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Do You Ask These 3 Questions to Improve Students’ Self-Reflection?

Do You Ask These 3 Questions to Improve Students’ Self-Reflection?

Many educators recognize the value of increasing students’ motivation in order to improve student engagement and decrease behavioral issues in the classroom. Earlier in the year, I introduced staff to the ideas in Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by watching his Ted Talk. His seminal work on motivation explains that the “carrot and stick” method of extrinsic motivation creates compliance, but not creativity nor engagement. He shares his “secret sauce” from his research which includes 3 main areas that develop intrinsic motivation and the individual’s internal desire to put in their best effort: purpose, mastery, and autonomy.

Drive_Motivation3.0

If we want students to shift into higher gears of learning, then we have to create a classroom culture that develops agency, competence and a love of learning.  Lev Vygotsky reminds us that “children grow into the intellectual life around us. ” It’s the day to day mundane stuff that shapes our learning environment like our routines and strategies, but most importantly it’s the language we use in our interactions.  Developing a culture of self-reflection is a quintessential aspect of today’s classroom. In a world of immediate gratification and distraction, we have to provide tools to students to help them cultivate their focus and develop their independence. Reflection is a habit that every classroom should have because it enhances the meaning of the learning.  It teases out key ideas and insights, and complexities of the process of learning.  We foster students’ growth when we give them tools to control their own learning, and a reflective question does just that.

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. – Mark Van Doren

So today I want to share with you 3 questions that Daniel Pink suggests in order to get a resistant person to start the process of introspection and develop the motivation to start regulating their own behavior. When I heard these 3 questions, I knew it could extend beyond the boardroom (he spoke about management teams) and could easily fit into our classrooms. The order of asking the questions are really important because it frames how one might move beyond mediocre.

Opening question: On a scale from 1-10, 1 being the least and 10 the best, how would you rate fill in the blank? 

Second Question: Why didn’t you rate it lower?

Follow-Up Question (or go to question if they rate themselves as a 1) What would make it a next rating number up on the scale? 

Example:

Teacher: On a scale from 1-10, 1 being the least and 10 the best, how would you rate your collaboration in the group. 

Student: I think I am a 3.

Teacher: Why didn’t you rate it a 2?

Student: Because I did draw a picture on the poster.

Teacher: What could you do next time to make it a 4?

Student: I could also share what I know about polar bears for the project.

(What if my student rates themselves as a 1?  Then you skip question 3: What could you do to make it a 2?)

Do not underestimate the power of this questioning strategy. It has can be impactful, especially over time–practice makes perfect, right?!  And, for younger students, you could easily do a smaller scale of numbers, like 1-5. I know my little 4-year-olds might like to exaggerate their efforts so I would need to start with something very concrete and tangible to redirect them towards, something with specific steps or actions that they would know very well. As I write this, I am thinking that I would use a well-known routine, like our morning routine, to demonstrate how to use a rating scale.

No matter what the age range, listening to their answers with empathy, flexibility, and curiosity will help elucidate deeper responses. We can’t judge their ratings–how they rate themselves is data for us, but it’s not necessarily a time to correct them or give advice. If the objective of this strategy is to develop metacognition and motivation then we have to trust the process and not micro-manage it with what we feel the student should have rated themselves. We have to listen openly to their answers because we know that change comes from within–we cannot impose our opinions on them.

In Learning and Leading with Habits of the Mind by Arthur DeCosta talks about the “voices” we hear in our classroom: internal and external voices of reflection. The internal voice of reflection is self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is a mixture of both what and how we are thinking. Self-knowledge includes ways of thinking that may not be visible to us consciously. Using a simple tool like this rating scale by Daniel Pink gives students a window into their own mind and the motivations behind the choices they have made and the choice they can make in the future.  If we give them the space to create this self-knowledge, then the tool becomes the catalyst for change and self-improvement.

How do you develop self-awareness in your students?  What stimulus do you give them to cultivate the impulsion to make greater efforts on their own?

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Why Classrooms Must Have Daily Habits of Mental Hygeine

Why Classrooms Must Have Daily Habits of Mental Hygeine

I think most of us can barely remember a time in which computers and the internet weren’t a part of our lives. We would have to go to libraries and read encyclopedias to gain knowledge on a topic. When internet search engines first appeared, information was at the tip of our fingertips, and I believe most of us have witnessed how the internet has become the go-to place for fact finding, replacing book learning at an alarming rate. However, for our digital natives, they don’t really know where the information ends and an opinion begins, as I have written about in Critical Consumption, however, there is a value of expressing an opinion as a source of identity and purpose for our students. In particular, how constructing less myopic viewpoints and developing broader perspectives are a becoming a necessity as we evolve in the workforce, of which education is supposed to prepare students for.

