Maybe I am feeling old. Maybe I am feeling years of experience. Maybe I’m just noticing lots of reflection as a focus.
Yesterday for professional development I watched an archived webinar which focused on building capacity for success as a teacher and a teaching team. The webinar touched on a strengths-based, coaching-oriented teaching model. I’ve recently read articles about strategies for success in the classroom. Everything that has come into my realm lately mentions the importance of reflection.
When I plan a professional development workshop, I always include a time for teachers to reflect upon their recent practices at the beginning of the workshop. Then, at the end of the workshop, I also include a time for teachers to reflect upon their time spent with me. I think it gives folks time to ‘digest’ what they have learned or what has worked and what needs tweaking. I think it gives folks time to think about what they are doing and learning and really look at what is effective.
In what ways do I encourage teachers to reflect?
I frequently will ask teachers to think about the lessons they have recently taught and choose the one they feel was most effective. Then, I will ask them to post a brief summary using a technology tool such as Socrative or Padlet or even within a table of a Google document. Sometimes I will ask participants to simply turn to a neighbor and share what they did and what worked.
Sometimes I will ask teachers to think about a lesson they recently taught which needs some improvement. Then, we will talk about what strategies and practices were used and brainstorm for ways that the lesson could have been laid out differently. We will discuss different options and map out a plan for what the teacher will try next time. Lots of times this will lead us to plan a future lesson as well using a similar plan.
I almost always start off a one-to-one meeting with a teacher by asking them to share with me what they have been doing in their classroom – I like to hear what they have been doing even when there was no technology integration. This opens the conversation for ways to integrate technology and it helps us both to consider what works well and what doesn’t when it comes to lesson planning.
When facilitating a workshop, I try to sprinkle in a few opportunities for me to ask teachers questions which will prompt them to discuss an idea with a partner or a small group. Inevitably, this will encourage reflective thinking so that teachers can share ideas with one another. Sometimes these questions will simply start off with the phrase: Think about a time in your classroom when…
I also like to use the focus topic of a workshop to guide reflection. Recently I facilitated a project-based learning workshop where teachers were exploring different resources and planning lessons which included formulating an effective driving question which would lead students into a project which would direct their learning. A simple way to reflect before starting the workshop was to simply ask teachers what they hoped to gain during the workshop. They had to stop and think about why they chose that particular session over the others which were offered at that time. Since the session was focused on project-based learning, another reflective question was to ask teachers to share what stood out or what struck a nerve in the opening video. When you ask folks to notice, they really focus on what is in front of them because they want to be ready to answer the questions based upon their noticings. Then, using the idea of what they notice, a focus for their approach to a project develops.
Collaborative work is an easy way to encourage reflection. When we know we have an authentic audience for what we are putting forth, we always take a more focused approach and think deeper and plan more thoroughly. After all, we don’t want to look silly. I sometimes ask teachers to work collaboratively – in pairs, in small groups, and then ask those smaller groups to contribute to the overall group effort. Simple questions will encourage reflection are included – questions which start with: What if…
Many of my workshops have asked teachers to take a look at the SAMR model then I ask teachers to think about their most recent lesson integrating technology. Finally, I ask them to determine where on that SAMR chart they think their recent lesson would fall. I usually hear folks react – sometimes positively and sometimes not so much. It is amazing how just a brief bit of reflection like that will nudge teachers into action for planning their next lesson.
One of the most important aspects of reflection, I think, is that it forces us to think. However, those thoughts can quickly be dismissed or forgotten unless they are documented. So, I am a stickler about that. I always ask teachers to commit to a standard or to write down something in relation to their reflecting. Sometimes I will request that they post in a public fashion to an online discussion board. Sometimes I will request that they post in an anonymous fashion by completing a survey. Sometimes I simply ask teachers to post their thoughts in a private document. By committing their thoughts to paper – even virtual paper – I am encouraging deeper thought. I am encouraging thought to clarify understanding. Sometimes we don’t know what we think till we see what we write.
At the end of every one-to-one meeting with a teacher I ask him/her to reflect with me on what we accomplished and to think ahead to what we need to get done before we convene again. As we are reflecting, I am usually crafting the follow-up email that I send.
At the end of every workshop or professional development session I facilitate I ask teachers to reflect upon what we did – even if it is just to answer the question: In what ways did this session meet your goals of what you hoped to gain?
This post was inspired by my cleaning out my email box. I stumbled across a link I had sent to myself entitled: Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers. There were so many ideas listed that I struggled to decide where to start! Reflect! It inspires us!
By the way, I firmly believe it is just as important for students to follow this model as well as teachers and look for a post encouraging the inclusion of reflection as a practice for students.