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Wrapping up an Epic Learning Experience: How to Facilitate Student Reflection

Feb 21, 2020 2020-02-21

By Trevor Muir

Each time you and your students embark on a new story, your characters undergo a transformation. If you lead your students through the elements we’ve discussed (creating an epic classroom, uncovering a conflict, and traversing the rising action to solve the conflict) then the transformation will happen by itself. A critical part of epic learning is helping students to realize that metamorphosis and use what they’ve learned. Here are a few activities to facilitate reflection and wrap up your epic learning experience.

1. Likes and Wonders
First, have students write down everything they liked about the project and why. What was engaging? What made them work hard? What content activities did they enjoy? This exercise serves two critical purposes. One is to help students reflect on what engaged them and what motivated and encouraged them to work most efficiently. The other purpose is to give you feedback on what worked and why. You can use this feedback when planning future projects.

Second, students should write down what they wonder could be done to improve the project in the future. Similar to the likes process, students are reflecting on the project as a whole and narrowing down to the parts that caused them to struggle. It is crucial that students not only reflect on their wonders, but also try to find out why they struggled so that they can devise solutions. This prevents the activity from turning into students just listing their complaints or placing blame on you for their failures.

2. Story Lens
Following projects, I gather all of my students in a large circle to dissect the story that just occurred. The intent of this exercise is for more students to see the project through the lens of story and form deep connections. We start with talking about the exposition. We discuss the introduction of the conflict then move on to the rising action and conflict. Students share their individual experiences of how they experienced the climax of the story and what the final event or moment was like.

This retelling is meant to embed the events of the project and the story deeper into learners’ minds. By reflecting on the project through a story lens, they are using language that engages neural coupling. The listeners are listening to the storytellers—and the emotion and description that comes with their storytelling—all while their brains are firing and molding in a permanent way because of it.

We follow this retelling with a time for reflection on how the heroes/characters developed. Students reflect on who they were at the beginning of the project and who they are now.

3. Celebrations
When students accomplish their goals, they deserve a moment to celebrate their achievements. Celebrations can be a donut party, playing a game, or going on a hike. Celebrations are the reward for students’ hard work. While I believe that students should be intrinsically motivated above all else, there is the reality that extrinsic rewards have power too. The other purpose of having a celebration is to give the project finality. The finality, or closure, is a recognition that the story has ended and we’re moving on to a new project.

All stories must come to an end. It’s your job to help students reflect on their growth and the journey they undertook. This ensures the lessons they’ve learned are not forgotten like the answers memorized for a multiple-choice test, but instead are ingrained in students’ minds in a permanent way.

Trevor Muir is a teacher, author, international speaker, and project-based learning expert. He is the author of The Epic Classroom: How to Boost Engagement, Make Learning Memorable, and Transform Lives, a book about using the power of story to make learning engaging and unforgettable. His latest book is The Collaborative Classroom: Teaching Students How to Work Together Now and for the Rest of Their Lives. Trevor is a professor at Grand Valley State University, a former faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education, and is one of the Andrew Gomez Dream Foundation educators. His writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, EdWeek, and regularly on WeAreTeachers. He gave a TEDx Talk, “School Should Take Place in the Real World,” at TEDxSanAntonio. You can find more about Trevor on his website: https://trevormuir.com.

Reading/English/Language Arts Academic Achievement Professional Development

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