When students have the opportunity to reflect, they experience a boost in self-efficacy and they feel more confident they can become successful students. As a consequence, they put more effort into their learning experience and achieve better results.
Sadly, taking time to reflect seems to be less and less present in students’ learning routines. What a pity! In the last century, John Dewey was already aware of the importance of reflection, according to his famous quote: ‘we don’t learn from our experience, we learn from reflecting on our experience’
On a regular basis, almost every week, I ask my students to relfect on what they have just learned, just understood ou experienced. I ask them to write to me what they they found difficult, intriguing or on the contrary easy or even boring. Then I ask them to explain the reasons why they experienced such a feeling. I have observed among my students an increased motivation for the material and an increased trust in their ability to learn. As a result they work harder, learn better and express a higher level of satisfication. When students reflect on what they are struggling with difficult new material, it allows them to take some distance and have a broader vision of their learning experience. This process is nothing but a way to enlighten them on the meaning of why they are studying to become an engineer.
In my opinion, we should definitely take some time in our teaching to promote students’ reflection, for the three following main reasons:
- Reflection on how we perform teaches us the kind of learner we are. I usually give a few minutes to my students to reflect upon the following questions: What do you find difficult or easy? Are there some aspects of today material you would like to examine more throroughly? Which ones? Why?
- Reflection to create new connexions with former knowledge. I usually ask my students the following questions. ‘ In your future professionnal life as an engineer, why do you think you would need this material? In which situation? Could you think of a concrete example? In what way what I’ve just taught makes sense for your professional life?
- Reflection to integrate new knowledge in the long run, in other words to remember the new learned material further than the examination. Doing so, faculty pulls the trigger of intrinsic motivation instead of strategic motivation, more commonly spread among students. I usually ask my students the following question: In your opinion what are the key elements you should remember in the long run? Please describe in details which ones and explain why?
I recommend the reading of David Kolb experiential learning, which in my opinion is still up to date.
(Kolb) Kolb, D. Experiential learning : experience as the source of learning and development (2nd edition. ed.).