It is ironic that students in high school and college sometimes complain that they do not have enough time to think. The challenge of keeping up with overloaded schedules, completing tasks on time, and managing a host of interactions through the day can limit the opportunity for thoughtful reflection. Yet thoughtful reflection is essential to engaging well with the relationship between faith and science. Merely glancing at the world with only superficial thought and attention is not adequate for the task.
How can we create opportunities for students to reflect well amid a busy schedule? Some students need quiet and solitude, while others think well in discussion with peers or while creating a piece of writing or a drawing. Spaces for reflection might include:
- brief times for silent journaling, thought, or prayer.
- time to debrief with a partner after an activity.
- challenges to ponder and to consult with others about a big question outside class.
- opportunities to express ideas creatively in writing or images.
- rewarding students’ work that wrestles with hard questions, not just right answers.
- asking “why” questions and resisting quick and easy resolution.
- formal essay prompts and reports.
- explicitly pausing after asking a question before accepting student answers.
- asking students to discuss briefly with a partner before volunteering an answer.
These tactics need not take a large amount of time away from the curriculum; some are very brief. Helping students to think well should be seen as part of the curriculum, and creating space for it is part of planning for learning.
Many FASTly activities seek to build in spaces for careful personal reflection. Different activities apply unique strategies, such as:
- asking students to reflect explicitly together on how they worked with one another after a collaborative lab activity. Activity: Group Challenges
- asking students to wrestle with ethical questions while learning about an important scientific breakthrough. Activity: The DNA Drama
- providing time for silent journaling. Activity: The Good Books
- asking students to return to a task and their previous ideas at several points throughout the semester or the school year. Activity: Closing Questions
Teachers and students need opportunities to reflect because many of the most important questions in faith and science are large, complex, and at times mysterious. Quick, convenient answers are going to miss the mark. We also need reflection because these same questions engage us personally, challenging us to consider who we are and what stories we will trust. These are not matters for careless thought. Look out for other ways in which FASTly activities aim to support on-going reflection, and consider how you might improve your own teaching and classroom ethos in this regard.