The Art of Teaching and Learning through Conscious Reflection

You just know when you've helped someone . . . your heart buzzes in pure BLISS.

By Roberto Melendez.

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Most of us souls on this planet go through life viewing our experiences as remote and separate, unrelated events. Doctors refer to this type of life view as an episodic grasp of reality. Certainly, it is not a habit we want to pass along to the new generation. Instead, we want students to learn how to embrace, to fully enjoy and to build meaning from life’s experiences; and that requires reflection.

We foster our self- growth when we intentionally shape our learning through thoughtful reflection, a process called platform. Reflection also involves drawing forth cognitive and emotional information we gather from other various sources, such as auditory, visual and tactile. To fully reflect, we must act by synthesizing and evaluating the information, rather than simply storing data. In the end, reflecting also means putting into action what we’ve learned; to give context beyond the original situation in which we’ve learned something and take different action.

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Appreciating and valuing reflection

- Photo by Thomas Ives.

Teachers and mentors who promote reflective classroom environments ensure that students are fully engaged in making meaning. They organize guidance so that students become producers of their own futures, not just consumers of knowledge. To best guide children in the habits of reflection, these teachers approach their role as that of “a facilitator of meaning making.“

In the role of a mentor/facilitator, the teacher acts as an intermediary between the learner and the learning process itself, guiding each student to approach the learning activity in a strategic way. The teacher helps each student to be fully responsible for their own process; builds meaning from the content learned and from the process of learning it; and finally, the teacher helps the student apply the learning to other contexts and settings. Learning becomes a continuous process of engaging the mind and the soul that, ultimately, transforms the mind.

Art class by Christy Kennedy

Art class by Christy Kennedy

Guiding student reflection

To be reflective means to mentally wander through where we have been, and to make sense of it. Most classroom environments are focused solely upon the future. Such an orientation means that students and teacher find it easier to discard what has happened and to move on without taking stock of the seemingly isolated experiences of the past. Through reflection, we instead take stock and then take action, moving forward into a rich educational experience. It is best start for children from a very young age.

Questioning

Well-design questions in a supportive classroom environment — grounded in trust and respect — will invite students to reveal their insights with full confidence. It also facilitates deep understanding, and encourages application of their learnings to their lives, and makes way for the rewards of a life lived through a reflective mind. Here are some possible questions to pose one’s students:

·      Which habit of mind will you focus on as you begin our next project? 

·      What insights have you gained as a result of utilizing these habits of mind?

·      As you think of your future, how might these habits of mind be used as a guide in your life?

To become reflective themselves, students also must encounter reflective role models. We find models in books in which the characters take a reflective stance as they consider their experiences and actions. A variety of books use this literary element of reflection as the way to tell a story. For example, in Mem Fox's Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Wilfrid discovers that life’s meaning can come from the retrieval of powerful memories. Memory truly can give meaning, however to do so, one must apply reflective thinking.

- Australian writer of children’s books and educationalist.

Although fictional role modelling is useful, students also need to see parents, teachers, mentors and adults of authority reflect upon their daily experiences and actions — however that may be the subject of another discussion. Thank you for reading.

There are different ways of reflecting current realities of a country, according to what’s needed and what issues are to be solved.

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.  That is our mission, purpose, our passion and our greatest desire for this coming generation.

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