To put it bluntly, teachers should be more open-minded in approaching lessons. Some teachers refuse to admit that learning is as much accident as by design. The effort that is put into creating perfectly formed lessons, while important, does little to drive learning. In my experience learning happened for my students, not as a result of the flawless design of my lesson, but as a result of the reflective experiences that I created for my students. To put it simply through much trial and error I discovered that learning only occurred on the far side of reflection (Schoemaker, Brilliant Mistakes 2011). This statement from Schoemaker made me realize that I was attempting to activate student learning through activity instead of thinking. And that this wasn't effective, it was student reflection that I was after not student learning.
With this realization I set out to create a different type of learner. A contemplative learner. This type of learner, in my estimation, was highly aware of their current state of learning, had a high reflective stamina, was willing to accept critical feedback, and had a growth mindset. This was the learner I wanted to create. So I made a list of of criteria that would show me if my students were becoming contemplative learners and if my students could become contemplative learners then the learning would take care of itself.
A contemplative learner will display the following qualities:
- They show evidence of serious questioning.
- They demonstrate self-awareness and honesty.
- They identify examples to support their speculation.
- They demonstrate strong reflective mechanics.
- They have an ability to synthesize differing ideas and show the relationships between concepts, prior and new knowledge.
But I realized that this was only half the battle, defining the qualities of a contemplative learner. The other half was to actually create these learners. To do that I had to be highly aware of the reflective experiences that I was giving the students. Remember Schoemaker says that learning only occurs on the far side of a reflective experience. So with that I realized I could control the learning by managing the type of reflective experience in which I was asking my students to engage. Below is a list of reflective experiences that I used to help create these contemplative learners.
- Logistical Reflection: What was the assignment? When was it due? Did I get it turned in on time?
- Completion Reflection: Do I understand the parts of the assignment and how they connect? Did my response completely cover all parts of the assignment? Do I see where this fits in with what we are studying?
- Connection Reflection: How was this assignment similar to other assignments? (In this course or others). Do I see connections in content, product or process? Are there ways to adapt it to other assignments? Where could I use this (content, product or process) my life?
- Practical Reflection: Were the strategies, skills and procedures I used effective for this assignment? Do I see any patterns in how I approached my work - such as following an outline, keeping to deadlines? What were the results of the approach I used - was it efficient, or could I have eliminated or reorganized steps?
- Scientific Reflection: What are we learning and is it important? Did I do an effective job of communicating my learning to others? What have I learned about my strengths and my areas in need of improvement? How am I progressing as a learner?
- Personal Reflection: What suggestions from my teacher or my peer’s can I used to improve my learning? How can I adapt this content or skill to make a difference in my life?
- Active Reflection: How can I best use my strengths to improve? What steps should I take or resources should I use to meet my challenges?