Structure Student Reflection Activities Effectively for Remote Learning

Review seven tips and guidelines for designing and facilitating effective student reflection during remote teaching and learning.

Grades K-12 8 min Resource by:
Listen to this article

Live remote video lessons are usually too short to offer much opportunity for reflection. Therefore, it is likely that students will need to take on more personal responsibility to reflect on their learning before, during, and after a live remote-learning session. They will need to review their progress and complete work on their own outside of the live virtual-learning session. It is also more likely that many parents/guardians will need to assist younger students with self-reflection. During self-paced remote lessons, the need for student ownership and reflection will be even more pronounced.

While we hope our students can take charge of their learning, we also know that this will not come naturally (or easily) for all of them. Yes, some will be able to jump right in and work through a complex series of tasks and assignments. These students are good at school in general and will be able to make this transition. However, others will find this added responsibility difficult, and others may not be self-starters or self-motivated enough to master these skills without some guidance.

Regardless of how challenging this may be for some of our students, we know that these are critical skills for college and career readiness. As teachers, we can create the conditions, structure, and opportunities to help our students grow in this area, and this begins with student self-reflection. If we can help our students reflect on their learning, we can empower them to “own” their learning by better understanding what they’ve mastered, where they’re struggling, and how they can best continue to grow.

Students may need your guidance as they grow their self-reflection skills. Consider the following tips and guidelines when structuring reflection activities for your students in a remote-learning environment.

7 General Tips and Guidelines for Structuring Remote-Learning Reflection Activities

1. Provide structure.

Don’t assume that students will automatically reflect on their learning. Many of them will need you to provide intentional, structured reflection activities that are required at specific stages in the learning process. While there are many ways to guide student reflection, two effective strategies are to provide question prompts or sentence stems.

  • Examples of question prompts:
    • What did I learn?
    • How did I learn it?
    • How did I feel about the process?
    • Why does this learning matter to me?
    • How will I use my learning?
  • Examples of sentence stems:
    • I learned…
    • I still need to learn…
    • My next steps are to…
    • While doing this work, I felt…
    • One way I might use this in the future is…

2. Encourage three areas of reflection.

Academic reflection is central to the learning process, but it is not the only important area to consider. Be sure to focus reflection on not only academic progress (learning) but also the learning process (metacognition) and how students are feeling about their learning experience (social and emotional learning). Live remote lessons are especially powerful for having students reflect on social and emotional topics. As the teacher, you can use the video platform to help them connect, build community, and reflect on how they are feeling about everything that is going on in their personal lives and with their learning.

3. Allow various formats.

Not all students communicate in the same way, so providing flexible formats allows students to choose a format that works best for them. Encourage them to consider text, video, audio, and visual formats (like sketch notes). During live remote-learning sessions, consider introducing features beyond the video feed. Use the chat feature and introduce whiteboards, emojis, and other visual formats (like sketch notes).

4. Model and share anonymous examples.

Demonstrate what an effective reflection process looks like. During a live remote-learning session, model completing an example. For self-paced lessons, consider screencasting yourself completing an example. It is often helpful to record your thoughts as a virtual “think aloud” as you go through the process. You can also share excellent student examples (anonymously and with permission, of course) or have students model and provide their work as examples. After modeling the process, provide students with time to practice in a safe and supportive environment.

5. Review and provide feedback.

Your students need (and want) your support, so be sure to let them know that you are there for them by responding to their reflections. This is a chance for you to respond to their questions and gently guide them toward success. As you do this, it’s important that your responses are supportive and not evaluative in nature. This process is intended to encourage the development of positive, self-reflection practices, so students need to see this as a safe place. It’s okay to grade these as completed/not completed, but do not grade the content or quality of writing, as this can interfere with open and honest reflection.

6. Require regular reflection.

You want this to become a habit, so it’s important to require students to reflect on a regular basis. Determine what is appropriate for your students’ age and subject area. You might consider a reflection to end each session. During self-paced remote learning, reflection will be done privately, but in a live video lesson, this could be done collaboratively or individually. Whatever you choose, a regular schedule can help this become an expected part of the learning routine.

7. Consider when reflection will occur.

There is no single right answer to this, and it may be somewhat flexible depending on your unique situation. You may even use a combination of approaches. However you decide to implement this, consider that you can have students reflect at three different times in the learning process:

  • Before a lesson: Prior to the learning, encourage students to make personal connections and set goals.
  • During a lesson: Pause and reflect at various times during the lesson to allow students to assess where they are at in their learning. This is a good time for students to make connections to their learning and determine if they need to seek help. Students can also record artifacts of their learning or “a-ha” moments.
  • After a lesson: This is a common time for reflection. Students can reflect on their journey and determine if they have mastered the content or if they need to seek further help. They can also reflect on the effectiveness of their learning process and decide if it worked for them. This can inform future study practices.