Empower learners to reflect on their learning-An interview with Starr Sackstein


Starr Sackstein is a high school English teacher in New York City, USA. She is the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective. This year she begins a new blog with Education Week Teacher called Work in Progress. She also writes her personal blog at StarrSackstein.com where she discusses various aspects of being a teacher. At speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education and BYOD. She is committed to helping people see that technology doesn’t have to be feared. You can follow her on Twitter at @MsSackstein

On February 11, Starr will deliver a free webinar on WizIQ entitled Teaching Students to Reflect on Personal Learning. This webinar is part of the Featured Teachers series, hosted by Fluency MC. To sign up, click here.

In an interview with WizIQ, Starr talks about her experience with reflective learning in the classroom.

  • You have been active in making reflective learning an important part of education. What makes metacognition (thinking about thinking) so important?

When students are aware of themselves as learners, anything is possible. Think about how much easier it would be to help students get their needs met if they knew exactly what to ask for help with. It has been my experience that teaching these skills to students enhances their learning experience exponentially.

  • What role can teachers play to impart these skills to students?

Teachers need to be intricately involved in demonstrating these skills both in their own practice (blogging) and think alouds with students. We can scaffold the skills for all kinds of learners and then provide feedback to develop and deepen each child’s personal self-awareness.

  • We would like to know more about your experience of bringing reflective learning into your classroom. In what respects did you need to alter your teaching style?

It’s all about time. What we spend time doing in class shows what we value; and as students are learning to reflect I had to make time in class for metacognitive thinking. At the beginning of a term, we set goals and review the standards. After every major project or paper or writing assignment, students are asked to reflect. At the end of each term and at midterm, students are asked to reflect on progress. These reflections then become the lens through which I see the students. They are providing me with a road map for reviewing their work. What do they feel they are doing well against the standards. What did they struggle with? What kinds of strategies can I provide for them to help them grow? The most important lens is that of the students’ since it is their learning, after all. We can only serve them if we know what they need.

  • How do you specifically help your students reflect on their learning?

Sometimes I use Google forms with specific questions when I’m looking to gather data for planning. I have a poster that breaks down the process hanging in my room. We spend a good deal of time talking about standards and how the work we do connects to them and demonstrates their learning. There are some prompts I use for students and I also tell them what not to do. I’m not interested in them telling me what they like or don’t like about the project. I want them to discuss what they learned, how they learned it and what challenges they faced… what they would do differently next time.

  • What kind of changes have you seen in your students’ learning and in your own teaching with this approach?

Students know how to ask for what they need and it streamlines the process. Since kids are more aware of themselves, the depth of learning is greater and the amount of individualized attention and help I can provide is better. Every kid is getting what he or she needs and the one size fits all approach isn’t the norm. I think kids are more independent learners now too because they realize they don’t need me for everything. I’m here to support, but not as the only one who knows how. It’s great to see kids trusting themselves more.

Starr Sackstein
We hope you will join us for this Featured Teachers webinar with Starr Sackstein. Click here for more information and to sign up for free.


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