Beyond Finals Week: Self Reflection Assignments in Your Psychology Course

Article Summary
Students can use Psychology content in their daily lives by reflecting on their own behavior.
Three simple steps are all it takes to do effective self-reflection.
Takeaway Projects are a great alternative to final exams.
Ivan Wayne is a doctoral student in educational psychology at University of Northern Colorado.

Students can easily apply the content in Psychology courses to their lives. Many students say this is the main reason they choose Intro to Psychology or Psychology Foundations as electives.
But, it is not always clear how a Psychology class will impact students over the long-term.
Many Psychology students have done some informal self-reflection at the end of a semester. Students can reflect on their lives and the psychology field by analyzing it.

Help students reap the benefits of self-reflection
Incorporating self-reflection into class and assigning a grade reinforces the importance active self-application. A project that focuses on self-reflection at the end of the semester allows students to apply the Psychology material they have learned well beyond finals week.
This summative assessment was originally called The Takeaway Project. You can rename it however you like and make any modifications you wish. The goal is for students to reflect on their changes as a result of the Psychology content in their course.
Students can share their lasting learnings with their instructors and their peers through this project. The Takeaway Project is usually used as a final exam substitute or as an assignment that we focus on the week prior to Finals Week.

In 3 Steps, have students self-reflect
This project is based on the original design. Students must choose three pieces of content from your course they find moving, memorable, or impactful. To ensure that all students are referencing the same part of the course, I ask them to bring content from different units.
The Takeaway Project’s requirements start with three questions that are specific to each of the three courses students have chosen:
How did this piece change your previous thinking?
How did this piece change your behavior in the past? Or, how will it change your behavior in the near future.
What do you think most people don’t understand about this piece? Or, what would you like people to know about it?
These three prompts, which relate to three pieces of course material, make up nine requirements. The instructor can decide the rubric. I tell students that they can complete this project in any format they prefer. Sometimes, I ask students to complete their assignment in a different format than writing a paper or creating PowerPoint decks. This allows them to step outside their comfort zone.

A Final Assignment can help you to develop self-reflection
My class must present their final Takeaway Project in small groups to other students. I reserve a space on campus. However, this can also be done in Breakout Rooms via Zoom for online courses. This portion of The Takeaway Project is my responsibility.
Assign students to small groups of five
Students should be instructed to choose the order in which they will present their work.
Each student should be allowed to present their project for 10 to 15 minutes and answer questions.
I keep an eye on the groups and listen to what they create. I don’t usually grade them on their presentations but rather grade their final product. The presentation can then be added to the rubric and assigned points.

Engage Learners on an All-Scale
My favorite class assignment is still the Takeaway Project presentations. Students love it in their course evaluations. Sometimes, they even reach out to me to express their gratitude for allowing them to do this type of self-reflection.
It is an incredibly powerful idea that our courses can transform students as people, and many students never have the chance to think like this about their classes.
We believe that students should not sign up for classes to fulfill requirements but to embrace their passions and ignite their learning passions. This project is one way we can incorporate that mission into our gradebooks as well as into the college experience for students.

Reflect on your own powerful lessons
The Takeaway Project is so powerful that I was inspired by it to create my own Takeaway Project every semester. I share my top three takeaways with students after they present in their groups. Every semester, I am amazed at the connectedness of each class.
It’s time for students to be inspired by the way.