Academic Focus | Reflecting

One of the joys of my role is teaching a Year 7 English class. Over the course of Term 1, Year 7 have been exploring the concept of identity, and learning to write analytically to explain what other composers represent about identity, but also to write reflectively to explore what they think about their own identity. As I read Year 7’s reflective responses, I am both delighted by the thoughtfulness they have brought to this assessment opportunity and reminded of the power of our reflective capabilities.

Neil Postman, an extraordinary 20th century educator, declared that questions were the primary intellectual tool available to human beings: ‘Once your have learned to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.’

In my Year 7 class, we have come to understand reflection as looking back on something significant and asking ourselves questions about this experience in order to understand it, learn from it and value it. It is in asking questions of ourselves that we grow.

As we approach the end of the first semester of the 2021 academic year, I’d like to suggest that the capacity to ask ourselves questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – is fundamental to learning success. The ability to look critically at our attitudes, behaviours and achievements, to discern our strengths as well as our areas for further growth, and then to make changes as a result of this process, is a characteristic, I think, of people who are not only successful at what they do, but who enjoy what they do. I encourage all students to ask themselves these three reflective questions as the engage in their end of term assessment programmes and begin to look towards the restfulness of a holiday period.  

  1. What have I done well? Where have my strengths emerged and what will I celebrate?
  2. How have my attitudes and beliefs about myself served me as a learner? What would I like to work on in terms of my mindset?
  3. What will I do differently as I return to a new academic year and a new academic challenge? Do I need to work on self-management? Task management? Would I benefit from being more persistent?

Of course, these questions are a fairly typical reflection start up pack … but I wonder what are the additional questions you might need to ask yourself? Can you frame these questions so you can explore their answers during the coming second semester? Would you like a conversation with someone who can help you ask the questions that will lead you to the answers you need? Your teachers are ready to chat with you!   

I wish all students and their families a productive remainder of the term: it is the season for focused and diligent work, for giving our best to the examinations and assessments that are a necessary part of learning. But, as you engage in this work, take the time to reflect on how you are going with your learning journey so you can begin to shape your next goals and plans. I am sure Year 7 have found the experience of reflecting upon themselves not only valuable, but surprisingly and powerfully enjoyable!  

Deborah Williams | Academic Dean


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