Grading, testing and ranking work are easy guidelines for students to measure achievement. However, because these can’t illustrate student experience and growth, teachers often turn to self-reflection projects to help students discover reasons behind success.
Sixth-grade English teacher Lauren Porosoff says she has always included a self-reflection exercise in her end-of-year curriculum. But this year, she found the assignment to be too individualistic.
“I wasn’t offering my students an opportunity to examine another crucial part of their experiences: each other,” she said.
A recent winner of the Editor’s Choice Content Award for her blog post “Teaching students to see each other,” Porosoff created a self-reflection questionnaire that pushed her students to acknowledge how classmates and peers could provide opportunities to affect personal success.
“It is important that they learn to acknowledge other people, and also be acknowledged,” she said.
Porosoff included three additional questions to her usual assignment:
Who in our class supported you in an important way?
Who in our class pushed you to think differently or more deeply?
Who in our class inspired you by setting an example?
Porosoff said that identifying peer impact gets students to think critically about everybody’s role within the classroom.
“It gets the students to look around the room and think to themselves: ‘Wait a second, the kids in this room should be pushing, supporting and inspiring me’ or ‘I could be the type of kid who supports, pushes and inspires my peers,’” she said. “Just that awareness, I think, has value.”
While they found the assignment challenging, student answers were specific and insightful, Porosoff said.
To her surprise, students also tended to discount social bias or privileged group associations, Porosoff said, noting that the children veered away from acknowledging only their friends, high-achieving classmates or vocal discussion leaders.
“They were able — at least in the moment — to see each other, appreciate each other’s contributions and build a sense of solidarity,” she said.
Porosoff recommends teachers incorporating peer reflection to keep answers private and allow opportunity for sharing.
Listen to the full education talk radio interview and check out “Teaching students to see each other” for more information on empowering students.
Allison Kline is an editorial intern at SmartBrief.
Like this article? Sign up for ASCD SmartBrief to get news like this in your inbox, or check out all of SmartBrief’s education newsletters, covering career and technical education, educational leadership, math education and more.