Surfacing Reflective Thinking in Ourselves and Our Students

by Sudipti Kumar, Director of Research, EXPLO Elevate

Last month, I wrote about a methodology called ORID for supporting meetings, conversations, and interviews at independent schools.

I outlined the four components (O = Objective, R = Reflective, I = Interpretive, D = Decisional) and shared examples of how this approach can be used in school-based settings. Since then, I have had the chance to explore this methodology further and sit down with Jo Nelson, author of The Art of Focused Conversation for Schools. Jo has a plethora of experience using ORID in school-based settings, and she pushed my thinking in a variety of ways.

First, we had a deep and thoughtful discussion about the “R” in ORID which stands for “reflection.” In my blog post, I noted that this is the point where an interviewee or a discussion participant would identify how they feel in relation to the data. However, in chatting with Jo, she noted that “the reflective level is much more than just feelings.” This made me realize that I was definitely not giving the “R” its due.

Jo went on to say: “If the objective level is about getting out the facts and the external information, the reflective level is the internal knowledge and experience, and reactions that you have to the external data. So it is memories, associations, things that are triggered by it. That is information that is really important, along with the external data.”

A question about how a person feels as part of a structured conversation (my initial focus on what the “R” is about) should be followed up with questions that go beyond that core emotion and really unpack it. If a person says they were confused by an email sent by the Head of School, a follow-up question should be: What was confusing about it? How do you know you are confused as opposed to another core emotion?

My initial description of the “R”

R = Reflective

  • To understand how we feel in relation to the data
  • Identifying feelings but not analyzing them
  • Sample types of questions:
  • How do you feel about the DEIJ initiatives to date at the school?
  • How do you feel about the language being used across the school?
  • How do you feel about the level of communications from the school on DEIJ?
  • How do you feel about your level of involvement?

In fact, when used well by a facilitator, the reflective portion of ORID allows the facilitator to surface reactions that happen both immediately and over time, and perhaps even to dive deep on what may be hidden for the participants. For example, a person entering into a structured conversation may have initially thought they were confused, but upon further reflection they realized that the gut reaction was not confusion but frustration or annoyance. A further probe may be, “What was another time you felt a similar annoyance?”. Or, “Did this experience remind you of another?”

Revised “R”, after my conversation with Jo

R = Reflective

  • To understand our feelings and reactions (both immediate and over time) to the data
  • Identifying reactions, perhaps those that are not surface-level and memories or other components attached to these reactions, but not analyzing them
  • Sample types of questions:
    • What was your response to XYZ event/email/incident?
    • When was another time in recent history (12 months) where you had a similar reaction? What was that scenario, and how did this one feel similar or different?
    • Over time and upon additional reflection or sitting with the event/email/incident, did other reactions surface for you? What were they? What knowledge or thinking contributed to these other reactions?
    • What surprised you about your reaction? What didn’t?

Jo and I also discussed how ORID is a structured thinking process for the adults and the students in the building. It left me imagining a school where ORID was the basis for any and all discussions – whether they be about subject matter content in math class or in an after-school student-led group. Her final words before we got off the phone are ones that I think should be embedded in any school’s portrait of a graduate: “If we teach kids to think clearly, we will change the world.”

“If we teach kids to think clearly, we will change the world.”

There are also a number of tech tools to utilize to further reflection in the classroom, beyond a specific lesson or event. A recent tool from Gradient Learning, called Along, has also caught my eye. This tool is a free digital reflection tool that students and teachers can use together based on a question bank of prompts available.

Below, I leave us with a starting point for sample questions related to reflective thinking for students. I would love to hear from our readers on other questions that stir up considerable reflective thinking, as well as support our students in thinking clearly through reflection or through any other part of the ORID process.

Sample types of questions related to the “R”, for students:

  • What surprised you about today’s lesson?
  • What parts of the lesson/class/content made you anxious or overwhelmed?
  • What parts of the lesson/class/content made you excited or joyful?
  • Who/what did you relate to during the lesson/class today?