Analysis 3: What is the quality of students’ journal reflections?
The reflections section of the journal is a place for students to summarize their own learning, insights and confusions during the lesson. It differs from the lesson summary, which is written on the board by the teacher (ideally, summarizing student-voiced ideas), allowing students to copy a correct summary of the lesson into their journal. In contrast, reflections ask students to look back on their own learning over the course of the lesson, and to explain their new insights, how their thinking changed, what they still find confusing, and what questions the lesson sparked for them.
Dr. Akihiko Takahashi uses a 3-point rubric to gauge the quality of student reflections, as follows.
- Level 1: General comments. “I learned a lot,” “I liked the lesson.”
- Level 2: Specific mathematical ideas. “I learned that the same equation can show different ways of counting.” “I liked Tom’s idea to multiply and subtract the overlapping tiles”
- Level 3: Applying ideas to current or future learning. “I would like to try Rashid’s idea with other problems.” “I wonder which approach will be most useful if the number of tiles on a side changes.” “I thought it must be 7 X 4 but when I saw Jamal’s idea I realized I double-counted the corners.”
Examine the journals, looking at the reflections from one lesson. Categorize the reflections into one of the three levels above.
- How many of the reflections fall into each of the three categories above?
- What steps might you take to raise the level of reflections? Some strategies to consider are outlined below.
Strategies to Increase Quality of Student Journal Reflections
- Begin mathematics lessons by sharing several students’ journal reflections from the prior lesson. Select reflections that model the qualities you are trying to develop, such as mathematical specificity and connecting ideas to new learning. Ask students to notice what is helpful about these reflections.
- During class, notice and highlight the kinds of student thinking you hope students will do in their reflections. For example, when students raise key mathematical ideas as they consider or discuss a problem, some teachers record these ideas as quotes on the board, accompanied by a thought bubble and the student’s name.
- During class, pose the kinds of questions that you hope students will learn to ask themselves, such as “Will this approach always work?” or “What is the same and different about these two solution methods?”