Looking Back: One Simple Reflection Exercise for Students

by Francisco J. Cordero

I am currently interning in Monmouth University’s First-Year Advising Office. As part of my internship experience I have to co-facilitate an Academic Coaching Seminar for students who are on Academic Probation and “at-risk” for Academic Dismissal. These workshops and seminars are mandatory and focus on increasing student academic performance and confidence. These sessions last from 8-10 weeks. However, something I noticed is that none of the students have taken the time to reflect on their journey or discuss their improvements. I have noticed change, but have they?

During one of the final workshops, my co-facilitator and I had students take out a sheet of paper. We asked them to write two short messages: (1) a message to their old self (e.g. what could I have done differently to not have been placed on academic probation) and (2) a message to their future self (what have you learned through these sessions or about yourself that you would like to tell the future you?). Simple and interactive right? I have never seen a group of student so engaged in writing a response.

Afterwards, I gave the group an opportunity to share their messages. One student opened up about their personal issues getting in the way of academics, but told their future self that with the help of friends and support from student affairs staff, they have been able to stay focused on improving their academic self-esteem and confidence. Another student reflected on the decision to enter Monmouth University as biology major but took ownership that it was a bad decision. However, their optimism radiated by sharing the decision to switch their major to business. In conversation, you can really tell this student was enjoying their experience.   

That is why I referred to myself as a facilitator. As a facilitator you work with the group. This reflection exercise allows students to see their accomplishments and improvements. The facilitator guides and recognizes the student’s ability and potential for growth, affirming that each individual has improved their attitude and belief that has been held captive by failure. Something this simple unleashes a contagious stream of positivity and hope that infects the lives of others. As student affairs professionals, or paraprofessionals, we could agree that there is no better sentiment than a student feeling like, they can.

I have only touched briefly on the concept of facilitating reflection, but if you would like to learn more, visit this great manual for leaders and educators who wish to facilitate change by reflection.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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