Reflect on your current understanding of this topic, and respond to each of these sentence stems: ・I used to think… ・Now I think…
Purpose This routine helps students reflect on their thinking about a topic or issue and explore how and why that thinking has changed. It can be useful in consolidating new learning as students identify their new understandings, opinions, and beliefs. By examining and explaining how and why their thinking has changed, students develop their reasoning abilities and recognize cause-and-effect relationships. This routine also develops students’ metacognitive skills, the ability to identify and talk about one’s thinking itself.
Selecting Appropriate Content This routine is applicable across a wide variety of subject areas whenever students’ initial thoughts, opinions, or beliefs are likely to have changed as a result of instruction or experience. After reading new information, watching a film, listening to a speaker, experiencing something new, having a class discussion, or completing a unit of study are all potentially powerful times a teacher might make use of this routine. Greater depth and insights are likely when the object of reflection is conceptual or process oriented rather than merely an accumulation of new facts. Ask yourself, Have students had a chance to confront their misconceptions or to shift their thinking in fundamental ways based on the experiences they have had?
Steps 1. Set up. Explain to students that the purpose of this routine is to help them reflect on their thinking about the topic and to identify how their ideas have developed over time. It may be useful for students to have their journals on hand, class documentation available, and/or access to their learning portfolios where collections of their recent work reside. 2. Encourage individual reflection. Say to the students, “When we began this study, you all had some initial ideas about it and what it was all about. Take a minute to think back to when we started and remember what kind of ideas you once held. Write what it is that you used to think about our topic, starting off with the words, “I used to think...’ ” Once students have had a chance to write their responses, say “Now, I want you to think about how your ideas about our topic have changed as a result of what we’ve been studying, doing, and discussing in class. Write a few lines to capture where you are now in your thinking, starting with the phrase, ‘Now, I think…’ ” 3. Share the thinking. Have students share and explain their shifts in thinking. Initially it may be worthwhile to do this as a whole group so that you can probe students’ thinking and push them to explain. This also provides a model for students who are having difficulty. Once students become accustomed to explaining their thinking, you could have them share in small groups or pairs before soliciting a whole-group response.
Assessment This routine is fairly open-ended, so teachers must be flexible as to what information can be gleaned from their students’ reflections. It is useful to note exactly what students recognize as having shifted in their minds about a topic form what they had initially conceived. This may unveil misconceptions about which the teacher was not previously aware. The responses are likely to be unique for each student. Nonetheless, looking for patterns of responses can be one way a teacher identifies key areas of the class’s leaning. Do students make mention of particular concepts that have change for them, or do they reflect upon a new set of skills they’ve acquired? Do students mention shifts in their thinking about key ideas that teacher might expect them to have reconsidered, or do they mention other kinds of ideas that strike them as significant in ways unexpected to the teacher? Grouping students’ reflections by possible themes might help a teacher get a sense of the story of learning that has taken place for students within the studied topic.
Tips It is important that this routine carries with it the message that a teacher is genuinely curious about how his or her students’ thinking has grown, deepened, shifted, or changed as a result of classroom endeavors. Sometimes there is a tendency for students to think this routine is about saying what they had “wrong” before and what they have “right” now. When students feel they need to be teacher-pleasing in their responses rather than introspective, genuine reflection on their thinking is compromised. The open-endedness of this routine can cause uneasiness for teachers looking for a specific response form students. By keeping open to whatever students reflect upon, teachers often get new ideas as to where to take their instruction next, even when student responses are not exactly what the teacher had initially imagined. It sometimes strikes people as a good idea to do the I Used to Think…portion at the beginning of a unit, before instruction begins. However, one cannot possibly identify misconceptions and ingrained assumptions until they have been confronted. Consequently, this type of reflection can only effectively happen after new learning has occurred. With time, this routine develops students’ disposition to be aware of their own thinking by keeping a clear emphasis on the cause-and-effect relationships of what students do and how their thinking changes. As a result it is not uncommon for students to suddenly become aware of new insights as they happen and to express these aloud as “I used to think…, but now I think…”