Improving the Way we Reflect: Reflecting on ATL Skills

A few months ago we set about redesigning the way we give feedback.  Whilst rubrics, standards and criteria are valuable tools to help students understand where they are at this moment in time, the link to growth isn’t always clear for every child (or teacher). Working with a few teachers we began devising, trying out and revising some different prompts to help students reflect on their growth. 

It has been an exciting journey as we’ve seen a real change in the reflection our students do, away from What am I good at? Towards How am I growing?. The conversations about reflection from PYP through MYP have begun to change, and I’m deeply thankful to the open-minded attitude of colleagues who were willing to try this out in class, offer feedback and help us shape and share this idea.

This past month as we’ve been working on research skills we’ve come back around to the subject of reflection.  If we want students to see themselves as researchers, to truly be part of a community of researchers, then they need to reflect on their research skills.  Having developed a series of I can statements connected to the IB Research ATL Skills a natural choice would have been to use these as a rubric, and we did to an extent – but something was missing. Just checking off progress on which of the skills they felt successful in wasn’t getting our students to reflect deeply or to own that identity as a researcher. Those deep reflections about why this was important to them as a learner, what the long reaching consequences of this might be, and how it shaped their understanding of their own learning just weren’t coming through – we needed to do something different. 

So, we tried a new question:

Thinking about the skill you’ve grown most in, how is this helping you become a more effective researcher?

Suddenly we’re getting different answers.  Rather than just identifying what they’re getting better at, our students are talking about why that matters. 

This is such a powerful shift both in terms of the metacognitive skills of our learners and, critically for Generation IB, their sense of agency.  There’s a lot of talk about agency across education right now and these conversations are driving and inspiring deep and meaningful change. This is true for me too, its changing the way I think about the outcomes of learning and teaching in our school. Where before I would have sought reflections that helped students understand where they are and been happy with that, I’m looking for more now.  I’m looking for those questions that help our children know why this matters, to help them have a voice in their learning, to help them own their successes as well as their challenges and choose an identity as a learner that empowers them.  I don’t think we’re finished with this topic.  I want to see what will happen with these new questions and a new approach to considering the outcome of learning for our students and teachers, we’re going to need time to reflect on the reflection.

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