Reflective practice is a more systematic process of collecting, recording and analyzing our thoughts and observations, as well as those of our students, and then going on to make changes. Research is clear that self-reflection is a core component of effective teacher PD and key to enabling teachers to become skilled in their roles.
Beginning the process of reflection
Teachers might begin the process of reflection in response to a particular problem that has arisen with one of their classes or simply as a way of finding out more about their teaching.
Although, in order to get the most out of reflecting on a lesson it’s a good idea for teachers to focus their attention on specific aspects of their teaching. But what should they be looking for? Here are some suggestions.
7 aspects teachers can focus on when self-reflecting:
The ratio of interaction - How much are children responding to the teacher versus how much they are talking to them? Is there a dialogue of learning in their classroom or is the talking mainly one-sided?
Growth vs. fixed mindset - Carol Dweck writes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2007) that people with fixed mindsets believe their qualities are unchangeable whereas people with growth mindsets feel they can improve their qualities through effort. The way a teacher responds to their students can inspire either a fixed or growth mindset. Praising students for being 'smart' or 'bright' encourages fixed mindsets while recognizing when they have persistently worked hard promotes growth mindsets. Dweck found that people with growth mindsets are generally more successful in life: which are your teachers encouraging students to have? Click here to read more about Dweck’s theory of the growth mindset.
Consistent corrections - Is the teacher correcting their students consistently? They should avoid inconsistency; such as stopping a side conversation one day but ignoring it the next, as this will cause confusion with students and the feeling that the teachers is being unfair.
Opportunities to respond - Are they giving their students enough opportunities to respond to what they are learning? Responses can include asking students to answer questions, promoting the use of resources such as whiteboards or asking students to discuss what they have learned with their neighbor.
Type and level of questions - Do the questions they're asking match the method of learning that they want to foster in their classroom? The type of questions they ask their students can include open or closed, their opinion on certain topics or right or wrong. Is the level of questions they're asking appropriate for the students' level of learning?
Instructional vs. non-instructional time - The more students are engaged in learning activities, the more they will learn. The teachers should try to keep track of how much time they give to learning activities compared to how much is spent on other transitional things such as handing out resources or collecting work at the end of the lesson.
Teacher talk vs. student talk - Depending on the topic they are teaching, decide how much students should be talking about what they're learning compared with how much you should be talking to them.
Ways teachers can document their self-reflection:
It’s important that teachers keep a record of their self-reflection activities as evidence of their progress and there are a couple of ways your teachers can do this.
Keeping track in a notebook about what happens in a lesson can be very useful. However, because it relies on the teacher's ability to recall things in as much detail as possible, not to mention a certain discipline in taking the time to do it on a regular basis, it’s not as thorough or reliable as other methods.
Video recordings of lessons can provide illuminating information for reflection. It overcomes the challenges of keeping a notebook record and gives teachers the opportunity to experience their lessons from the students perspective, providing them with clear and accurate information on how to move their practice forward.
This quote from Prof John Hattie sums it up nicely:
“If you look at the research it says that about 80% of what happens in a class a teacher does not see or hear. How can we get more eyes into the class? How do you get teachers to see what it’s like being a student in their classroom? I’m a great fan of recording classrooms and using video to show teachers how they look to students. That’s the power of video, it’s another way to see your impact” - Prof. John Hattie.
Why not download our free guide to enabling effective teacher reflection to learn more about how you can help your teachers to be reflective practitioners >