Reflection is woven throughout the Middle Years Program. At the very core of the program, as in all IB programs, being reflective is one of the ten Learner Profile attributes that we cultivate in our students. Similarly, developing specific reflections skills is one of the Approaches to Learning skills that is developed across the IB continuum. The ability to reflect in discipline-specific ways is also embedded many of the MYP subject areas. For example, in English, students are taught to “produce texts that demonstrate insight, imagination and sensitivity while exploring and reflecting critically on new perspectives and ideas arising from personal engagement with the creative process” (criterion C). In their arts courses, they “create an artistic response that intends to reflect the world around them” (criterion D) and in science, students regularly reflect on the implications of science (criterion D).
The design and physical and health education (PHE) courses address reflection in even more detail. In PHE, students develop the ability to “explain and demonstrate strategies that enhance interpersonal skills; develop goals; apply strategies to enhance performance; and analyse and evaluate performance” (criterion D). In design (including courses as varied as theatre tech, coding, film and creative writing), students learn to “design detailed and relevant testing methods, which generate data, to measure the success of the solution; critically evaluate the success of the solution against the design specification; explain how the solution could be improved; and explain the impact of the solution on the client/target audience.” (criterion D).
With this variety of reflective skills permeating the whole program, and embedded in subject-specific objectives and assessment criteria, students get regular practice and feedback about the development of this essential skill set. Moreover, because the ability to reflect is explicitly stated among the learning objectives – and therefore included in the assessment framework – it is something that is intentionally taught, rather than something that is implicitly expected.
Another benefit to having reflective skills explicitly taught and assessed is that they are also intentionally scaffolded so that students develop reflective skills in age-appropriate ways. For example, when students begin doing research in MYP humanities, they learn to “reflect on the research process and results”. They build on this skill throughout the program so that they can “evaluate the research process and results” as more mature students.
Engaging students in regular reflection, and equipping them with a variety of reflective skills and strategies, has many benefits. In general, when students reflect, they become more aware of their progress and the habits and strategies that are most effective for them. When student develop subject-specific reflective skills in a range of contexts, they develop a broader concept of what reflection is. Students also gain a varied skill set for reflecting in different situations, allowing them to take control of their progress in multiple dimensions of their lives.
Students make the most progress when there is a partnership between their family and their school. There are a few significant ways that families can support the development of reflective skills. Most importantly, families must acknowledge the central role of honesty and vulnerability in reflection. Parents and teachers are constantly asking students to learn new things while being evaluated throughout the process. For adults, this would be like taking on new responsibilities at work while having constant performance reviews: A stressful situation indeed! Families can help to alleviate some of that stress by promoting a growth mindset. If students are afraid to make mistakes, they are less willing to tackle challenging goals (some of which are set for them in the MYP rubrics). If students are afraid to acknowledge mistakes, they are less able to identify opportunities for improvement. Conversely, if mistakes are understood as central to the learning process, students are safe to reflect openly and honestly, allowing them to make purposeful changes to accelerate their progress.