Filling your course with reflection: An InstructureCon Presentation Recap

In July I attended InstructureCon, the convention about Canvas. It was an enlightening 3 days of discussions about Canvas features and instructional design. A session I particularly enjoyed was David Lyons’ “House of Mirrors: Filling Your Course with Reflection.”

Click here for the full presentation video

David began by asking who believes that reflection is important. Almost all of the hands went up. Then he asked who includes opportunities for reflection in their course? Only a few hands went up. Why the hesitation? We had concerns about students not understanding the value of the activity, especially if it wasn’t graded. There were also concerns about fitting one more thing into courses already jam-packed with content. Yet, if we really believe that self-reflection and metacognition aid learning, what are some things we can try?

David suggested 3 strategies . . .

  1. Reflective writing. He gives students writing prompts, and then he doesn’t collect or grade them. Or sometimes he collects them and uses Canvas peer review to have other students give feedback–again, without grading them.
  2. Ask, answer, comment. In Canvas Discussions, he asks questions like “Share a time you got help from a peer.” “Share something from class that surprised you.” “Reflect on your learning so far in the course.”
  3. Reflective surveys. He asks questions like, “Tell me about a time when you struggled.” “Explain how you’ve reached out to a peer.” “What’s a time that you wanted to speak out in class but did not?” David said the feedback from these types of questions could be humbling, but it also helped him to improve his courses.

And he had a few suggestions . . .

  1. Don’t make reflection burdensome. To avoid adding too many extra assignments, consider adding a reflective question to an existing assignment.
  2. If it is useful, students will do it. We don’t have to grade everything.
  3. Including a syllabus statement can be helpful. His talks about opportunities for reflection as being a part of the course, with some public and private responses. He sets the expectation that interactions are thoughtful, courteous, and constructive.

This type of reflection can be useful in any course, including Engineering. We might ask students to reflect on their teamwork within a group, their problem-solving strategies, or their prior experiences with a particular topic. Pausing for reflection helps learners to make connections among ideas and to notice how they could improve or where they might need to ask additional questions.

Consider adding an opportunity for reflection to your course today. Need more ideas? Stop by and see us!