In short, reflection is the act of pausing and thinking about what has happened. Students can reflect on just about anything: collaboration in the ‘group 4 project’, study methods for mock exams or approaches to specific essay questions. A reflective approach enables the development of a growth mindset, which is important for a healthy learning process during the IB programme.
At first, honest reflection is uncomfortable and unlikely to occur spontaneously. The teacher has to endorse and facilitate worthwhile reflection in the classroom. Authentic reflection can take many forms, such as free written responses, online surveys or a group discussion, but it’s ultimately about asking pointed questions that spark thinking.
Today’s increasingly high-tech classrooms can help us incorporate reflection into the curriculum without eating into valuable classroom time. EdTech accommodates the need to reflect on the learning process. Using a tool such as Kognity helps monitor and record the learning process while isolating specific aspects that need extra attention, which is a great help when looking back and critically evaluating performance.
The growth mindset
The growth mindset is the belief that intelligence is not fixed but can change in response to actions. While the causal link between hard work and good results may seem obvious, students often fall into the habit of attributing results to external factors, such as getting lucky with questions or unfair marking criteria. A strong growth mindset also links specific aspects of the work to specific aspects of the results. Research by Carol Dweck clearly shows that students who firmly believe in a growth mindset outperform peers with a fixed intelligence mindset. In other words, students who believe that they can learn, learn.
Additionally, spending time talking about the learning process rather than just the end result emphasises the value of the skills learned along the way, regardless of the final outcome. This is especially important in the IB, since IB teachers often use real exam questions from the start, which is quite difficult for new students. A growth mindset allows IB students to focus on the learning process itself instead of the disheartening results that are an inevitable part of it.
What should teachers do?
The IB, with its rigid marking criteria and bureaucracy, is notorious for being very pragmatic. There are helpful initiatives from the IB, such as the Learner Profile evaluation and CAS reflections, but these are often overlooked in favour of maximising exam results. But these practices could themselves help improve exam results, by getting students into the habit of academic reflection.There are plenty of tools available, both mandatory practices provided by the IB and new EdTech tools, they just have to be confidently used by teachers.
Teaching students to take a step back and evaluate a task once it’s over will prepare them to think critically in other areas of their lives. The goal is for students to begin to reflect independently of the teacher’s advice and foster a growth mindset on their own.