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How to implement our tools?

If you are interested in Learning Mindset’s prompted reflection tools, you may wonder how you can implement them in your own teaching. Here are some key lessons that we have learnt in our own journey so far.


1. Start small

Most of our tools are designed to be easy to implement, but they can have big effects on student learning and the dynamics of your teaching. So don’t feel you have to do everything at once: start small, with the tool you feel most comfortable with, hand it out to students, and see what happens.


2. Get the timing right

Timing is everything in teaching, because a teaching technique works best if it is synchronised with the goals and level of understanding of the student at the time it’s implemented. For example, broad-view envisioning exercises [link to future self] can work well at the start of a programme or course, while self-generated feedback [link] works best if it is integrated into a (graded) assignment. So think carefully about how you time the implementation of our tools, and experiment to see when they work best.


3. Explain the tools - and your intentions for them - clearly to the students

While our tools are easy to implement, they may not feel easy to students. So it is important to explain the tools clearly to the students. It can also be very effective if you let students discuss together what they think “good” use of the teaching tool means (i.e. let them define success criteria), and identify what they think it could help them learn.


4. Try scaffolding

Scaffolding means providing temporary instruction or support as learners develop new skills, gradually reducing this assistance as they improve. Some of the skills in our tools, such as setting goals or dealing with feedback, can be difficult at first. Similarly, students may need help creating the habits that some of our tools require - such as setting intentions for every class or assignment. In those cases, it pays off to ‘take students by the hand’ in the early parts of your course, and then gradually tell them to use our tools more independently. This not only improves their learning, but also helps them to engage in prompted reflection in a more self-regulated manner.


5. Engage with students’ responses (but don’t overburden yourself)

All of our tools involve some manner of prompted reflection, in which students are asked to respond to specific prompts. In principle, teachers do not have to engage with these responses for the tools to help students learn more autonomously. Yet it is our experience that it helps greatly if, in some way, you can help students make their responses meaningful. This could mean that you, as teacher, give feedback on certain reflections, or facilitate a class discussion in which students share and discuss their thoughts. But for larger classes, it could also mean organising peer groups in which students discuss their reflections, or integrating their feedback into an already-existing assignment (e.g. with the self-generated feedback). Whichever way you do it, we suggest that you try to engage with student reflections in some form - not only because it motivates and helps the students, but also because you can learn a lot from it.


6. If you grade, grade for effort and not for content

We have a mixed experience with grading student reflections. On the one hand, grading runs the real risk of crowding out intrinsic motivation for reflection and turning the exercise into “yet another thing” students have to do to get a good grade. We have experienced this effect many times and seen how it reduces the positive impact of our tools considerably. On the other hand, we have also experienced that students often need some extrinsic motivation to engage with the tools at all. If you feel that way and would like to use grades as extrinsic motivation, we therefore suggest [link to other article about how to grade reflection] that you grade only for effort, and ideally with pass/fail grades or for a very small percentage of the final grade.

 

Most of all though, we hope you have fun trying out our different tools in your classrooms and curricula. We think they not only help students learn better and more meaningfully, but also provide us teachers with a great opportunity to learn: about our students’ needs and ambitions, and the best ways of helping them work towards them.




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