This fall, Lead365 is adding to its repertoire of conferences and leadership resources with a new Reflection Journal! Designed to guide you to reflect on each of Dr. Corey Seemiller’s Student Leadership Competencies, it is a wonderful mixture of thought-provoking quotes to get your wheels turning…and the open space to take your journey. Today’s Top Five from Ohio Dominican’s Becca Fick talks about how to prime your students for success in reflection.
What sorts of experiences did you have as a student leader that led you to want to continue working with college students?
My student involvement was the one thing that kept me in school. I was a member of the summer orientation staff and a college 101 course assistant, on the dance team, and an officer in my sorority. I don’t mean to say that my academics weren’t important – I was a triple major and accepted into a few honors societies -but that I can directly trace my retention to my involvement on campus. Paying for a private school education as a first generation college student was incredibly challenging for me, but knowing I had a people who were counting on me pushed me to work hard over the summer to pay down my balance as much as possible. It also meant touch points over the summer – orientation sessions, dance camp, and leadership retreats – and commitments to uphold in the fall. I know how valuable campus involvement can be for students because I’ve seen first hand the role it played in my own growth, development, and retention.
How did your undergraduate background in journalism and applied writing inform how you choose to work with students each day? Storytelling and clear, concise communication. I have a deep and sincere appreciation for people’s stories and perspectives that I credit to my background in journalism. Though I don’t write feature stories on all of the students who come through my office, I certainly could. Applied Writing is about communicating clearly in a way that an audience can understand. Between emails, presentations, meetings, and 1-1 interactions, this it the writing jargon version of using language to “meet them where they are.” While I find writing and reflecting both natural and rewarding, it is also important to realize that this is not the case for everyone and multiple forms of reflection should be considered.
While I find writing and reflecting both natural and rewarding, it is also important to realize that this is not the case for everyone and multiple forms of reflection should be considered.
There is a heightened call to create opportunities for college students to reflect on their experiences- why do you think that is? The job market is more competitive than ever and it’s not enough to have a college degree anymore. Couple this with the increased regulations and call for higher education to prove our value and you have an environment ripe for providing rich experiences. As the field of Leadership Development continues to grow, we will see more emphasis in this area as well. It is not enough for a student to participate in an experience; the learning and development that signal change and growth happen when students engage in reflection and meaning making processes. Blogging is a sort of hybrid of journaling and small group discussions, tools already readily used by educators. Whether you are using Kolb’s Learning Styles or Bloom’s Taxonomy, research shows the value of including reflection in the learning and meaning-making process.
Now I want to get to our Top Five, in which you pose five points or tips for those looking to create a more contemplative and reflective experience for students through blogging. How do we get this going for our students?
Point/Tip One: Blogs are not essays or journals.
Blogging requires a different level of thinking and writing than a personal journal, or even one shared with a teacher. Blogging makes your thoughts 3 dimensional. It takes them from being 1) in your head to 2) in front of a teacher or professor, and into 3) a space for discussion, interaction, and feedback. There is a different level of thoughtfulness when your writing may be read by someone else, by strangers even. That’s not to suggest that you should over think blogging either, or trap yourself in analysis paralysis – it’s not that serious.
If college is about finding yourself, blogging is about finding your voice. Unlike writing a paper or answering a question on a midterm, blogging asks you to write like you think. This runs contrary to the writing skills students have learned through formal education. Students learn to write the answers teachers are looking for, the answers that will pass a standardized test, the answers that are right. This is the greatest reward – and the greatest challenge – of blogging for students and teachers alike.
Point/Tip Two: Make it easy.
Especially for beginning bloggers and those who may not know where to start, give them prompts or a structure to work within.
What? So What? Now What?
I like using these three questions to create reflection prompts for students. Whether you are giving students a prompt for reflection or asking them to create their own, this format is easily adapted and easy to remember.
- What? Explain the thing you did or experienced. (ex Service project, leadership workshop, study abroad trip, internship)
- So What? What happened because of this experience? (experience new culture, new meeting management skills, learned to use excel, relationships, etc)
- Now What? As a result of this experience, how have you changed or grown? What will you do with this new information?
Point/Tip Three: Don’t limit it to writing.
Playing with the format can address multiple learning styles and intelligences. Writing comes naturally for some students, while creating a video blog or a photo essay may be easier for others. For example, when discussing and processing identity, visual aids can be incredibly helpful in helping a student tell their story.
An assignment might look like this: Take pictures of what your culture values. Define your culture. What do you value? Where do your values come from?
Point/Tip Four: The Internet is forever.
Sites like WordPress rank high in search engine results and can be a benefit to students when creating and curating an online presence. There are plenty of resources available about personal branding and career development, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include this reminder in a top 5 list.
Point/Tip Five: Model the Way
The best way to be familiar with a tool is to use it. In this case, it’s also an excellent way to model expectations and engage in the learning process with students. If we aren’t willing to do the things we talk about and advocate, they (students) know. The power you have to influence students is unfathomable. Start somewhere. Believe in it, even if its imperfect (and it will be). Give yourself (and your students) the grace to try it.
If you had to distill all of this into one suggestion for professionals seeking to create an environment that fosters and encourages a blogging spirit, what would you suggest?
If you want to help students develop their identity, give them a place to develop their voice. If you want students to be meaningful contributors to society, give them something bigger to be a part of. They’re ready for it.