If You Build It, They Will Reflect

by Sarah Mumm, Director of Educational Services, Kaneland Schools

Student reflection has been a never ending journey for most school districts across the nation. In our current society it seems reflection is becoming a lost art. With real-time results in video gaming, social media that allows a person to get immediate thoughts on anything and everything they post, and even cars that tell you what you have done incorrectly while driving; reflection seems to be a thing of the past. But reflection is a must in our society and a skill that needs to be explicitly instructed and assessed in our schools. In order for students to grow as learners, as well as active citizens, reflection is a need in our schools. With all of these thoughts swirling around, our Kaneland Personalized Learning Team took the time to consider how we can build learner profiles that provide an avenue for students to reflect and learn about themselves in order to uncover next steps in growth.   

After much investigation and reflection of our own, and getting what seems like hundreds of samples from districts and teachers, we created a learner profile. The actual tool that was built is a 19 slide Google Slides presentation that each and every student begins at the age of 5. They continue each year to edit and update, but never delete content. The purpose is to keep a historical perspective of their learning journey and be able to reflect on who they were as an early learner, and where they ended their Kaneland journey. Students are asked three times every year to stop and reflect on how the learner profile has assisted them in learning about themselves and knowing what they need as a learner. The intent is to reflect for advocacy. Some students use the profile slides diligently, and others scarcely. No matter how they use the slides, as long as they are reflecting on who they are as a learner and what they need to be successful, our goal has been met. 

So in the name of reflection, what have we learned as a school district using the learner profile? We have found students have the ability — yes even at the age of 5 — to share their needs in learning as well as the ability to build empathy for others’ needs. The student reflections have led us to consider our learning environments and opportunities, and begin to expand our options. We have begun to shift more practices to student-owned and reported. Overall, we have learned to not underestimate the learner as they are a powerful and mighty group. We are excited to continue the process of reflection and learning from our most important asset, students!

Sarah MummDr. Sarah Mumm has been in education for 24 years and has dedicated most of her career to student empowerment strategies. She has worked in elementary schools, Reading Recovery programs, Instructional Coaching, and Curriculum and Assessment Departments. She is a proud member of Learning Forward, and participates in the Learning Forward Chicago Host Committee. Dr. Mumm is a current member of the advisory board for the Institute for Personalized Learning. She has presented at many national conferences since 1998, and most recently presented at the Personalized Learning Convening and Learning Forward in 2019. Find Dr. Mumm on Twitter at @Mumm44120.