One Sunflower

Promoting self-directed, reflective learning in myself

on October 10, 2010

I am thinking about reflective practice.  People tell me I’m reflective about my work, they point to this blog and other opportunities I’ve taken to share about myself and my work as evidence.  But how did I become this way, what was the motivation or is it all intrinsic?  I think I do have a reflective personality – evidence of lots of journaling as a high school student – but I don’t think I’ve always been reflective about my practice as a teacher.  The development of “reflective practice” is a goal of my building principal this year.  He has asked us to put ourselves in the role of student with himself as an instructional leader, and the question he has asked us is: What is happening to promote self-directed, reflective learning for you as a teacher? So I’m trying to break down the roles and responsibilities of “being reflective” and identify what makes it possible for me to be a reflective teacher.

According to the rubric we’ve been given, the first and second steps in this student engagement process are that the leader  “direct learning experiences, identify student goals, and monitor student progress within a specific lesson; and provide assistance as requested/needed.  Opportunities are provided for students to set goals, monitor their own work and reflect on the progress/process.”

It is customary that we create our personal ILP’s (Individual Learning Plans) and Cycles of Inquiry in the fall, and we share these with the principal.  We review them again in February and in the spring.  This procedure will establish communication about the goals I have for myself this year.  I’m not sure what sort of learning experiences I will need or what the role of the principal/administrators will be in this process but questioning and exploring together will help me determine those factors.   Of course, it helps that I am a student open to this process and want to create experiences for myself will engage me.

The next steps that are a part of this question are probably more challenging because they will probably involve establishing systems and expectations and could impact relationships with peers and leadership.  As I described above, we have a protocol around creating and sharing goals– our ILP and our COI’s, and of course we collect and evaluate student data.  Our school has also dabbled in “walk-throughs” and “rounds.” But I feel that everything we’ve done so far has lacked consistency.  There hasn’t been an established system for providing feedback or a process of self-evaluation as a part of those interactions.

Timing and time are also challenges.  These processes are most beneficial when done at regular intervals but they require time to practice and time for reflection as individuals or in small groups. Dedicating that time on a regular basis has been problematic in the past.  How will it happen differently this year?

I, as most of my students, do better with consistent messages and stated goals with no-excuses-high-expectations.  I am also helped by scheduled reflection – with “homework” that I need to do and present for discussion/evaluation. I know that some of my peers will balk at doing this kind of “work.”  They feel they have enough on their plates already in monitoring student engagement.  They don’t want to spend time evaluating their own in the process.  I think that since we come together with our principal every six weeks to summarize the work we see happening in our students it would be a good time to evaluate our personal work and progress at the same time.

Baby steps, baby steps.

I haven’t always been a reflective teacher.  I used to be as defensive as they come about why I chose to do certain things in a certain way at a certain time.  Since I worked in a co-op and had parents in my classroom all the time, I felt I needed to present an image of self assurance and expertise about my teaching and what I knew about children.   I realize now that this defensiveness was actually the first step to becoming more reflective about my teaching.   In thinking about why I chose to do certain things, I was identifying what I knew about my students and what I felt was important to see happen in the classroom.

My principal has asked us to choose two students to put at the heart of our Cycles of Inquiry and we will be examining our work with them over the course of the year. This “defense work,” as he calls it, will hopefully  guide my resistant peers into reflection.

Reflection on my practice has also been heightened by working side-by-side with sensitive administrators and knowledgeable colleagues who ask good questions in a manner that honors me as an educator.  Such conversations have led me gently into being reflective about my teaching – bringing goals, criteria and evaluation into the process.  Maintaining reflective practice for me will always require systems invoked at regular intervals, protocols, high expectations, and sharing it all out loud with someone who cares about the work I’m doing.

and as a post script:  This morning I heard a talk by my pastor in a sermon he was giving at Harvard Memorial Church.  He shared a story where the lesson was about healing that happens in the journey.  So maybe the goal of reflective teaching will happen as we mess through the messes of this year.

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4 responses to “Promoting self-directed, reflective learning in myself

  1. So much of what you have written strikes a chord with me. And since I am on the other side of this work (an administrator asking my teachers to consider reflective practice) you have given me some things to think about. My goal this year is to give clear, consistent feedback, have well stated goals and expectations for all of our collaborative work, and to maintain those expectations while also providing an attitude of grace. That is often hard for me because I feel that my teachers do work very hard and I don’t want to put more on their plate but I really believe in reflective practice so I need to be firm. I am working on my own goals around this work and will try to get a post done soon so we can share this journey.

  2. BlueLikeJazz says:

    “No excuses, High Expectations”…for students…for all of us…students, teachers and principals alike. Excuse filled low expecations and feeling sorry for our kids is death. But what an enigma to find the balance between healthy, stretch expecations/goals and “push me over a cliff” expectations that tear down rather than build up. It must be differentiated, and that through knowing our students well, but I struggle with this every day.

    • onesunflower says:

      Yup – I like your descriptive words: “healthy stretch.” I’m always hoping people will “assume good intent” and do the work of relationships to build trust. And then there is the word Juliann uses: “grace” – grace for our students, for ourselves, for our leaders. Here’s to your struggle…

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