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Rasa Kulevičienė

Abstract

The aim of this article is to reveal the possibilities and importance of reflection on learning for primary school students. To achieve this aim, the following method has been applied: an analysis of scholarly literature, textbooks for primary school students, and national educational documents. The analysis of scholarly literature made it possible to provide a consistent description of the development of the concept of reflection from philosophical to pedagogical approaches, to show the relevance of teaching primary school students to reflect on learning, and, based on scientific arguments, to highlight the importance and possibilities of the concept under study in contemporary schools. Lithuanian and international sources (articles, monographs, textbooks of modern didactics, and books) were selected for the analysis of scientific literature. The principles of scientific ethics have been followed – the sources in the text are provided with clear references, and the translation of the texts written in foreign languages into Lithuanian has been validated. The analysis of scholarly literature is supplemented by the analysis of primary school textbooks, exercise books, tests, and national educational documents, the validity of which is ensured by having selected only official data sources: printed materials for teaching primary school students along with studies carried out by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport.
The analysis of the scholarly literature led to the suggestion that many of the world’s philosophers, scientists, child psychologists, and practitioners have written about reflection. When discussing reflection, philosophers (R. Descartes, I. Kant, G.W. Leibnitz, J.G. Fichte, E. Husserl, etc.), just like ancient thinkers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), emphasize that it is a way of self-examination that changes the direction of thinking from discovering one’s outside world towards self-discovery. A person is encouraged to reflect by seeking to remove any doubt and uncertainty about the way they think or act. We cannot perceive the world as self-evident – therefore, by means of reflection we have to transform the things that bother us into the object of doubt in order to find answers to questions weighing on our minds and thus gain a new understanding through reflection. The American philosopher, educator, and psychologist J. Dewey, who lived in the early 20th century, brought reflection as a method from the field of philosophy into pedagogical practice. Thus, J. Dewey stated that reflection is very important for learning, since it enables the learner to understand how to act (which methods, tools, etc., to apply) in order to succeed in learning and gain a learning experience. From the mid-20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, numerous comprehensive studies were carried out by psychologists and educators (D. B. Elkonin, V. V. Davydov, J. Piaget, L. S. Vygotskij, J. Flavell), the findings of which highlight that the cultivation of reflection has to start as early as in primary school. Children who do not acquire the ability to reflect on learning by the end of primary school have learning difficulties in high school, experience negativity and neurotic problems in multiple schools, and are not as mature as they should be. These ideas remain relevant today, as scholars unanimously agree that teaching primary school students to reflect on learning provides them with opportunities to gain an in-depth understanding of learning. Meanwhile, national educational documents highlight teaching students to reflect on learning, stating that it must become a regular part of the educational process and can help in achieving quality learning for primary school pupils. Based on the above, it can be stated that it is no coincidence that since 2016 some textbooks, exercise books, and test books (especially for teaching Lithuanian) for primary school students have been incorporating tasks teaching reflection on learning.
Teaching primary school students to reflect on learning is important since the child learns to observe themselves in a learning situation, i.e., to monitor the process of their intellectual activity by adjusting certain elements, if needed. This has a positive impact on the learning of primary school pupils, as it enables them to learn how to study, to improve their memory, to remember more meaningful information, to increase their active attention while studying, and to fully understand and avoid their specific learning issues and their causes. This has a positive long-term effect on the learning of primary school pupils, as it encourages children in this age group to memorize significant moments in learning and, hence, learn from them. Thus, in the 21st century, reflection on learning is an important skill of lifelong learning, which promotes children’s cognitive control, especially when children are given the opportunity to reflect on learning in a consistent manner.
In terms of possibilities, it is evident that children can and have to be taught to reflect on learning in primary school. However, it must be considered that there is no strict age limit (6 or 10 years of age), since each child develops differently. Insights that show that what can be expected in terms of reflection on learning depends very much on a child’s maturity are important, however. In the beginning, when children are not mature enough, their reflection is formal, i.e., they reflect on what needs to be done (how to act) in order to solve a particular learning difficulty. Meanwhile, as children grow older, reflection becomes deeper because they already want to find out not only what actions need to be taken to solve learning problems, but also what led to (i.e., what actions and circumstances) such learning outcomes. Thus, it is obvious that primary school students can reflect on learning, but the expression and depth of reflection will be determined by the child’s maturity and preparation.
It should be noted that the possibilities for cultivation of reflection on learning in primary school students also depend on the teacher. Children’s reflection first emerges as a form of collaboration between a teacher and a student (when an adult asks questions and helps the child find answers to them), and only later does the child learn to reflect on their own. This is due to the fact that education in primary school is always a shared process in the beginning – the child learns not so much from the teacher as together with the teacher. Therefore, teachers should be focused on creating the conditions necessary for students to reflect on learning (appropriate tasks, lesson time planning, etc.), as the transition from the reproductive level to the reflective one does not happen by itself.
Summarizing the results of the research, the following conclusions can be drawn: teaching primary school students to reflect on learning is important, because any learning event/situation that causes dissatisfaction – or, conversely, satisfaction – is ruminated over. It is in this way that the child who is being taught to monitor the learning process (not only the results but also the actions taken) acquires a necessary, positive, productive learning experience that can be used in other similar learning situations. In this way, the child gradually discovers the best and most effective ways of learning, masters them over time, and begins to use them spontaneously. Possibilities to teach primary school students to reflect on learning depend on their ever-maturing relationships with their environments. The role of the teacher is also crucial here, as children in this age group are not yet able to engage in internal dialogue with themselves. This is the reason why it is namely the teacher that models how children need to reflect on learning until the children are able to do it themselves, and the teacher does so by basing this pedagogical activity on a learning paradigm, by allocating time during lessons, and by using appropriate methods and tools.

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Section
Education Science