Promoting Student Reflection

As I mentioned in my last post, there is no one specific way to use reflection with students. The type of reflection the teachers use will depend on the reason for the reflection. (Is it to reflect on knowledge or skills? Is it to reflect on their emotions, attitudes or behaviour? Is it to reflect on their response to an activity?) The format of the reflection will also depend on the age of the student. (For example, younger students who are still developing their literacy skills might benefit more from colouring in sad or happy faces, rather than having to read or write words on a self-reflection.) How will the reflection happen? (Will it be a whole group, small group or individual reflection? Will the students write down their thoughts, or will they respond orally?) When will the students be asked to reflect? (Will it happen prior to an activity? During an activity? After an activity? Or, will the reflection happen throughout, as a means of documenting their progress throughout the beginning, middle and end of an activity?) Reflection is meant to inform the learning process.

Here are some ways to help students reflect:


  • The teacher works through his or her own challenges, speaking out loud, for the students to witness and observe. Students learn a lot by watching their teachers, and they keenly observe how they react and handle difficulties. Let them observe effective self-improvement techniques by working through your own (minor and solvable) problems.

Dewey’s 5-Step Model

  • Help students think through a problem. 1. Identify the problem; 2. Look closely at the problem to gain a better understanding of it; 3. Consider the root of the problem and find possible resolutions; 4. think logically about the problem; 5. Give the solution to the problem a try.

Scaffolding (Alrubail, 2015)

  • Before learning: students build their knowledge base by thinking about what they already know, and what they want to find out; teachers find out the students’ feelings, thoughts and prior knowledge about a problem or topic
  • While learning: the students learn more about how they are learning, including specific strategies; teachers can use the information to navigate their teaching or use alternate techniques
  • After learning: students make connections with what they learned and why they learned it (relevance = motivation)
  • Furthering learning: students strengthen their critical thinking skills by synthesizing their knowledge and applying it elsewhere

Use a model that emphasizes the process of reflection, such as de Bon’s “Six Thinking Hats

  • Use the coloured hats as a springboard for questions about the problem, lesson or topic, such as…

white hat (information): What did you learn?

red hat (feelings): What are your feelings about the problem, lesson or topic?

blue hat (thinking about thought): What resources do you need to help you expand your knowledge and strategies for learning?

green hat (creative): What improvements could you make for next time?

black hat (challenges): What were areas of weakness or areas needing improvement?

yellow hat (constructive): What did you do well? What did you like?

Here are some tips for fostering student reflection:

  • not every reflection needs to be written on paper – let students talk about it, sketch it, act it out, or even use a computer app to reflect
  • help students to understand the value of reflection – help them to develop good questions that will carry them through to a deeper understanding as to why the process is important
  • promote authentic reflection – inserting a fixed ‘reflection’ time into the schedule makes thoughts forced and superficial; deep, genuine reflection can happen at any time
  • model self-reflection for your students – let it happen at any given time of the day; use different means (written in a journal or blog, verbal talk-alouds, talking to other teachers for different perspectives, etc.), and let it be authentic

Question: What other tips might you share for fostering student reflection?

As I was researching and writing this post, I came across “A Taxonomy of Reflection“, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and restructured by Peter Pappas (2012). I’ll explore this more in my next post.


Alrubail, R. (2015, January 03). Scaffolding Student Reflections Sample Questions. Retrieved July 31, 2018, from

Mawson, K. (n.d.). Welcome to MyPortfolio at the University of Warwick. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from

Pappas, P. (2012, August 01). The Reflective Student: A Taxonomy of Reflection (Part 2). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from

Whenham, T. (2015, September 24). Four things that won’t spark student reflection – and one that will. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from

2 thoughts on “Promoting Student Reflection

  1. Hi Tara,
    You have outlined a variety of ways for teachers to easily use reflection in their classroom on a daily basis. I had commented on a previous post of yours how I don’t feel I always take the time to reflect and this is an area I would like to work on. I really like how you mention modelling as a way to teach students to reflect. As teachers, we model everything from walking in the hallway, holding a pencil, to solving step-by-step math problems. Why couldn’t we model self-reflecting as well? Heading into a new school year, I hope to do more reflecting for myself and for my students to see. Thank you for sharing these great, easy to use reflection suggestions!

    Chelsey Abrahamson

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chelsey,
      Thanks for posting! It’s amazing what students pick up from their teachers just by observing. We’ve got over twenty pairs of eyes on us at any given time in the classroom. Even if we reach just a few, it’s important to model desired behaviour that will help them to expand and become stronger learners. One way to do that is by showing them that reflection is a great learning strategy, a necessary part of growth, and it’s not limited to students, but to anyone and everyone. It can be done it so many different ways, that it makes it a very accessible practice. Thanks for your post!


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