Self-Reflection in Childhood: Definition & Strategies

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  • 0:04 Self-Reflection
  • 0:57 Behavior Management
  • 2:04 Cognitive Self-Reflection
  • 2:56 Social Skills
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As an early childhood educator, one of your jobs is to help your students develop a better understanding of themselves. This lesson focuses on how you can understand and promote self-reflection in the young students with whom you work.


One of the things Jenny loves most about her work as a preschool teacher is that she gets to see her students become better acquainted with themselves as individuals over time. Jenny teaches students who are two and three years old and continues to interact with them when they move into the four- and five-year-old rooms at her school.

Jenny knows that as an early childhood educator, she can do a lot to promote her students' capacity for self-reflection, or the ability to understand, think, and talk about yourself as a person and as a learner. It also involves being willing to ask questions and be flexible in your approaches to life and learning.

For young children, self-reflection is an ongoing process that contributes to their development and growth. Jenny knows that some children are naturally reflective, whereas others require more specific scaffolding to develop an ability to reflect.

Behavior Management

In the preschool setting, Jenny knows that reflecting on one's behavior is an important aspect of behavior management. Two-year-old and three-year-old children are just beginning the process of learning to regulate their behaviors, and Jenny helps her students with some specific behavioral self-reflection strategies by doing the following:

  • She uses descriptive language to identify her own and others' behavior. For instance, ''I am sitting quietly and waiting for circle time to start'' or ''I see Sam putting his lunchbox away.''

  • She provides positive reinforcement for expected behaviors and encourages students to do the same. Before long, her three-year-olds are saying to each other, ''I like how you pushed in your chair!''

  • She responds to unexpected behaviors calmly, taking students aside for individual conversations about their behavior using reflective questions. ''What did you do? Why did you do that? How do you think that made others feel?''

  • At the end of each day, she brings students together for a closing discussion about how the day went, and she teaches them to talk about one aspect of the day that made them proud.

Cognitive Self-Reflection

Teaching students to practice cognitive self-reflection, or reflection on learning, is another part of Jenny's job. She knows that if her students are aware of their own growth and learning, they'll be more aware of what they're working on and motivated to improve.

One way Jenny encourages self-reflection about learning is by teaching her students specific prompts they can use at the beginning of sentences. The prompts she uses most for her young students are:

  • I am good at. . .
  • I am working on. . .
  • Today I learned. . .

Jenny also knows that language is not the only tool for cognitive self-reflection. That's why she dedicates time for students to draw pictures about what they've learned, and mime facial expressions and body language that go along with the feelings associated with learning, mastery, and even struggling.

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