Reflecting on What's in Your Closet

“Students who reflect of their learning are better learners than those who do not” (Barkley, p. 30).
Reflection, in my opinion, inspires change. To make change, you have to identify what needs to be changed. We don’t just wake up and decide to change. This is a process that comes from seeing, doing, or learning something new, which is what I can the spark that ignites change.

Cross, 1993, p 30-31 compares the process of integrating new knowledge into existing knowledge to clothes in a closet. He says that it is rather easy to hang clothes in a well-organized closet and retrieve them ready-to-wear. The point he makes here is that this process is easy when you understand and implement the principles of organization for the closet. For example, shoes go on the floor, knits are folded on shelves, suits have special hangers, etc. He also says that if, on the other hand, you just throw things into the closet and close the door, it will be a challenge to find the shirt you are looking for or both socks in the pair.

Teachers can help students by giving them more control over the quality of their learning because learners themselves are in the best position to decide whether they are at their optimal level of learning (Barkley, p 31). There are many strategies and tasks that can be used in the classroom to promote a culture of reflection suitable for all age levels. Especially for adult learners whose lives just get in the way sometimes. It is easy for adults to busy themselves with work and family. It is not easy for adults to schedule time to look at what’s inside their closet, or even see the benefit in doing so. Once they see what’s there, there is the challenge of try to rearrange it. 

Placing an emphasis on viewing the classroom from the perspective of the student experience, and not the material needing to be covered will start to shift the classroom in the right direction. The shift needs to move away from what the instructor is teaching to what and how the student is learning, if we hope to empower students to be active partners in their learning.

Here is a link to a document produced by the Ontario Government in their series called Capacity Building. The first few pages go in depth about self-assessment, highlighting the process of determining where you are now, where you intend to go, and how to get there. The target classroom is K-12, but these strategies can be adapted and applied to any type of learner. The last two pages list some Tools for Self-Assessment that can be used in any classroom to promote reflection, self-assessment, and looking into your closet.

Source: E. Barkley. Student Engagement Techniques, Josse-Bass, 2010.


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