The Power of Student Reflection using Nurture

May 3, 2024
May 3, 2024
Emer Cunningham
School Engagement at Nurture


As educators, we often discuss the importance of 'bridging the gap' between the curriculum and student interests to enhance student outcomes. Yet, the focus on bridging this gap for teachers is often overlooked. At Nurture, we recognize that teachers may not always have the time to implement the pedagogical approaches learned during teacher training or found in educational research literature. Therefore, Nurture bridges the gap between what teachers know they should be doing, but don’t always have the time to do, especially in terms of reflection. 

Reflection is a method that teachers may find challenging to integrate meaningfully into their teaching practice. While teachers who do not use Nurture may still promote reflection in their classrooms, my own teaching experience has shown that prioritising reflection was not always at the forefront. Although I encouraged my students to reflect on their learning, the methods used could sometimes lack depth and authenticity. With Nurture, facilitating student reflection becomes more straightforward and automatic, as students are required to reflect upon submitting their work and upon receiving feedback. This integration makes reflection an integral part of each formative assessment, simplifying the process compared to traditional methods and fostering a culture of reflection for both teachers and students.

Example of student's submission reflection

Example of student's reflection after 1 year of using Nurture

Why is Reflection Important?

For many of us, reflective practice may not have entered our vocabulary until third-level education or our professional careers and certainly was not encouraged or prioritised in our experiences of schooling as students. Thankfully, in the last number of years the practice of having students reflect in and on learning has been incorporated into a variety of curricula and is no longer isolated to professional practice in the working world. While the incorporation of reflection by and for learners into curricula is a relatively recent development, researchers have been emphasising the value of this practice for well over a century. Notably, esteemed scholars such as John Dewey in the early 20th century, and Paul Black and Dylan William from the later 20th century to the present, have highlighted the importance of reflective practices in education. Here is an enlightening clip of Paul Black sharing his reflections on the significance of self-assessment.

Engaging in reflective practice offers learners numerous benefits, such as:

  1. Heightened awareness and comprehension of the knowledge and skills acquired in a specific task
  2. Taking responsibility for one's own learning and establishing informed learning objectives for the future
  3. Recognizing strengths and weaknesses in their work and conducting accurate self-assessments
  4. Becoming introspective learners who understand themselves and their learning processes
  5. Fostering collaboration between teachers and learners to pursue students' learning objectives

John Dewey, Democracy and Education Quote

How Nurture Promotes Student Reflection

Reflection is an incredibly valuable (yet often underestimated) practice that promotes self-awareness and self-improvement for both teachers and students, and at Nurture, we recognize and appreciate these benefits. Nurture is dedicated to enhancing the feedback loop through the mechanism of reflection, which occurs when students submit their work and receive feedback from their teachers. In the words of one of our Nurture Expert Teachers, Janet (an English and history teacher in Kinsale Community School),  “what I like about Nurture is that it opens up a conversation with the students about reflection in how it is laid out”

Upon submitting their work, students assess their confidence in their performance and provide a reflective comment on their assessment process. They specifically highlight the challenges or enjoyable aspects, explain their feelings, and disclose the resources they used. Essentially, students reflect on their process while offering context to their teacher about their learning journey in a confidential and proactive manner. This reflective comment during submission is further leveraged by the Nurture Assistant to tailor the feedback provided to the student later on, completing the feedback loop in a personalised manner that meets the student's needs.

Upon receiving feedback from their teacher, students are prompted to reflect on this feedback to reveal their grade. Drawing from their previous reflections and the teacher's comments, students evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their performance to uncover their grade. By engaging in this process without the pressure of the grade, students can fully immerse themselves in reflection to enhance the value before accessing their grade. Through these reflective steps, students effectively close the feedback loop, fostering a comprehensive learning experience.

Priming Students for Reflection

Reflection is undoubtedly a powerful tool for student learning, but to fully harness the potential of reflection and self-assessment we recommend ‘priming’ or ‘pre-teaching’ students the skills and language required for this task. In our conversation with Janet about reflection in her classroom, Janet’s advice is to emphasise to open up discussion with students about the importance of reflection and explain how “as a teacher, I learn more about your learning when you reflect properly”. For students, her go-to advice is to “be specific. Encourage the student to explain what they think they found difficult about the task. In that way, the teacher’s feedback can be more specific to what the student is struggling with. I as a teacher can be more specific and more tailored in my feedback based on the students' submission reflection”. Check out Janet’s observations on reflection below for further tips on incorporating reflection into your class. 

In priming students for their reflection-on-submission, some methods we recommend include 

  1. Discuss the power of reflection with your students, emphasising its value and how it allows you the teacher to give more specific feedback to their needs 
  2. Show students sample pieces of reflection from their peers
  3. Encourage students to follow a formula to reflection such ‘what specifically did you struggle with, why do you think you struggled with this, what resources do you need to help improve in this specific area?’ 
  4. Give examples of language and phrases the student can use (please see below for some examples of same) 

In priming students for post-feedback reflection, we recommend using the same methods as above but asking students to consider the following questions 

  1. What exactly did you find helpful about this feedback and why? 
  2. Was this feedback better, worse or in line with what I expected? 
  3. What resources are you going to consult as a result of this feedback? 
  4. What are your goals going forward based on this feedback? 

Useful Prompts to Support Student Reflection


The skills of reflection and self-assessment are powerful tools for both students and teachers alike making for more democratic classrooms, more self-aware and self-regulated learners, better informed teachers and a more positive student-teacher relationship. However, making time in teacher’s classrooms for reflection can be a challenge- this is where Nurture can step in to simplify this process and make life that bit easier for our busy teachers. 

If you would like further support on the topic of Nurture and reflection for yourself or your staff, feel free to contact to arrange a free 40 minute training session on this topic.