"CBL has definitely put a nice lens on my way of perceiving and receiving things. It's also provided me with a greater view of things; I don't just see things as they are, but as they could be. It's more of a larger perspective view on life.
— Student Reflection
Reflection is critical to learning. Throughout the history of education there have been many efforts to implement a more reflective approach to teaching and learning. But, in the fast paced, content driven, overloaded school environment there is often little time, space, place or a process for students or teachers to reflect on what and how they are learning. Students move from subject to subject learning the content to prepare for an assessment, and then move on to the next topic, accepting a grade without considering what they actually learned and why it matters. I believe when we (teachers and students) take time to reflect on a regular basis it fundamentally changes the learning environment. I also understand that without a structure and framework for incorporating reflection into the process that it will be neglected or become one more item on the checklist. I have found that the reflection component of Challenge Based Learning (CBL):
Throughout the CBL projects I am amazed and pleased at the depth and insight offered by my students about their own work. The student reflections became an integral part of our process and ultimately a helpful way for them to organize their experiences. Because reflections were completed weekly, this was all done in real time and allowed us time to share feedback providing real benefits for students and teachers.
We also found that by having students record video reflections on a weekly basis they became much more confident in their abilities to speak and communicate. These skills translated into other portions of the challenge when they needed to contact and present to adults, and even beyond that, improved their ability to successfully navigate college and job interviews.
During our CBL projects we have our students complete short, less than one minute, reflections using the built-in camera on their MacBooks. Sometimes we ask our students to respond to specific prompts about their project and other times we allow them the freedom to simply tell us how they were doing. At the end of each week we view each clip and get a pulse on how the individual students are processing the learning, and an overall picture of where the groups are heading. The former gives us incredible insights into our students; the latter is enormously helpful in allowing us to see where the groups need assistance. Prior to the videos it took us an entire two hour class period to meet with the groups and there were many days we did not get to everyone. The video recordings streamline our organization and meeting time with each group. At the end of the week we could drag them to a folder, take them home, and review them in 30 minutes. This allowed more time to assess student progress, differentiate instruction, and work more closely with those who were struggling.
Ultimately, students reported that they enjoyed their reflection time each week because it enabled them to more carefully think through their process. If we want students to be more engaged, think more critically and authentically, own their learning experience and be prepared to effectively present themselves in college and career settings, I believe that the reflection model within the CBL framework is a critical part of the equation.