out a new curricular strategy, their leaming. The insights we gained dictating a short paragraph for a weekly
encounter problems, or engage in a helped us respect them as leamers and parent newsletter. Other teachers have
particularly significant experience. At the work with them in planning future students reflect at the end of a week or
beginning of the year, these sharing times inquiry cycles. biweekly, rather than on a daily basis.
occur frequently throughout the day so Teachers make decisions on the
that students reflect on and understand After students have engaged in a frequency of written reflection based on
the purposes behind classroom particular Qycle of experiences and the amount of time available orto allow
procedures and activities. As teachers, presented their learning to others, for more time between reflections.
we participate in these discussions to reflection can play a major role in
provide demonstrations of our reflective allowing them to stand back from those
experiences. Through reflection, they can
lncluding Children's
summarize what they have learned, Voices in the Formal
When students engage in an integrate that learning with previous Evaluation System
experience such as parmer reading for experiences, and establish questions and
the first time, we ask them, "In what goals for future learning. After we As reflection became a natural part
ways did you and your partner decide to published a family story newspaper to of our classroom life, we valued the ways
read? Talk about what you were doing conclude a month-long focus on families in which it helped us to know students,
as a reader. What did you notice about and research, we came together as a as well as allowing students to take
reading with someone else?" When class to talk about, "What did you leam control of their own leaming. When we
literature circles begin to meet, the class about families? What did you leam about examined the formal evaluation system,
comes together for short 5-10 minute notetaking and other research strategies? however, we realized that the
reflections at the end of the literature Where do we want to go next as a class?" students' voices were still not being heard.
time. We begin by asking, "What did Their oral and written reflections
you talk about today in your groups?" so Oral reflections allow students to hear informed our evaluation but were not
that the focus is on meaning. We then each other's and the teacher's reasoning heard by parents or other educators.
discuss, "How did your group members and can be done quickly and informally,
Gloria experimented with children
help keep the conversation going? Are as an ongoing part ofclassroom activities.
writing a letter of self-evaluation to send
there problems we need to solve?" Later Written reflections should also be home with report cards. While the letters
in the year, these reflection times are included because they encourage were effective in letting pareuts heartheir
held only when needed by group individual students to think deeply and
children's voices, children had difficulty
members. support students who feel uncomfortable
writing broadly about their processes and
sharing orally. Written reflections, goals as leamers. We began to search for
Reflection is also an important part of however, take time and are more formal.
some other way to support students in
math, as Jason, a third grader, explained, When overdone, students react more formal reflections on their progress
"I have grown as a mathematician by negatively and see the reflections as as leamers.
coming at the problem from behind and assignments which take too much time
discussing what is needed, why it's from active engagements. Some teachers As we listened to educators talk about
needed and how it's used." use logs to "check up" on students to portfolios, we wondered whether these
make sure they have read their literature portfolios could support self-evaluation
When particularly significant circle books or to keep sfudents under within the formal evaluation process.
experiences occur, a short reflection on control. When this occurs, students write Most educators begin the portfolio
why the experience was powerful to fulfill the teacher's assignment, rather process by suggesting that teachers list
can help both teachers and students than to explore their own thinking. the desired learning outcomes and then
understand the implications of that work with students to create
experience. When we first moved toward . We found that it was important for portfolios to provide evidence of those
using student-generated inquiry cycles written reflections to be given a definite outcomes. Because we wanted the
rather than teacher-directed units with slot in the classroom schedule. Gloria portfolios to reflect what students saw as
students, we were struckby how eagerly has students start each day by writing in
their leaming outcomes rather than ours,
and deeply students engaged in the reflection journals so they begin to we decided to explore a different kind of
inqury. At the end of the inquiry cycle, make a connection between learning portfolio that would highlight the
we asked the students, "Why were your experiences at school and at home. Some children's perspective. The district report
inquiries on dinosaurs more exciting for teachers have students write in leaming card and state standardized tests reported
you than the unit we did on the ocean?" logs at the end ofeach day to reflect over on whether students were meeting
that day's experiences. Kathy and her society's expectations for leaming. We
The students' reflections helped them first graders ended each day by were collecting anecdotal records,

