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KaAMS and RT | Links | Bibliography |
What is reflective
Critical thinking and
reflective thinking are often used synonymously. Critical
thinking is used to describe:
"... the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the
probability of a desirable outcome...thinking that is purposeful,
reasoned and goal directed - the kind of thinking involved in solving
problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making
decisions when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and
effective for the particular context and type of thinking task.
Critical thinking is sometimes called directed thinking because it
focuses on a desired outcome." Halpern (1996).
Reflective thinking, on the
other hand, is a part of the critical thinking process
referring specifically to the processes of analyzing and making
judgments about what has happened. Dewey (1933) suggests that
reflective thinking is an active, persistent, and careful consideration
of a belief or supposed form of knowledge, of the grounds that support
that knowledge, and the further conclusions to which that knowledge
leads. Learners are aware of and control their learning by actively
participating in reflective thinking – assessing what they know, what
they need to know, and how they bridge that gap – during learning
In summary, critical thinking involves a
wide range of thinking skills leading toward desirable outcomes and reflective
thinking focuses on the process of making judgments about
what has happened. However, reflective thinking is most important in
prompting learning during complex problem-solving situations because it
provides students with an opportunity to step back and think about how
they actually solve problems and how a particular set of problem
solving strategies is appropriated for achieving their goal.
of environments and activities that prompt and support reflective
- Provide enough wait-time for students to reflect when
responding to inquiries.
- Provide emotionally supportive environments in the
classroom encouraging reevaluation of conclusions.
- Prompt reviews of the learning situation, what is
known, what is not yet known, and what has been learned.
- Provide authentic tasks involving ill-structured data
to encourage reflective thinking during learning activities.
- Prompt students' reflection by asking questions that
seek reasons and evidence.
- Provide some explanations to guide students' thought
processes during explorations.
- Provide a less-structured learning environment that
prompts students to explore what they think is important.
- Provide social-learning environments such as those
inherent in peer-group works and small group activities to allow
students to see other points of view.
- Provide reflective journal to write down students'
positions, give reasons to support what they think, show awareness of
opposing positions and the weaknesses of their own positions.
- Links to descriptions of reflective
thinking activities in use with middle school kids:
- Recommendations for prompting reflective thinking in
- Examples of lesson plans that have been revised to
encourage reflective thinking in students, e.g., prompting to compare
what they know to what they don't know and actively make modifications
to their conceptions:
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society is becoming more complex, information is becoming available and
changing more rapidly prompting users to constantly rethink, switch
directions, and change problem-solving strategies. Thus, it is
increasingly important to prompt reflective thinking during learning to
help learners develop strategies to apply new knowledge to the complex
situations in their day-to-day activities. Reflective
thinking helps learners develop higher-order thinking skills by
prompting learners to a) relate new knowledge to prior understanding,
b) think in both abstract and conceptual terms, c) apply specific
strategies in novel tasks, and d) understand their own thinking and
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and middle school kids:
- How to prompt reflection in middle
It is important to prompt reflective thinking
in middle school children to support them in their transition between
childhood and adulthood. During this time period adolescents experience
major changes in intellectual, emotional, social, and physical
development. They begin to shape their own thought processes and are at
an ideal time to begin developing thinking, learning, and metacognitive
strategies. Therefore, reflective thinking provides middle level
students with the skills to mentally process learning experiences,
identify what they learned, modify their understanding based on new
information and experiences, and transfer their learning to other
situations. Scaffolding strategies
should be incorporated into the learning environment to help students
develop their ability to reflect on their own learning. For
- Teachers should model metacognitive and self-explanation
strategies on specific problems to help students build an integrated
understanding of the process of reflection.
- Study guides or advance organizer should
be integrated into classroom materials to prompt students to reflect on
- Questioning strategies should be used to
prompt reflective thinking, specifically getting students to respond to
why, how, and what specific decisions are
learning environments should exist that prompt
collaborative work with peers, teachers, and experts.
- Learning experiences
should be designed to include advice from teachers and
- Classroom activities
should be relevant to real-world situations and provide integrated
- Classroom experiences should involve enjoyable, concrete,
and physical learning activities whenever possible to ensure proper
attention to the unique cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domain
development of middle school students.
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How does KaAMS
support reflective thinking?
When students are faced with a perplexing
problem, reflective thinking helps them to become more aware of their
learning progress, choose appropriate strategies to explore a problem,
and identify the ways to build the knowledge they need to solve the
problem. The KaAMS
model of PBL incorporates various components to prompt students'
reflective thinking during the learning process. The lesson plans:
- Provide teacher questions designed to prompt
students to identify and clarify overall and subordinate problems.
- Provide many opportunities to engage students
in gathering information to look for possible causes and solutions.
- Provide ideas and activity sheets to help
students evaluate the evidence they gather.
- Provide questions that prompt students to
consider alternatives and implications of their ideas.
- Provide questions and activities that prompt
students to draw conclusions from the evidence they gathered and pose
- Provide opportunities for students to choose
and implement the best alternative.
- Encourage students to monitor and reevaluate
their results and findings throughout the entire unit.
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Links to additional
information on critical and reflective thinking:
Reflective Thinking Bibliography:
- Moon, J. A. (1999). Reflection
in learning and professional development: Theory and practice.
London: Kogan Page.
- Halpern, D. F. (1996). Thought and knowledge: an
introduction to critical thinking (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum
- Lin, X., Hmelo, C., Kinzer,
C. K., & Secules, T. J (1999). Designing technology to support
reflection, Educational Technology Research & Development,
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