Executive Function Strategies Blog

Academic Coaching Tip: Reflect on Academic Performance

The school bus door closes on another academic year and your child’s report card and teachers’ comments are inend_of_year_reflection_for_students hand. Before they get swept aside under bills and junk mail (or before they are neatly filed away), now is the perfect time to carve out some quiet 1:1 time with your child to reflect on his or her academic performance in the past 9+ months of school. In academic coaching, reflection is part of our toolbox to help students become more effective learners.

Why do a structured reflection? Reflecting on academic performance builds higher level thinking skills. Self assessment nurtures insight toward where we are versus where we want to be, and guides what actions we choose to bridge the gap. This sets the stage for effective goal setting. Though many kids would rather move on after a disappointment, taking a pause and debriefing can be the difference between making better choices and repeating the same mistakes in an endless loop. As adults, we are often expected to do these exercises in our professional lives, but we don’t have to limit it to the adult world of career advancement.

Here’s a handy guide, based on our own academic coaching methodology, to help structure this discussion with your child.

The setting: Consider neutral, yet pleasant territory, such as a local coffee shop or frozen yogurt emporium. This should feel positive, not like a court appearance for a contested parking ticket.

The ground rules: Make it clear that this is not about shame and blame or even basking in glory if it was a great year academically. No punishments or rewards will be handed down during this reflection. All you ask is for a few minutes of calm, honest conversation for both of you.

The format: Put it in writing. This is an important tool to refer to over the next school year. Consider the template below to structure your discussion. Grab some old tests and papers to help jog your child’s memory. The discussion can encompass extracurricular activities, as well. Some kids will need prompting to recall events from months ago, or to answer the why questions. That’s OK.

Try prompting

- in the form of questions: What was that big school event in November?

- in the form of observation, then a question: I noticed that you started doing better on spelling tests by the end of the year. Do you remember what you did to change that?

- in the form of examples of homework, projects, papers or tests to trigger recall

Student Reflection Template

What were the highlights of the school year?
Pick one highlight and describe what you did to make it successful.
Which were the hardest assignments this year?
What made those assignments so difficult?
What would you change about your approach to those tough assignments?
What did you get better at this year?
Why did you improve?
What skills do you want to improve next year?
What can we (your parents) do to help you do well next year?

Here’s an example of how this might look with a student who has just completed 7th grade.
 

Student Reflection Example

What were the highlights of the school year?

Honorable mention in science fair

Math Team competitions

Honor roll for 2 trimesters

Made the basketball team for the first time!

Pick one highlight and describe what you did to make it successful.

Basketball team: I went to a summer camp that helped me get better, then I kept practicing the drills I learned there until tryouts.

Which were the hardest assignments this year?

To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

Science Fair Project

What made those assignments so difficult?

The essay was tough because we had to create a thesis and I wasn’t sure about what to write about and how to make it sound good.

The science fair project took a really long time and it had an experiment, a paper, and a poster due. I had to redo the experiment because I lost my data sheet.

What would you change about your approach to those tough assignments?

With the essay, meeting with my teacher to get some help would have been a better idea.

With the science fair project, I should have planned out the work in chunks and kept a special folder with just science fair stuff in it.

What did you get better at this year?

I definitely got better in math.

I got a little better at taking tests.

Why did you improve?

All those math team drills, every week. I liked crushing the competition.

For tests, I met with teachers beforehand and also asked questions during the test when I didn’t understand a question (even though it felt weird at first to do that).

What skills do you want to improve next year?

I need to learn how to write essays and use the right grammar and formal words.

What can we (your parents) do to help you do well next year?

Help me edit my writing.

Help me figure out how to keep track of papers.

Tell my sisters to not bug me while I’m doing homework.

 

Once you finish this exercise with your child (and eat that last spoonful of frozen yogurt) keep this document handy to refer to throughout the coming year. When your child feels frustrated about his or her school performance, look back at the reflection together. For instance, if the student in the example above gets discouraged about how he’s doing in Spanish during 8th grade, you may guide him to look at his reflection about his progress in math the previous year. He may have an “aha” moment when he sees that frequent drills were key to math performance, and that just may be the best tactic for all that Spanish vocabulary. This same student may benefit from reminders of his own goal to improve his writing when he’s tempted to turn in a first draft that has not been edited.

Academic coaching tools such as this guided reflection can set your child up for a better year once those school bus doors open again in September. In the meantime, enjoy spending some extra time with your family this summer.

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JackieStachel
 
Jackie Stachel is the Director of Communications for Beyond BookSmart. She joined the company in 2010 and is based in our Boston branch. Jackie leads Executive Function presentations for parent groups throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Additionally, Jackie manages our You Tube channel as well as our company blog content through editing submissions, writing articles, and collaborating with professionals from outside Beyond BookSmart to create useful, informative content. Finally, Jackie coaches students supporting them in learning and developing Executive Functioning strategies.

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