How Can We Support the Development of Self-Reflection Skills?

Jaclyn Baharestani
Special Projects Coordinator, Winston Innovation Lab

Self-reflection can often be the gateway to the independence and self-efficacy we hope to foster in our students. This awareness of self, particularly one’s own strengths and weaknesses, gives them the tools to consciously pause and assess their thoughts, actions, successes, and needed supports. 
Breakdowns in self-reflection can manifest differently amongst all children, and in many regards, gradual, and sometimes punctuated, growth in this area is part of expected skill development; still, it is important to note that self-reflection may be even more out of reach for children with learning disabilities. While the struggle may be rooted in challenges with sorting and organizing for some, it may be attributed to gaps in reasoning, higher order thinking, or cognitive flexibility for others. Further, what results can be a lack of insight and confidence that prevents children from truly understanding their character, desires, choices and responses, making it challenging to apply insight, strategies and acquired knowledge to future situations.

At Winston Preparatory School, we prioritize continuous attention to self-reflection by providing all students with ongoing, explicit opportunities to raise their self-awareness and to weave reflective components into each strategy that they use when approaching tasks. The overarching goal is for self-reflection to become ingrained in students’ independent learning processes and to help students internalize this pivotal skill so that it can be applied across various domains. Our work typically begins with helping our students slow down and take purposeful pauses to self-reflect. Slowing down is the only way people, particularly children and young adults with learning differences, can effectively reflect on their actions, decisions, and creations, so they can learn from their experiences. At Winston Prep, we work to develop our students' self-reflection capacities through consistent modeling, guiding, and the use of explicit tools, such as journals, checklists, or prompts. We believe that self-reflection is best practiced when it is built into each step of learning, whether reading and processing instructions, creating a step-by-step list to help plan time, self-assessing progress after completing a given task, or analyzing a social interaction. We also give tremendous value to the authentic, thoughtful discussions we have with our students, as these conversations oftentimes serve as the most tangible models for self-reflective thinking.

As parents, you can encourage your children to build stronger self-reflection skills by creating those same opportunities to slow down and take pause. At Winston Prep, we often find it useful to add structure to these reflective moments with specific questions to guide our students’ thinking. What was the motivation behind your action or decision? What went well? What did not go well? Similarly, by sharing your own reflective thinking with your children, you can explicitly model how you use self-reflection skills and strategies to make positive changes in your own lives. It is key to raise your child’s awareness of how and why self-reflection is a helpful tool for becoming a more independent individual who grows from his or her experiences.
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Winston Preparatory School is a leading school for students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, executive functioning difficulties (ADHD) and non-verbal learning disorders (NVLD).

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