SOIs: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Three bandits enter a town in a scene from "Vado... l'ammazzo e torno" (1967)

by Isabelle Drewelow, Department of Modern Languages and Classics

Thinking about SOIs inevitably brings to mind the title The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Some comments are quite constructive and useful, prompting a self-reflection on learning tasks and in some cases a complete redesign of a task. For me these comments are great, helping me grow as a teacher and making the course better. Other comments are puzzling to the point where I sometimes wonder if we were in the same class, especially references to topics we simply did not cover. And then there are the completely useless comments about my hair or choice of dress.

To me what is missing from this type of evaluation is a reflection on the learning experience itself. What was interesting and what was not (and why)? Was there a sense of accomplishment? Of development? How did they solve potential challenges? Did I provide the tool to help them? This kind of reflective questions can help the teacher refine tasks or address issues, not only for a specific course but perhaps in other courses as well. In addition, these questions make the evaluation less teacher-centered and more student-centered. Examining their learning experience in that manner can help students focus on what comes next and consider how what they have learned in this class can be applied or useful to future academic and professional endeavors.

How can this type of reflection be integrated within a course? One possibility is to have students write a reflection narrative at the end of the semester (the last component they hand in) and make it part of the final grade. The objective of the paper is to help them organize their thoughts on what they have learned this semester in order to gain more from their course. Students can use the paper to focus on parts of the course they found interesting or challenging culturally, intellectually, academically or socially, using concrete examples to illustrate their reflection.

In addition to the questions proposed above, other questions in the narrative prompt can include: How is the course different from what you expected? What did you learn about yourself in this course? What topics related to the course content are you most likely to continue exploring on your own? Why? Because it is a narrative, students may not address all the questions but rather than answering a question for the sake of answering it, the paper gives them an opportunity to explore themselves as learners.