The need for reflection

The questions you ask in class and the questions that your students can access from this site can all help them reflect on their learning. Reflection is listed as a sub-heading under the heading of 'Thinking skills' in the IB’s Approaches to Teaching and Learning but I feel it is an important skill in its own right. Students themselves should have an understanding of how they think and realise that before they can use their higher level thinking skills they need to have a good knowledge and understanding of the basics. It is no good trying to work out how to make up a buffer solution with a known pH if you do not understand the concept of pH. The slide galleries for each sub-topic should help them to gain the basics and if they get an answer wrong to a quiz or short answer question they should use the worked answers to help them reflect on what it is they did not understand and how they can rectify any deficiencies. The real test is how successful they are at dealing with a problem they have not seen before. This requires them to analyse it thoroughly, draw on different strands of their knowledge and understanding, select the relevant parts and then construct a possible solution. You can help them in this by drawing connections between different topics as you teach (see Relationships between topics). This requires time and practice.

Helping students to reflect

Encourage students to reflect on their work both by example and by providing them with some strategies as well as quality time. At the start of a new topic get them to discuss as a class what they already know. If the lesson is a continuation of a current topic perhaps give them a short quiz at the start of the next lesson to make sure they are au fait with what you have already covered. At the end of each lesson take a while to recap the most important points covered during the lesson. Below are some questions you can give them to help them reflect.

Questions to stimulate reflection

What connections can I make between my old knowledge and my new knowledge?

How has my thinking changed? (I used to think that; now I think this.)

Can I summarise my new knowledge by making short headlines (or on the back of an envelope)?

Could I explain my new knowledge to someone else? (The 1:2:4 exercise described in Teaching skills can be very helpful here.)

What connections can I make between my new knowledge and other topics in chemistry?

How useful is my new knowledge to society – locally, nationally and internationally?

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