Over the past few years my teaching practice has evolved. Growth in the teaching profession often occurs through experience and professional development. As continuous learners, teachers generally hone in on their craft over time. I believe reflecting on teaching experiences plays a role in the professional growth of an educator.
- How often are teachers able to reflect on their craft?
I’d hope that it would be more often than not at all. Personally, reflecting on past experiences can lead to better decision making and goal setting in the future. They’re many ways in which educators can reflect. Off the top of my head I can think of: after a professional development session, reading or commenting on a blog post, participating in an education twitter chat, attending workshops, and many more.
- If educators feel that reflecting on experiences is important, why not give students opportunities to reflect on their progress?
Absolutely. One way in which reflection has been beneficial in my classroom is actually rooted in the formative assessment process. Local formative assessments give quality information that can be used to drive instruction in the classroom, while other data (standardized assessments) are used for district/state/nation purposes. Formative assessment data not only serves the teacher, but it also informs students of areas of strengths and concerns. Last year I decided to have my students use a reflection journal to analyze their own achievement levels in class. Students reviewed their formative assessments, usually in the form of exit cards, and wrote a short paragraph regarding how they performed. I asked the students to write a few sentences related to how close they are in understanding the concepts observed on the exit card. Every so often, generally after a grading period, students were guided to setting individual goals for themselves. These goals were based on the journal entries and learning experiences throughout the grading period. This process required modeling during the introduction phase, but after two grading periods the students were ready to complete this independently.
I vaguely remember using journals during my K-12 experience. The teachers that assigned the journal entries rarely wrote any comments back to me. This peeved me as a student and
I’m over it still does as an educator. Therefore, I make a conscious attempt to review all the student reflection journals and write short individualized comments to the students. The comments show the students that their teacher is aware and cares about their progress. This action is especially important to students that might not be as assertive in class or might be embarrassed to state how they truly feel. I place an emphasis on the student created goal. Student goals are highlighted as I will often share them with the parents to ensure that we’re all working towards the same end goal.
I also find that the student reflection journals show student growth on a personal level. When growth is evident, students often gain confidence in setting new goals. Reflecting on progress made can be a tremendous opportunity to set goals. These goals can empower students to own their learning.
Reflections can take on many different forms. Incorporating various prompts throughout the entire school year also communicates to the students that goals don’t have to be directly associated with scores. In the past I’ve used field trips, current events, literature, and problem based learning activities for reflection journal prompts.
* Feel free to visit Helen Barret’s reflection for learning site for more information on this topic.