Reflective Practice

I believe that a common denominator amongst successful people is the ability to reflect. It is not the only trait and maybe not the most important, but I am increasingly becoming aware of it’s importance. We are all aware of how important it is for our students to reflect on their learning – assess how they learn, what works best, what hinders achievements, but I wonder if teachers do it enough. Perhaps teachers need to practice some formal reflective process too? I know, I can already hear the “When am I supposed to have time for that?” alarm bells ringing. I also know that feeling at the end of a long day PD when they bring out the ‘evaluation form’. No-one wants to reflect on their learning then (or am I the only one who fills in bare details?) So obviously, reflective practice has to be personal, timely and non-threatening.

Great teachers see themselves as ‘creators’ of professional knowledge. Through a continuous cycle of ‘planning, application, reflection’ great teachers develop improved ways to educate students, tailoring their teaching to the specific needs of the context within which they teach.

I use three key questions to guide the reflection within this cycles – the reflection being the most important part:
1. How well did that go? (what I tried to do?)
2. How do I know how well it went? (what data am I relying on?)
3. How well could that have gone? (this is probably the most important question)

It is best if you get the others, including students, to help you answer these questions.

Peter Kent on The innovative Educator.

An extension on personal reflection is that between professionals. A Contemporary Learning project that I am involved in at present is highlighting the need for reflective practices amongst teachers. A practice that I remember being drilled with in teachers college but sadly seems to slip away when we are out in the real world. The ‘Considering evidence protocol’ has been modelled, amongst other methods – a structured conversation between colleagues which guides us to reflect on our teaching in a supportive way. I will admit that at first, it was daunting because I had not been put in the situation before. However, with practice and great mentoring, I have come to realise the strength of the experience. You have to be able to put yourself ‘out there’, willing to give and receive both praise and suggestions for improvements.

Most of my teaching experience has been in team teaching situations – I love it, as it provides for immediate reflection by incidental conversations. If something isn’t working, the other person can jump in and use a different slant on the topic or add different words. After a session, there is someone else there who saw it, participated and can provide feedback and thereby assist the reflective process. I find the idea of being in a classroom on my own (except of course for the lovely children) to be quite isolating.

I see blogging as an amazing tool for teacher reflection, we get to put down our thoughts (and thereby sort them into some semblance of order) and put them out there for reaction. As I have said in a previous post – everyone needs feedback. When blogging, sometimes the feedback is internal – whereby you re-read your own post and reflect after the passage of time and re-consider your position. You assess your own growth – “Did I really think that then?”

Obviously reading other teachers’ blogs is reflective in nature as well. We sort, filter, assess and react to other people’s thoughts.

My Twitter stream has been alive in the past few days with people posting notes on their reflections of the Reform Symposium held at the weekend. It seems that many attendees saw the need, or felt the benefit, of writing a reaction to the experience. Obviously many people find the blogging process cathartic – I do!