As part of my school’s PBIS behavior management system, students have the opportunity to earn “tokens” they can save and redeem for rewards. A student favorite is the Stinky Feet pass, which allows students to work in the classroom with their shoes off for the day. Teachers can give students a Rocket Buck when they observe behavior that is consistent with the school expectations. As an intervention teacher, I like to be able to reward my students, but I also want the reward to be meaningful. In other words, they have to earn it! I recently figured out a way to turn the reward system into a tool for student self-reflection.
Coaching Students on Self-Reflection
The interventionists at my school pick up and drop off their students, so I have a few extra minutes with my students as I walk them back to class. I started by asking each student individually what they thought they had done during class to earn a Rocket Buck. I quickly found that my students needed a little coaching on reflection. I got responses like, I was good, I behaved, I listened, or I paid attention. All admirable behaviors, to be sure, but I wanted my students to dig a little deeper and provide a more detailed justification. So I changed my question and begin asking, What did you do to improve as a mathematician today? The question was better, but sadly the responses were about the same. To help the students frame their thinking, I created an anchor chart with specific behaviors–such as talking like a mathematician, learning from mistakes, noticing, etc.–and posted it by the door so they could refer to it on the way out. I found that, although their responses were getting better, I was still having to do quite a bit of prompting. I decided to create a new and improved anchor chart that included verbs (describe, tell, explain) and highlighted key components for mathematical growth. This was the missing element!
- I learned the word product today. The product is the answer when you multiply.
- I didn’t look carefully at the place value positions, and I made a mistake. I learned I have to be more careful and read the numbers to myself.
- I learned that stacking my numbers and lining up the decimal point helps me compare numbers.
- I challenged myself by not giving up when I didn’t understand the problem.
And I expect them to only get better as the year goes on!
Student Self-Reflection and Growth Mindset
This new self-reflection practice fits perfectly with my emphasis on growth mindset this year. As powerful as the idea of promoting a growth mindset is, there has been lots of chatter recently that it is being poorly implemented. For example, there seems to be the false belief that by simply praising effort or building a child’s self-esteem you are promoting a growth mindset. There’s actually more to it than that. Carol Dweck, who pioneered growth mindset research, recently revisited the idea and pointed out some common pitfalls in an article for Education Week. She directly addressed the effort myth:
A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. –Carol Dweck
Sound off in the comments and share how you help your students reflect on their learning!