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checklists, leaming logs, and examples rough drafts from their writing work time. sharing with others, selecting for their
ofchildren's work as evidence of student portfolios, writing and sharing
leaming based on what we valued in Once they have made their choices, reflections, discussing as a class, and
learning. We wanted others they share these with a partner, explaining writing a one-page reflection with goals.
to know what children thought about how these choices reflect who they are as
their leaming and let children know writers. From this sharing, they make Once the children have finished, they
that their perspective was valued sit alone and read through the entire
decisions about which pieces to select
by others. The curriculum could portfolio. Then they meet in small
for their portfolios and write a reflection
then grow from all of these perspectives.
for each item which explains why they groups to celebrate with each other.
ratherthan being dominatedby one voice.
selected it and what it shows about them Sometimes students conference with
as writers. They write these reflections the teacher or share the portfolio in a
The portfolios we develop give
joint child/parent/teacher conference.
students the chance to step back and look
Afteran initial joint conference, children
at themselves as readers and writers over
may take the portfolio home to share
time. They are collections of work that Student self- with parents. The one-page reflections
reflect children as readers and writers
their efforts, improvements, processes, - evaluation portfolios are included in the report card to
encourage parents to focus on their
strengths, and needs. Gradually these do not preclude other child's perspective, not just the school
portfolios have expanded to include the
rest of the curriculum. While children
kinds of portfolios perspective.
reflect continuously through oral sharing
and leaming logs, we see the portfolios At the end of the year, the children
as a chance to step back and look more on half sheets of paper and staple them to write letters to their parents and their
next year's teacher telling who they are
broadly and deeply at their leaming. If the pieces of writing.
as leamers and how they have changed
reflection were not an ongoing part of
the curriculum, however, the portfolio When all of the pieces are chosen and
and grown over the year. This letter
process would be difficult and becomes part of the child's cumulative
tagged, the children share them with a
folder, which stays in the school. The
unproductive. partner and give a broad description of
portfolio itself goes home with the child,
who they are as writers. The class then
giving the child ownership over what
Three times a year (October, February, comes back together to share their
happens to the portfolio and who has
and May), students.spend a week to ten descriptions of themselves and to
access to it. Because a portfolio reflects
days gathering, sharing, and reflecting brainstorm possible goals. After this class
on their leaming during their regular
a child's voice, we do not feel
discussion, students write a one-page
it from them and
comfortable taking
reading/writing time. They start the reflection describing themselves as passing it on to the next year's teacher.
process by focusing on their writing writers and establishing their goals. Children do willingly accept invitations
across the curriculum because they have Because reflection has been an ongoing
from teachers to bring their portfolios
more concrete evidence of their growth part of the classroom, they are able to back to school to share.
as writers. They gather together all their think deeply about their leaming.
work as writers their joumals, logs, Some educators have criticized
notes, messages, rough drafts, student self-evaluation portfolios
The children then shift their focus to
publications, etc. They spend time alone reading. They begin by choosing and re- because children's choices do not
with theirpiles of papers, reviewing their reading favorite books and then meeting always reflect the school or teacher
work and getting a feeling for who they with a partner to discuss what they were objectives. When teachers determine
are currently as writers. thinking while reading these books. what goes into the portfolio, students'
Following this sharing, the class perspectives are again devalued.
The class then meets to brainstorm brainstorms on who they are as readers Teachers may want to keep their own
what they have discovered about and students gatherliterature logs, reading portfolios with their records, checklists,
themselves as writers. This brainstormed lists, projects, webs, charts, and any other and selected pieces of children's work.
list allows them to hear each other's ideas evidence of their reading. Because actual These teacher portfolios should be kept
and to think about why they might want samples of significant reading alongside the child's portfolio in the
to select particular pieces. After experiences do not always exist, they classroom so that teachers and students
brainstorming, the children choose pieces often web favorite literature circles, write
have access to both, rather than
from their piles that reflect who they are about favorite books, or illustrate part of
combining the material into one
as writers. They can choose any piece of a literature presentation. Then they repeat
writing but are asked to include several the same process of choosing examples, continued on next page

