Monday, March 21, 2016

Reflection Makes Us All Better

Back when I was in the classroom I spent very little time going back over my teaching.

I of course went back over test questions, quizzes, formative assessments and the like to see where students had gaps in their understanding or those content areas we needed to revisit.

But rarely did I sit down and just think about my teaching. What was I doing? Could it be better? Was it effective? What was working well in my lessons that I could perhaps replicate in other lessons?

I regret that. There were so many opportunities I missed to be better or change things in my classroom for my students for the better because I just didn't take the time to reflect.

Reflection is such an important part of the learning process. We ask kids to do it all the time. (Or at least we should be.) As educators the reflection process is just as important for our improvement as it is for students. Even now, in my role or working with schools and districts on communications and technology or presenting at a conference, reflecting on my processes, methods, what I say, what I did, all deserve some internal and external review.

Reflection is how we learn and how we get better.

Whether you spend a great deal of time reflecting and want to do it better or you want to start, there are some great resources out there and some great tools that you can use for the reflection process.

Reflection4Learning-This is a site I have used often to talk about reflection in learning. Geared mostly towards student reflection this site has some great resources like reflection models and how to fit reflection into the classroom. It's been around for a while so some of the tools are a bit outdated, it can, however serve as a jumping off point to more places to learn about reflection in learning.

Learning Through Reflection-In the book Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind from ASCD authors Costa and Kallick explore what habits all educators need to develop to improve. Thanks to them, the full chapter on Reflection is posted for you to check out. In it there are methods to reflection and most importantly why it helps us all improve.

High-Tech Reflection Strategies Help Learning Stick-This great piece from Edutopia not only lays out why students need opportunities to reflect but how technology can help make that process better in the classroom.

In addition to learning about reflection its important to understand there are many technology tools that both students and all educators can use to openly reflect on learning.

Blogs-As you read in the piece from Edutopia blogs can be a great way to openly reflect on our learning and invite the comments of others to help us see differently or think differently. I often use this blog as a place to reflect on my own learning. There are many different blogs and blogging platforms so the choice is really yours. Check out this post I wrote a while back about getting started with blogging and this post on using blogs in the classroom. 

Twitter-I am a huge fan of using Twitter for reflection. I will often tweet out quotes from speakers to reflect upon my own thinking. This give me a platform to engage with others out there on a myriad of issues. Sometimes I get push back from what I tweet and other times I am the one pushing back. The debate and discussion helps us be better and think smarter. Moreover, Twitter chats have proven a great way to discuss, debate and reflect on pressing issues in edu. Visit the Twitter Chat Calendar to find a chat and take part in the discussion. Don't know about Twitter chats? Here is a post about the most popular, #edchat, and how to get involved. 

Recap-Currently in beta this app has the potential to really change reflection in your classroom. When the app is launched students (or could be teachers after a professional development session) record their thoughts and feelings on what they've learned. Videos are uploaded to the site for review by the teacher. When recording the video students (or teachers) can self report their understanding and the platform breaks out those that are still having trouble so you can focus on the learning that matters. I had the chance to take a look at it and if I was still in the classroom this would be a must-have app for me. 

Technology certainly makes capturing and sharing reflection easier and we can do more with it. But there's nothing wrong with good ol' paper and pencil. I carry a journal with me to write down what I am thinking. Sometimes just writing to get words on a page helps me see another side I hadn't considered.

Whatever you use, always take the time to reflect on what you've been learning and teaching. And allow students to do the same!

photo credit: Red and blue via photopin (license)
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