7 Questions to prompt student reflection

Tal, Teacher

“Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it.” - Boud et al., 1985

The ability to reflect on our thoughts, feelings and actions doesn’t come naturally.  

Our students are no different. 

The benefits of arming them with this superpower include:

  • Increasing student voice and motivation;
  • Adapting our teaching to suit their needs;
  • Improving learning outcomes;

So why is it difficult to reflect in the classroom?

Barriers to student reflection are:

  • emphasis on assessment driven curricula
  • difficulties thinking beyond the present
  • perception that it’s not ‘serious learning’

It takes inspiration, guidance and lots of practice.

Exit tickets are an effective and easy tool to prompt student reflection.

In this article, we’ll dive into the top 7 questions for successful student reflection.

1. What are 2 goals you have for your next project?

Goal Setting is one of 10 High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) - and for good reason. 

For effective reflection, it’s important we first set goals to guide us. 

Developing goals serves to:

  • set realistic and achievable expectations
  • focus our learning
  • track progress

Before posing this, discuss with students effective goal setting.  What makes an effective goal?  What is a meaningful success criteria?  How will I deal with challenges along the way?

Once you’re aware of students’ goals, you can guide them to achieving these through their learning.

2. What help do you need to achieve your learning goals?

Research shows that when feedback is learner-centred, it motivates students to be and do their best.

This question is best posed once students have articulated their learning goals.  

Asking students what help they need encourages them to identify their strengths and weaknesses.  It clarifies their next steps.  It also gives us vital information to tailor our teaching to suit their learning aims.

3. What are two ways you contributed in class today?

Some students are outgoing.  Others are more reserved.  Regardless, all can positively contribute to the class. 

They may have helped a classmate.  Worked well in a team.  Asked a clarifying question.

Reflecting on how they’ve contributed prompts thinking about future contributions.

I taught a student with low self esteem.  They’d often ask additional questions or seek clarification.  They thought this meant they weren’t contributing to the class.  Based on this feedback, I helped them to see that asking questions really helped others’ learning too.

4. How does something you learned in today’s lesson connect with something you already knew?

In The Wisdom of Practice, Lee Shulman writes that ‘to prompt learning, you've got to begin with the process of going from inside out.’

New information is processed based on what we know, believe and can do. 

Students should be encouraged to tap into their existing knowledge, memories, skills and beliefs to promote learning.  

This highlights that each sequence of learning isn’t just there for exam purposes.  That it builds on previous knowledge for a holistic understanding. 

It’ll also provide insight into your students’ thoughts, feelings and experiences.  This will help you to present information in a meaningful way.


5. What did you learn about working with others today?

Our students don’t learn solo.  

They’re constantly interacting with their peers.  Their actions impact on others in ways they may not even realize.  

Students are encouraged to reflect via this question in a positive and constructive manner.

It’s impactful to brainstorm questions to support their answer, such as:

  • How did I support others?  
  • How could I have done better? 
  • How did others interact with me?  
  • How did that feel and why?

With this knowledge, we gain a better understanding of the dynamics within our classroom.  It gives us the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with students.  To have a whole class discussion about working with others.  

This approach will enhance students’ sense of belonging and improve their learning outcomes.

6. How can you apply what you learned today to your own life?

Learning is most meaningful when students form connections to their lives.     

It’s our role to ensure that learning is transferable to real-life.   

Where students feel that we are invested in their learning, they are more likely to respond positively to our feedback.  

This will enhance student understanding, incentivise classroom learning and make learning tangible. 

Before posing, discuss ideas for applying specific content outside the classroom.  For instance, if you’re teaching Psychology, identify ways that emotional learning can be applied to their lives.

7. How can you apply something you learned today to another class or subject?

We often view the classes we teach as standalones, especially in high school or university settings.

However, there are many transferable skills and knowledge that can be used across multiple settings.

Great Schools Partnership identifies these as: communication, problem solving, informed thinking, self direction, collaboration.

The more we reflect on these skills, the greater the likelihood of us honing them in.  They form the backbone of any future learning.  


As teachers, we’re best positioned to ask our students meaningful questions to promote self reflection.  

Self reflection is essential for aiding memory, promoting student voice, increasing motivation and enhancing learning outcomes.

It may not be easy, but it’s certainly worth the hard work.

Try using exit tickets to encourage reflection with your students.  These and other self reflection questions in your Ziplet account are a great place to start.   If you haven’t already, you can sign up for a free account.

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