Volumell, Number3
Hearing Students' Voices c ont i nue d fr om pr evious page

portfolio. If the school wants a portfolio
passed on to the next teacher, that
.L ,"p".ur,&"rrrarro_
portfolio can be a combination of teacher .trrL {ro?A
AApfru &o"eu.
and student choice. Student self- ,o"rrr,rt adjnq-rT- abloailu ktr"lnWJ4*-
evaluation portfolios do not preclude ana-,. -fr.e^r- *lr.LL Me L tuht4thvrt"--
other kinds of portfolios, but their grLl,r'p, ,/\,^ttPH-, ,lt)n* I
r^nUra- nn't$N
function for the individual leamer is often hto?tt ' ).t' AttuA,s*v ;'rlflaL T
lost when one portfolio has to serve all ?-"(L*LL /alj. /"h^*,^&"tlld'
TE ad, fu ;.lJtil1- ^;llAtrd- *flu
utt..ru.* .&ltw*
tffikl, 0lofi.tt'!t"*a.^t.olJ-3ril,
/1,otlvr., ?m l,tt t-
,* Srnt ro
tt\s' t :u'q-
d,," J.uv #)twl
"14il, #Jnv4 ,6"\LX
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{tilln ttsl-!-,
Reflection and Learning A! Afi1- Af*vrv nw Afu)-u .o/t"t- tJtruflJ.*
Through reflection and self- /vv\o/u +hirru $try 4^r1lL )il!,8uJ- &^.t "
ond a.adu,h.7 &L e* *ta&.,
evaluation, students leam to think about
their leaming. They reflect on what they
At .a- ,e&'futttioUv T*h'z*L
are leaming (content), how they are
learning (process), why they are leaming
(purpose) and where they want to go
next in their leaming (goals). When they
are able to evaluate their own and others'
assumptions about the world,
they are able to act on those
assumptions and make their own
meaning about the world. If we expect
students to integrate their learning
experiences into a focused whole, we
need to provide time and opportunities
,#''d, -lrt
Yl* X /l, M4L l"4b A/rd-
fr A*ip, AtnL 4 $rL /r*o<*
for reflection upon those experiences.
n-,v /Jh/47/weda7,' X
We want to end, as we began, with a W#
student's voice. Mardell wrote this self-
evaluation letter to her parents and teacher
,uL orrr dfi/n# l-,rrnr^-l-tbmr*rlru.b tw-
at the end ofthe year. As she reflects, she *+" ,rl. qc(loL u !yul'o,t_ "),l* to,U?)
brings alive her past experiences in ways A+t1* XJr.Jr4+ /1/JL/'r\trt,
that bring new meanings to the present
and new potentials for the future. f' An.t- tt- *rJJtt-.,JD0L
^alltmrt*nl- * #dn
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References * e4pi^or I/VJ6Y R AaAULT- -ln/^d- a .Ll
Dewey, John. Erperienc'e and Education. {A , rnu* lAtn4e
dA ,4ut* Uuh.N hr"r1-'
hrTrLt a!At-u*,,
New York: Collier Books. 1938. (,Wt1r/yL I,tlL b&e. L ualA /,l&t

Harste, Jerome, Short, Kathy, & Burke,

ry M&)ll-!- llnotrguurt tWonh*U X 14*
b*t, r /\!r-l Aarvt! t , AnrA'X ,uAA

Carolyn. Creating Classrooms for Au-

'' Ulrfu- nirur uaid..
/ftors. Portsmouth. NH: Heinemann " X o*n /ntrlrtrr'l4iA'Ynl q1t/'gN'
Educational Books, 1988.

Short, Kathy. Literacy as a Collabora-

tive Experience. Unpublished doctoral itutLttL 41rt@l
dissertation. Bloomington, IN: Indiana 'Ylg'dnc
Universiry, 1986. E
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