Should teachers reflect on their practice?

Reflecting on reflections

I know what you’re going to say.

“Well, duh! Of course they should!”, you might snipe sarcastically in my direction. I would agree with you wholeheartedly, too.

The one and only #mschat tackled the role, place and need for reflecting in teaching. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart and I’ve written about several times over the past few months. I was sure that the conversation was going to be largely (almost unanimously) one sided about the need to reflect but I was really interested in finding out how teachers differed in their personal reflection about their craft. To me, thats where the ‘good stuff’ is.

Lets just say I was beyond excited when the topic was announced and humbled when moderator @blocht574 asked me to moderate the evening. I’ve only been moderating for a little over a month and have found that the #PLN community of learners and educators on Twitter is by far the best thing that has happened to my teaching for many years.

I was nervous because this felt like a call-up from the minors for a spot start in the bigs… I hope the scouts were right about me.

Here we go. I’m posting two comments from teachers in training, first. It was interesting to see what their perspective was since they haven’t actually started teaching (on their own), yet.

@BradNaugler

“Teachers should always be evaluating themselves. It helps to make sure the complex machine of teaching is working efficiently”

@CassandraB1995

“teachers should reflect on their practice, its good to look back and see what works and what does not in the class”

‘The complex machinery of teaching…’ Love it @BradNaugler! Great responses from these pre-service teachers. It takes some guts to join a twitter chat with a bunch of experienced techers and I applaud these two for jumping in and participating! It would be interesting to have these two reflect on these comments after they have been teaching for a full year. Would they still see reflecting as only to find out what worked and what didn’t work in class? Or, is there more to it?

Other teachers thought there was more to it. @cheffernan75 remarked:

reflection is constant – not just at the end of a lesson, but during it. I find myself asking, why did I just say it like that?”

So true. It’s not just looking back after the fact, reflecting can (and does) take place in the moment. Things are happening so fast in the modern classroom that teachers should be practicing real-time reflections. In fact, @Stanton_Lit summed this sentiment up well with:

“YES!!! Reflection is the key to learning. Can happen at any point pre, during, or post lesson.”

The key is that teachers are constantly reflecting on their craft. At all times. Every day… hmmm sounds like a blog post I write on the subject…

One of the chat participants really hit home for me: @ARutschke mentioned that reflecting means “listening to others, examining, questioning, improving & revising. It requires being honest w yourself!” being honest with ourselves is something that teachers don’t do enough of, in my opinion. @jbhanlon also chimed in on this notion with her tweet:

“Ts should always reflect, as a form of accountability. Without reflection, nothing improves & nothing grows” This accountability is sometimes missing for many teachers. We do a lesson, no one complains, so we think it went great. The students probably did fine on a formative assessment and performed well on the summative evaluation. Easy, right? No? Me either. It is imperative to be accountable for the lessons and concepts we teach. We need to seek out feedback from students so we can reflect with accountability about our process. Each assignment, each lesson, should have some sort of feedback/reflective component to engage with students and get their perspective on what transpired.

@daveschmittou brought up a point that no one else did in the chat. I love when this happens because while we may all agree with the statement, #mschat often moves so fast that you don’t think of it in the moment. It only comes from reflecting on what you saw later where you realize the importance of the statement.

“reflection is a learned skill. It requires evaluating your own creation. Ts must learn how to do so critically.It’s about Ss 1st!”

The fact that this is a learned skill. We teach it to our students and expect them to practice it but we need to focus on practicing, too. Even if you have been a reflective teacher for years and years, you need to return to the basics from time to time and review those basic skills required to reflect with accuracy, poignancy, and actionability. Even the greatest musicians plays the simple scales they learned when they were five years old. We should expect the same of ourselves as @nyrangerfan42 said

“I will say I can’t improve my skills without reflecting. We expect Ss to reflect – we should expect the same of us.”

Not everyone was on the same page though. @MrAllardSS thought of reflection this way:

“reflection I think is just naturally part of the process of teaching. Part of great teaching is reflection”

He may have a point that humans are in some ways, by nature, reflective. While I agreed that part of great teaching is reflection, I disagreed that it was natural for teachers to reflect. I wrote a tweet asking him to expand on this thought but didn’t hear back.

Bonus Question

@nyrangerfan42

“reflection could be journal, blogging, talking it out w/ another teacher – looking back and finding keepers and polishers”

@nyrangerfan42’s response to the bonus caught my attention. The chat was mostly in agreement but the big unanswered question was why didn’t more teachers reflect? It was all nice and fuzzy to be surrounded by connected educators who pride themselves on constant reflection but what about the others? After ‘reflecting’ about this fact for a while I’m realizing that it is not that those teachers are not reflecting is that they are not sharing those reflections with other teachers in the building. They disconnect and keep to themselves.

I need to find a way to break down those barriers and ask administrators to find time during faculty meetings for reflection sharing about our experiences in the classroom.

 

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