The Power of Reflection on Developing Self-Regulation for Learning

By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D.
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.

The Power of Reflection on Developing Self-Regulation for LearningAll too often we get caught up during this time of year with testing mania and the flurry of closing out the school year. However, we can’t forget to give ourselves and our students time to think and reflect daily on the learning day. We all learn more from reflecting on our experiences than we do from the experience alone. Not only is this a good practice for us as teachers, but it’s also a powerful learning tool for our students. Model your reflections for your students so they know how to frame their responses in a positive and constructive way.

Using reflection frequently both in and out of the classroom can have positive effects on developing self-regulation for learning. Through reflection, students practice the ABCs of self-regulation by managing their feelings (Affect), changing their Behaviors, and thinking about how to make positive changes for the future (Cognition).

Here are a few reflection ideas for you and your students:

  • Reflect daily on how feelings (affect), behaviors, and thinking processes (cognition) are being used effectively.
  • Use wait time to allow yourself and your students to think before answering (a count of ten is usually a good measure).
  • When mistakes are made, take a moment to process the mistake as a learning opportunity.
  • Connect the content to the students by thinking about past experiences.
  • Work through authentic (real) problems that require you and your students to deeply think about solutions.
  • Flexibly or collaboratively group students for reflection time during which listening for and rephrasing others’ thoughts is encouraged.
  • Ask questions that get you and your students reflecting such as:
    • Affect questions:
      • How do you feel when doing this activity?
      • How do you feel when you make a mistake?
      • How do you feel when you succeed?
    • Behavior questions:
      • In what ways does your behavior change when you’re in and out of school?
      • What study habits do you find to be the most effective?
      • In what ways do you ask for help?
    • Cognition questions:
      • Which specific thinking tools did you use today?
      • What do you think about when you encounter difficult situations?
      • How do you transfer what you have learned in school to other situations?

Be sure to plan for reflection time for students during each stage of learning to reinforce the learning process. For the following questions, A=affective, B=behavior, C=cognition.

Prior to learning a new topic:
A) How do I feel about the new topic we are going to begin?
B) What do I need to do to be ready to learn?
C) What do I already know about this topic?

When setting a plan or developing a goal:
A) What do I need to plan for in case I encounter distractions?
B) What study tips can I practice while learning about this topic?
C) How will I apply the new learning to what I already know?

During instruction:
A) What is my level of motivation during each of the activities?
B) What can I do to adjust my behaviors to be more productive?
C) How does this new information help me in my daily life?

After instruction:
A) How do I feel now that I’ve reached this point in the content?
B) What did I do well or what should I change to get a better outcome?
C) What have I learned about this topic that I didn’t know before?

When doing your own reflection and assisting your students during their reflection, keep the responses as positive as possible. (For example: “Even though you didn’t get the grade you wanted, what have you learned that can help you next time?”) Keep yourself and your students focused on how past experiences, whether positive or negative, can be useful in creating a better future.

Richard CashRichard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.

Free Spirit books by Richard Cash:

Self-regulation Advancing Differentiation Differentiation for Gifted Learners


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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2016 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

About Richard M. Cash, Ed.D.

Writes the "Cash in on Learning" post series for Free Spirit Publishing.
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