Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Value of Reflection

This post first appeared on Edutopia at this link

One of the more challenging aspects of PBL is keeping kids on track with the details of the project. Rubrics help a lot, however, students don’t always understand rubrics the same way we do. We need to work on making them more student friendly, for example by using ‘I can’ statements under each category and level of achievement. Even when we design excellent rubrics, students do not necessarily read them attentively. My Spanish teacher colleague and I recently designed a reflection tool to give to students to evaluate their own work, as well as each of their group members. We had some positive results from using this tool, so I thought to share the idea with you to consider for your own purposes. The reflection tool contains the rubrics for the given project – in this case, the first rubric was for first year French students who had to create a menu for a restaurant serving the cuisine of a Francophone country of their choice. The menu had to include at least five categories and twenty-five items, priced in local currency, with an appropriate address, phone number, a few pictures of food items, and laid out in a manner typical for a menu in the target country. The second rubric was for a speech based on the menu. Students were asked to play the role of the owner of the restaurant they had created. I gave them a template as an example speech since they needed guidance in creating the presentation, and were invited to make the speech on their own by adding in relevant personal observations, as well as appropriate details from their menus. Students were asked to describe their menu offerings, the prices of some items, and to make some recommendations. They also needed to welcome their clients, and invite them to enjoy the meal. Naturally, we also have rubrics for the four C’s of PBL – creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Students have an on-going need to reexamine these rubrics as well, to help them internalize the expectations of their learning objectives in PBL. The students were asked to rate themselves according to the rubrics. They were also asked to rate each member of their group, but only on the speech portion of the project. Although their evaluations were not necessarily the same as mine, it offered an opportunity for deeper discussion of the standards, of academic rigor, of quality product, of exemplars of each of the four C’s. etc. In addition to the rubrics, I wanted the students to think about their time management, their work ethic, and their attention to details, so I added in some questions to answer on this matters as well. Overall, I think the tool was very effective, so I plan to keep using it for several projects over the course of the school year. Even so, it it important to remember that the objective is the learning, not the teaching. I am more concerned that students grow over time, than that they know every specific detail I have possibly taught. There is no guarantee that students will internalize every word or verb form I have shown them. However, the skills they have learned will remain much longer. That includes reflection, in addition to the four C’s, and communication skills in French in appropriate cultural contexts, such as going to a restaurant in Québec, Tahiti, Paris or Dakar. What about you? Have you tried some type of reflection tool to help your students think about their own learning? Please post a comment below and share your ideas!

Until next time, Don