A Time for Reflection
“Being responsible and taking control of one’s education and practice are essential attributes for success. Task awareness is as much a part of education as it is a part of practice. Students who are active in constructing meaning from their educational tasks…are more successful, especially in the long term.” (Mountford & Rogers, 1996, p.1129).
In her presentation on Supporting Young People in the COVID Normal back at the start of the term, Dr Charlotte Keating spoke of the over stimulation on the brain that students have experienced during this period, particularly with higher than normal levels of screen time. My takeaway from that evening was the importance of relaxation and quiet time because this, as she pointed out, are critical for reflection. It is through this that students are able to develop skills that build perspective, empathy and gratitude which engender a state of ‘it feels good to do good’.
With or without COVID, screens have become our constant companion, filling up any moment of solitude to prevent the boredom which may ensue. Psychologist and technology critic Sherry Turkle (2015) argues that “the disrespect for solitude may have consequences on one’s capacity to self-reflect.” She sees time alone as being “when we create a self that will be prepared to be fully social. That is, a self that will be able to know itself as individual enough to be able to be with other people as another.” She believes that these moments offer us time for insight and allow us to be comfortable with who we are talking about this as the “capacity for solitude”.
Other psychologists note that this solitude allows us time to regroup after social stressors, gain self-insight and develop oneself on a personal level (Burger, 1998, Diefenbach & Borrmann, 2019, Koch, 1994). Individuals who are able to use solitude for appraisal and who can experience this in an autonomous fashion are found to be more stress-resilient and have higher levels of wellbeing (Larson & Lee, 1996). Larson (1990) suggests that this is perhaps because it facilitates the developmental task of identity formation and individuation.
Self-reflection is of paramount importance for self-regulation and psychological wellbeing (Stein & Grant, 2014). This is realised through positive core self-evaluations and self-insight. In a student’s academic life, those who engage regularly with self-reflection have a propensity to maintain higher levels of academic achievement and be highly engaged in their school work (McCormick, Dimmitt & Sullivan, 2013). Not only does reflection assist in understanding, but it enables students to develop an intentional and thoughtful pursuit of action (Ogden & Claus, 1997). Kritt (1993) explains that by the fifth grade, students are able to realise when they are not understanding a concept. He argues that students should begin to use this knowledge as a self-monitoring tool. He states that:
“Developing a concept of oneself as a thinking person requires opportunities to engage the range of one’s abilities and guidance in recognising one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as assistance in figuring out how to play to one’s strengths and minimise weaknesses.” (p. 45)
Considering one’s actions, goals and thoughts, as well as considering the views and feedback of others, is therefore critical for learning and the educational growth of each child. This is true on academic, social and personal levels. Self-reflection and goal setting are crucial if students are to recognise their accomplishments and competence, whilst grappling with their areas for growth and the best path that will enable them to succeed. In order for this to be successful, this task of reflection must be approached with integrity, open-mindedness, honesty and gratitude.
Over the past few weeks, students have spent time in solitude during their Tutor Groups, reflecting on the semester. They have read through feedback from teachers, looked back at academic and personal goals that they set at the start of Term 1, read through camp reflections and reviewed their areas of achievement and growth throughout the semester. A collation of all these thoughts, insights, future plans, acknowledgements of challenge and celebration of achievement were placed into a Semester 1 reflection by the students. This is to be published alongside their academic transcript.
I really do love what I do. Having read these reflections over the past few weeks has reminded me of the privilege it is to walk with parents and their young person on this journey. Their insights have made me laugh, smile and be proud of the young adults whose growth I get to witness each day. It is a reminder that our young people are so much more than a final grade on a transcript. That their learning reaches far beyond the four walls of a classroom and their capacity for insight and personal growth is enormous.
Burger, J.M. (1998). Solitude. In Encyclopedia of Mental Health (Vol. 3, p. 563-569). San Diego, CA: Academic Press
Diefenbach, S., & Borrmann K. (2019). The Smartphone as a Pacifier and its Consequences: Young adults’ smartphone usage in moments of solitude and correlations to self-reflection. Association for Computing Machinery. http://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300536
Gross, J. (2015). Relearning How to Talk in the Age of Smartphone Addiction. Retrieved June 6, 2021, from https://longreads.com/2015/10/06/relearning-how-to-talk-in-the-age-of-smartphone-addiction/#more-23212
P. Koch (1994). Solitude: A philosophical encounter. Chicago: Open Court.
Kritt, D. (1993). Authenticity, reflection and self-evaluation in alternative assessment. Middle School Journal, 25, 43-45.
P.W. Larson. (1990). The Solitary Side of Life: an examination of the time people spend alone from childhood to old age. Developmental Review, 10(2), 155-183. http://doi.org/10.1016/0273-2297(90)90008-R
R.W Larson and M. Lee. (1996). The capacity to be alone as a stress buffer. The Journal of Social Psychology, 136(1), 5-16.
McCormick, C. B., Dimmitt, C. A., & Sullivan, F. R. (2013). Metacognition, learning and instruction. In Handbook of psychology (pp. 69-97).
Mountford, B., & Rogers, L. (1996). Using individual and group reflection in and on assessment as a tool for effective learning. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24, 1127-1134
Ogden C., & Claus, J (1997). Reflection as a natural element of service: Service learning for youth empowerment. Equality and Excellence in Education, 30, 72 – 80.
Stein, D., & Grant, A. M. (2014). Disentangling the relationships among self-reflection, insight and subjective well-being: The role of dysfunctional attitudes and core self-evaluations. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 148(5), 505-522. http://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2013.810128