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As schools begin to reopen across the world, concern about student wellbeing is at the forefront of many discussions. Educators want to help students recognize and navigate their emotions by providing regular opportunities to share and be heard.
This need inspired us to develop Reflect in Microsoft Teams for Education.
Reflect can help broaden learners' emotional vocabulary and deepen empathy for their peers while also providing valuable feedback to educators for a healthy classroom community.
Whatever your role in the educational community (educator, school leader, or part of the wellbeing team), this blog post will show you how to support student wellbeing by encouraging reflective conversations in your school and making emotional check-ins a part of your routine.
Decades of research on the science of learning, and the important role emotions play in how we humans learn and process information, has finally caught up with what most educators have always known – students need more than academics to successfully navigate their way through this complex world they have inherited. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is about treating a student as a whole person, emotions and all, and cultivating the skills we all need to become engaged citizens leading happy, healthy, successful lives.
CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) defines SEL as:
The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Once we understand SEL, we can implement it throughout the school community. One tool that can help you is the new Reflect app in Microsoft Teams, and here are some tips on how to start.
What is Reflect, and why it's used
We want to build a school community that recognizes the whole student. It is important that we support them emotionally, understand when they are going through a rough time, and ensure that the classroom environment stays positive and conducive to learning.
Reflect is an emotional check-in app that helps educators support their students and the class as a whole. Reflect helps students recognize and navigate their emotions by providing regular opportunities to share and be heard. Reflect can help broaden a student's emotional vocabulary and deepen empathy for their peers while also providing valuable feedback to educators for a healthy classroom community.
This check-in app uses emojis and research-backed emotional granularity to support educators in adding social and emotional learning and support into their routine.
Schools are reopening, Reflect is as valuable as ever
The future is unpredictable. Preparing youth for the challenges of tomorrow in the ambiguity of today is a hurdle that educators have taken in their stride. Social-emotional skills help us better navigate complexity and uncertainty while minimizing the adverse effects of disruption and sustaining the relationships that support the students. The past year's changes have highlighted the importance of personal connection, accelerated the integration of technology in the classroom, and amplified the role of teachers. Adjusting back to in-person learning is a disruption in itself. Students will need support in re-establishing their bonds, noticing social cues, and communicating their needs to their peers and educators. A regular SEL routine like Reflect can provide an entry point for educators to host classroom conversations and a safe space for students to voice their concerns.
Privacy and Security
Reflect follows the same privacy and security standards as Education Insights to protect students' sensitive information.
The information collected and shown through Reflect meets more than 90 regulatory and industry standards, including GDPR and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for students and children's security and other, similar, privacy-oriented regulations.
Students never see the names of other students, only how they responded. While they can see the distribution of responses, they cannot see the student names associated with each reflection.
Steps to successful Reflect adoption
1. Enable Reflect
You can locate the Reflect app through the Teams apps gallery or using this link: https://aka.ms/getReflect.
If you don't find the Reflect app in the gallery or if the link is not accessible, it may be that your IT Admin has limited the app in your tenant. In such a case, please refer your IT Admin to the following document: IT Admin Guide to Reflect in Microsoft Teams.
Only when Reflect is allowed can educators see and use the app in their classes.
Guest users (students or educators) cannot use Reflect.
2. Work with educators, so they understand the importance of regular check-ins and emotional granularity
Reflect helps educators easily check how their students feel in general or about a specific topic, such as learning from home, an assignment, current events, or a change within their community.
Emotional granularity is the ability to differentiate between emotions and articulate the specific emotion experienced. Developing language to talk about feelings is foundational to social and emotional learning. Accurately defining our emotions can help identify the source of the feeling and plan to meet our needs.
Introduce your educators to the app and show them how it can support a positive emotional climate in the classroom. Reflect provides an emotional safe space to grow student-teacher connections and help students develop their emotional vocabulary. We worked with SEL experts to select 50 emotion words that students can identify with as they reflect.
3. Ask educators to try Reflect and share their feedback
The first step is always the hardest. Reflect provides a variety of questions educators can ask their class for some common scenarios. The questions are a closed list, developed with the help of experts, and designed to provide Insights when associated with other data. One way to customize a Reflect check-in is to publish it and then "reply" to the message with specific guidelines.
Ask the educators to share their experiences using Reflect so that you can support them and their specific needs.
Listen to their feedback, and work with them to find what works best for their classes.
* The capacity to schedule repeat check-ins and access detailed data for Reflect in Insights will be available summer of 2021
4. Ask educators to use Reflect as part of their routine
Encouraging communication about emotions and supporting students in voicing their needs can go a long way toward preventing feelings of isolation, frustration, and disengagement. Once educators understand how Reflect supports them, suggest to them that they use it as part of their routine.
Here are some suggestions for using Reflect in the classroom.
- Implement a daily check-in to provide students with opportunities to practice evaluating and naming their emotions and ensure educators have a touchpoint with every student every day.
- Jumpstart conversations with students after a difficult day by asking What does the mood in our classroom feel like? This can be an excellent opportunity to model self-reflection and set goals together as a class.
- To support learning, assess student confidence about a concept or assignment, and plan accordingly.
- Celebrate wins with a Reflect check-in after a successful activity. Remember, mistakes can be framed as successes too!
- Identify dynamics between students by asking How do your friendships feel today? This can be paired with conversations or stories about sharing, bullying, and healthy relationships.
5. Empower the educator
The educator has complete control of when (or even if) to use Reflect. Only they should decide whether to post a new Reflect check-in, when and what type. If an educator feels it is not suitable for their classroom or they cannot support the students that way, they will not publish a new check-in, and you need to support them in that decision.
6. Don't set goals for students
There is no right or wrong answer when dealing with emotions. All feelings are valid, and we want students to provide an honest assessment from their perspective and feel safe when describing their emotions. The goal is to develop a deeper understanding of student needs and work together to create a more positive climate and foster greater well-being in class.
We want to make the classroom a place where student emotions are valued, and everyone feels safe and heard.
7. Use Insights reports
Through Education Insights, educators can see how students respond to check-ins over time, making it easier to identify and address student needs.
The digital activity report now includes Reflect check-in data, with additional Reflect insights coming soon.
Educators can also track the adoption of the tool amongst their students to make sure they feel comfortable sharing their emotions. If there is low adoption, you may want to provide a framework to help establish the classroom as a safe space to share and support them in developing the emotional vocabulary needed to feel confident in sharing.
If you have Education Insights Premium (currently in preview), you can also see adoption across classes, grade level, school, etc., in your organizational view, and provide support and assistance for those who either don't use Reflect at all or stopped using it after the initial adoption.
We’re always looking for ways to make Education Insights and Reflect better. Have questions, comments, or ideas? Let me know! Add your idea here, share your comment below, and find me on Twitter (@grelad).
Senior Program Manager, Education Insights and Reflect