Listening to all the voices around them, streams of opinion. not information overload but opinion overload-that’s what social media has brought us. Everyone has a point of view and everyone gets a vote in my life.

Greg McKweon, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

If you can harken back to a time in which the main influences on our children were limited to mostlythe listener our families and close-knit members of our community, primarily in schools, churches, and other organizations that families participated in. In the past, they just had to manage the pressure and influences of a smaller group of people, but now that has really expanded to include so many ideas of pop culture. Nowadays the World Wide Web has the opportunity to expose students to a variety of ideas and theories, particularly on social media, in which ideas are narrowed into sound bites and memes; it’s easy for kids to get swept away by the flood of emotion and beliefs. I think it’s not so much finding our voice but hearing our voice in the midst of the deluge of ideologies and our culture’s status quo. They are being drawn into belonging to the larger world in which students might find themselves acting in ways in ways that are not really true to their nature. In other words, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with this onslaught of energy and emotion that is bombarding them, in the physical world and in the virtual world that they experience in their on-screen life. So we must help them to calm their minds and begin to trust their intuition, instead of impulsive reactions. But in order to do that, students must begin to develop habits of mental hygiene, in which they are clearing up the debris left behind from an experience (on or off-screen) or a conversation with a teacher, family member or friend, and the resulting feeling from that interaction.

Mindfulness in schools is one of those movements that are empowering students to create that space in their thoughts and in their emotions which can really make a positive impact over time. It is like “brushing one’s teeth” for the mind, and there have been several documentaries made about the transformation of students when they engage in this practice. Some schools are replacing detention with meditation and dramatic shifts are taking place in the culture of those schools. It’s like an emotional reset button and a powerful tool to use in our classroom. The 15 minutes you spend on watching this video below will really help you recognize why mindfulness is so vital and critical to bringing into our classrooms.

As someone who practices mindfulness and can speak first hand to its benefits, I know that it takes courage and effort to bring it into schools. There are a lot of myths about it, however, it is becoming less fringe and more mainstream in our cultures.

There are 5 main areas in which our attention can be focused upon which will yield the neurological benefits of mindfulness practice. You can do one or more of these in a session with students, and it can take anywhere from 2-20 minutes, depending on age and your willingness to develop these habits with students.

Concentrating on:

  1. Our breath: where we are breathing and the quality of that breath.
  2. Sensations in body parts: scanning our body, finding areas of tension and relaxation.
  3. Sensations of our emotion: where our emotion arises from and how does it make us feel.
  4. Thoughts:  our thought based on time, so is the thought that we are thinking on from a moment in the past or a possibility of what will happen in the future.
  5. Attention to details: noticing and appreciating smells, sounds, and sights.

Full disclosure here: I’d like to tell you that I fully implement daily meditation practice with my students, but I only do it half-heartedly for a myriad of reasons, least being the amount of interruption that I get from having my classroom be a hallway for others.  (Yes, my classroom is a hallway.) However, I do try to incorporate mindful acts in our day with brief moments of focus on our bodies, minds, and thoughts. I usually do 3 belly breaths, a mindful stretch when we line up, and a reflective question of the day. Sometimes we go on “listening walks”, and lately we’ve been trying to look more closely at nature in order to find patterns.  I’d like to do more, but that is where I am at in my journey to create mindfulness in my classroom. I do make attempts at carving out mindful moments in my day in a variety of ways, and I think this is a good first step.

As an IB educator, there is a desire to develop mindfulness and wellbeing in our students. As the Primary Years Programme (PYP) begins to embrace the ATLs (Approaches to Learning) that we see in Middle Years Programme (MYP), I know that more schools will begin integrating mindfulness into their school communities. Next year, I’ve been thinking about how I might do a proper routine incorporating mindfulness so I can make an earnest effort in this movement. I’ve been thinking about making a simple tool like a spinner that shows our emotions and having students rate how they feel before we begin our exercise and how we feel afterward by moving the hand of the spinner. Focusing in on our current state of emotion and evaluating where we are at the beginning of this journey and where we end up at the end of the practice is so important because it cultivates self-reflection and provides personal feedback of our experience.

I don’t know how others might have experimented with mindfulness and meditation in their classrooms, but I’d love to hear stories and share experiences. I know that these skills are actually as important, if not more important, than academic skills that we teach our students. And I think if more of us shared our struggles, then that could increase the willingness of other educators to try to create “an oasis of calm” and a culture of compassion in our schools and in the lives of our students.

I encourage you to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear how you teach “mental hygiene” to students.  Also feel free to connect with me @judyimamudeen or through this website.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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