Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reflection IS Preparation!

I just read a posting on the English Companion Ning about a teacher who’s had a troubled, difficult year. (We’ve all been there!) She wrote that she is taking the summer to just relax and contemplate, rather than make the preparations she usually does for the upcoming school year.

As we head into the final weeks of the school year, I thought it was worth mentioning that contemplation and thought is EXACTLY what teachers should be doing!

The professional term is reflection—but as long as you’re resting, that’s what counts!

Reflection IS Preparation. When we think about what we’ve done and make decisions to amend or transform it, then we ARE preparing for what we’ll do next. Most teachers worth their salt spend a lot of time reflecting, sometimes on a dime in the course of their normal day. But no one really ever thinks about the fact that this “reflection,” this “thinking,” is pretty hard work in itself. There’s quite a bit involved if one is to do “reflecting” well, and several factors to consider.

Teachers can reflect “in action,” which is what you do when you make quick decisions during the course of your day, or even during a lesson. Effective Teachers constantly make observations about what’s going on around them and change (very quickly in some cases) to meet the needs of their students.

But since we’re moving away from our “in action” opportunities…the other two types of reflection can be done over the summer. “On action” reflection is where a teacher takes a look into the past and thinks about a lesson or a unit that has already happened, and makes plans to improve or transform it. “For action” reflection is the ‘what next’ model. From your experience, from what you’ve learned, how will your experiences drive future instruction?

Regardless of the type of reflection you decide to do, there is a process so that you don’t get overwhelmed, especially if you plan on making several changes to your previous year’s curriculum.

  • To begin with, SELECT one thing, one lesson, one unit perhaps to describe.
  • Then, DESCRIBE the situation in as much detail as possible.
  • From your description, ANALYZE why you did what you did, was it meaningful, how does it fit the content, skills, or assessments?
  • APPRAISE your analysis. How effective was it, what kind of impact did it have? What was the value of this activity? How motivated and engaged were my students? Did I meet my goals?
  • Finally, TRANSFORM your situation. What can you do to make it better, fit your goals, be more motivating and engaging, be more effective?

Take the time this summer to take care of yourself. Relax in the sun, have a Margarita, enjoy your family—but don’t turn your brain off! Let it do the preparation for you, by reflecting on what you’ve done well, and what things you can transform for future instruction.

Also, since this is primarily a blog about instructional technology, when you DO get ready to write down some of your thoughts, there are several tools out there to get the job done easily, efficiently, and conveniently:

Scribd is a place where you publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents.
Google Docs - Free web-based word processor and spreadsheet, which allow you share and collaborate online.
Mindomo – Online Mind Mapping Software
Webspiration – Another mind mapping website (works like Kidspiration or Inspiration)

And also, I just downloaded an application for my iTouch called Simple Minds Xpress, a Mind Mapping Tool for your iPod. (Can it get more convenient than this?) Also, it’s FREE!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I am mining the 'net looking for ways to frame/motivate reflective practice for pre-service teachers in an instructional technology course I am teaching this summer. I like your distinction between reflection "in action," "on action," and "for action." I plan to share this with my class.