5.4 Reflection Is Critical for Writers’ Development

IMG_1820.JPG Physical reflections, as the one in the photo to the left (that I took in 2010 in Colorado), usually cause us to pause and see the beauty before us. Many photographers–both professional and amateur–seek to capture the reflection of some natural feature in still pools of water. We find it peaceful to gaze upon. And before we know it, many minutes can pass. Even hours.

In education, the minutes that pass almost undetected (because they are often not assessed) during reflection can be the very reason why teachers don’t ask students to pause and reflect. Time is a valuable asset in the classroom, especially considering the many demands placed on our time daily, weekly, during a semester, during a year.

Times Up Hour Glass GIF - TimesUp Time HourGlass GIFsSo we wield to the demands of the clock and try to get our students to reflect on their learning, especially their writing, on their own time. Surely, they can do that without our assistance, right? They surely will take the time outside of class to think about “why they made the rhetorical choices they did (metacognition)” and “recognize what they [did] in that particular moment (cognition)” (Taczak, 2016, p. 78), right?

Kara Taczak discusses the need to reflect for all writers, but emphasizes the need for “writers engaging in new or especially challenging tasks” (2016, p. 78) to make use of this practice. I contend, then, that this is something all high school students need to be doing regularly as part of their writing curriculum. But, I don’t regularly incorporate it in my classes. Why? 

Clock Watching GIF - Clock Watching Ticking GIFs

Taczak lists the reasons why every writing teacher should include time for reflection in his/her lessons: ability to make more informed choices the next time when faced with a similar task; ability to see connections with their lives or other experiences to enhance their writing; ability to revise better because writers learn from their own mistakes (2016, p. 79).

I don’t dispute a single idea that Taczak lists in her explanation of this concept. In fact, I agree with every one of them. She is absolutely right, in my opinion. This is why as part of my annual evaluation this year I am putting my faith in my students’ reflection of their own writing abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and assessment of their improvement over the course of my yearlong classes. I must decide on a beginning-of-course benchmark assessment and then compare growth to an end-of-course assessment. I have chosen this year that the benchmark assessments will be students’ own reflections of where they were as writers at the beginning of the year and where they are at the end of the year.

I found a video on YouTube created by Mrs. Boswell that I think would be useful when explaining to students why reflection should be part of their writing process. It is only 1:21 minutes in length, and it is not the flashiest video on YouTube by any means. But it concisely (remember: tick-tock) explains the relevance in terms that high schoolers can understand.


hollymccammack uploaded the ticking clock gif to tenor. Retrieved from https://tenor.com/view/clock-watching-ticking-time-is-ticking-time-is-now-gif-11174641.

martinchristopher26 uploaded the hourglass gif to tenor. Retrieved from https://tenor.com/view/times-up-time-hour-glass-sands-of-time-gif-11719048.

Mrs Boswell (creator). A Smart Move: Reflecting on Your Writing. [YouTube video]. (Aug. 3, 2013). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/RXqbaPx9HeE.



4 thoughts on “5.4 Reflection Is Critical for Writers’ Development”

  1. I appreciate your thought that reflections is something that high school students should engage in. Reflection has become a key component in many disciplines within higher education and my experience is that many FYC students have no experience in this. Sometimes a reflection question as simple as “If you had three more days to work on this project, what would you do differently?” often spurs students to consider options they did not previously think about. Hopefully, these thoughts are “banked” so that they have additional prior knowledge as to how they might approach similar writing projects in the future.


  2. I completely agree that reflection is key to successful writing and learning. I notice that when I ask students to stop, breathe, take a time out…that it helps them to better process what they are working on or thinking about. It’s not a perfect system because not everyone is ready to reflect at the same time, but just a moment to mediate is enough to help students “let go” of what is holding them back.


  3. I have my students fill out a reflection sheet prior to turning in an essay so that I can see what they are thinking about a piece before I grade it. I ask them about their writing process, strengths and weaknesses, and future goals for their next project. The information that comes from these reflections helps me assess their writing more authentically because I know their feelings behind a text. It also helps me assess their skills better because a student may say that they felt they have strong knowledge of how to use a piece of punctuation, like a semicolon, but I can tell through reading it that they don’t; I can then help them with their misconceptions because I know what they are. Time is definitely flying by. At least reflection gives me an opportunity to gather more personal information about their work that I may not have time to gather through dialogue.


  4. I have been asked to reflect on courses, assignments, writing, and literature but I cannot believe after all my years of teaching that I haven’t asked students to do the same. I would really love to implement this into an assignment every once in a while to see where they feel they stand in standards or perhaps a specific assignment. It’s true that reflection often leads to personal reflection and change so why not incorporate it? Thanks for the simple but great idea!!


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