Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thinking on My Own?

Rendering of human brain.Image via Wikipedia
What has the challenge of being forced to answer most of their own questions asked in my class actually been like for my students? What are my students feeling? What are they learning? Is their confidence changing? Is their problem solving skills improving?

Reflecting on one’s progress in life to make themselves a better person, internally and externally, is vital to keep making positive changes.

A recent set of reflection journal questions were posed to cause students to evaluate this process of learning to think on their own, to answer their own questions. Not only do the students reflect on their progress, but these types of questions offer me feedback. Using this feedback is important as the teacher to see what needs to be adjusted, clarified, or reinforced. It is a two way street for learning about ourselves.

The questions were:

1. How do you feel when I tell you that you are asking me a question that you can answer yourself?
2. What are you learning when I do this?
3. Do you think you will become more confident in your abilities to solve problems on your own?

I would like to share some of my students’ thoughts.

The following are responses to the first question.

Student A: “I feel good because you won’t always have someone around you to ask questions so we will have to learn to answer our own questions.”

Student B: “I feel smart because I can answer it on my own.”

Student C: “I had the answer right in front of me, all I had to do was to take my time and find it, figure it out!’

Student D: “I feel that I’m not thinking before I ask, and not giving me a chance to answer the question.”

Student E: “I feel silly because if I thought about it, I could figure it out on my own.”

The following are responses to the second question.

Student A: “I learn that some questions you ask you don’t always need help finding the answer. You can answer your own question without anyone helping you.”

Student B: “I’m learning to answer my own questions because I am capable of doing it.”

Student C: “Try to answer it myself and I when I exhausted all strategies, ask a question.”

Student D: “I learn that we answer our own question. We will be able to be better growing up.”

The following are responses to the third question.

Student A: I will be more confident to solve my own problems. This means I will try harder to think my own questions over.”

Student B: “Yes, because if I practice this a lot I will sharpen my thinking skills.”

Student C: “Yes I will feel confident because I will answer my own questions.”

As always, I write back to each student. I reminded all of them that it is all right to ask questions, especially when you are learning something new. The lesson to be learned is to give themselves credit and a chance to figure out things that they are more than capable of.


Intrinsically thinking.
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In What Ways has Your Thinking Changed?

A major goal for me as a teacher this year has been to wake up my students’ ability to think. To think about what they are capable of, about their surroundings, about others’ feelings, about what kind of student they want to be and about how their behavior and choices they make now are shaping who they will become as an adult.

Most importantly, and the foundation for influencing all of the others, is to change their thinking regarding what they are actually capable of.

As previously written about, many students like to ask questions that they can very well figure out on their own. Most are so conditioned to just blurt out their question and are used to getting an answer. Either by a parent, friend, sibling, or teacher, most questions are just answered because that is what is easy to do or what they are used to doing.

Related to my post about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, most students are not only extrinsically motivated but they are also externally conditioned to rely on others to answer their own questions. The more and more this goes on the less and less they can rely on themselves to figure things out on their own. Is it even relying on others or more of a way of figuring things out, as if it is what is normal? In other words, is this their construct way of problem solving? Just ask someone else!

Intertwined within my purpose of this goal, is to force students to think on their own in certain situations and to consistently have them reflect on their thinking and how or if it is changing.

Recently, as part of my reflection journal prompts, I asked the students the following question: “In what ways has your thinking changed since you’ve been in sixth grade?”

The following are two of my students’ thoughtful responses:

The first student wrote, “I know I’m capable of many good things, I will just have to try. I also think I can be very successful by doing my absolute best. Also, to think before I ask something.”

The second student wrote, “In many ways, I learned how to be more responsible and think before I do things. 6th grade has been very good so far and not hard if you think and believe in yourself.”

These are two affirmations that my hard work is paying off.

It is like anything in life, being aware of something is half of your potential success. The second half is following through with what you know to be the right thing to do.