How do you Reflect?

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Chris Betcher on the Virtual Staffroom podcast interviewing Helen Otway. Helen is an inspiring leader at a Victorian P-12 school. Many of the topics Chris and Helen talked about struck chords with me including the idea of developing a more thoughtful approach to teaching and learning through reflective practice.

There has been a plethora of research on reflective practice over the years. Most people would agree, in order to continually learn and improve, individuals need to engage in regular reflection.

The world has certainly changed since the term ‘reflective practice’ was first coined. This got me thinking, how do teachers and students engage in reflection in 2011?

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Currently, my primary avenues for reflection include:

1. Blogging: This blog is an excellent metacognitive process and avenue for reflection for me. Through the process of creating blog posts, I often “think about what I think” and put those thoughts into words. Through delving into my thoughts on topics and writing about what has been happening in my classroom, I often come up with new ideas and strategies to utilise in my teaching.

Another huge benefit of blogging is the comments. When other educators offer thoughts and opinions on my blog posts, I am introduced to new perspectives that help me reflect further. I think my students are better off for having a teacher that blogs and I couldn’t recommend blogging enough as a reflective exercise!

2. Team teaching: 2011 is the second year that I have been team teaching with Kelly Jordan. Prior to this, my reflections on lessons, student progress and teaching strategies used to happen in an ad hoc manner in the staffroom/team meetings with teachers who were disconnected from my classroom.

Team teaching allows for such rich reflection almost every hour of the day (and night!). When we’re not teaching, Kelly and I find ourselves talking non-stop about what our students need to work on, what ideas we could use and how our teaching is going. Our ideas just seem to bounce off each other proving that “two heads are better than one”! Team teaching has been one of the most rewarding and powerful situations I’ve experienced as a professional and I know my students are benefiting from it.

The key to this scenario is that Kelly and I are extremely like minded with our philosophies, drive, work habits, priorities, discipline strategies etc. Our partnership is harmonious and productive. While I love team teaching, I could think of nothing worse than being told who I should team teach with!

3. Time out: I find I have the best ideas and reflective “aha moments” when I take time out from what I am doing.

I have come up with some of my most memorable ideas and breakthroughs when I am running, bushwalking, cooking or even just having a shower! Strangely enough, I have even come up with thoughtful perspectives while sleeping! Time to think is so important for me.

4. Being part of a PLN: I would certainly not be the teacher I am without my professional learning network (PLN). Effective teaching and learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. A day doesn’t go by where I am not using Twitter, blogs, podcast, webinars etc to connect with other educators, learn, reflect and improve. When I am pondering an idea, I can use Twitter to get ideas and opinions from people all around the world.

I can hardly believe that the majority of teachers are still relying on the insights of their immediate team or school when there are billions of people out there who can broaden your horizons!

Half of my main sources for reflection wouldn’t be possible without technology!

Students need to be encouraged to reflect as well and introduced to mediums such as blogging, collaborative work, social media or time out as they progress throughout their schooling.

In this video, Dylan Wiliam talks about the importance of students being able to reflect on their learning and how teachers can utilise these insights.

In a similar way, this Stephen Heppell interview discusses how metacognition can help a young person to become a co-producer and explorer of their learning, rather than a consumer.

What avenues do you use to reflect?

How do you encourage your students to engage in reflection and metacognition?