In an ideal world, the feedback we get from our students is clear, concise and sincere. However, as we argued before, reality tends to show that on many occasions the feedback we collect from our international students does not reflect anything, including the real thoughts of our international students.
Why? The reasons are many, and we have already discussed some of them in our previous articles. Today, however, we will talk about just one simple tool that you can use to stimulate reflection and generate quality feedback. And this is creative writing.
Please noe that the approach we will discuss is based on short reflection sessions and takes more than 1-2 meetings. Ideally, you can do it as an addition to other activities such as class or club meetings.
Step 1. Get all students a dedicated notebook for reflection
The key here is that the notebook has to be small and light. In this way, students will be able to carry it around at all times and use it on a daily basis.
Step 2. Introduce the creative writing exercise
Start with a simple creative writing exercise. For example, ask students to write for 10 minutes about any experience they are having on campus. The content doesn’t matter – they simply have to write anything that comes to their mind. First sessions can consist of just that, without any additional questions. Students can write in their own language, draw or express their thoughts in any other way they like.
Step 3. Provide a clear framework for filling the notebook
In the second or third session, introduce a set of simple questions that students should answer in their notebooks. The questions can vary depending on the situation, but the key here is to have clear focus. Make sure that the questions are open-ended. Instead of “Do you like studying here?”, ask “Please list 5 things that might help you with feeling more at home”.
Step 4. Ask to make research
Introduce a set of questions which helps students focus on daily activities related to their experience on campus. It can be based on the Maslow model, asking how students would rate themselves on either of the levels and why. Or, it can be based on the Diversity Wheel and reflect on the various dimensions of being included. Of course, it can also be anything else you see fit, as long as the topic is clearly defined. Just make sure students know they have to write down examples of both positive and negative experiences from their daily lives.
Step 5. Open up a discussion
In all following sessions you should focus on keeping motivation up and solving problems, because most of the work is going to be done individually during the research. Talk with your students and ask them to share their findings. Let them discuss what they noticed and how they would solve these problems.
Not the entire reflection time should be logged in as official feedback. Reflection sessions can be just between you and your students. Being able to collect their thoughts and share them in small groups will provide an open and safe space for discussion.
At the end of the semester, international students will be able to have a reference and a reminder about their true experience. Ideally, they will also be able to come up with some solutions to their daily problems.
So, have you tried creative writing as a tool for reflection?
How did your students react to it?
Share your experience with us!