Monday, May 22, 2017

Becoming a Reflective Teacher

When I was thinking about what topic to cover for this blog post, I reviewed what we had written about
over the past 2 years. At the end of December 2016 I wrote a post with some suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions. Among them was Reflection

I mentioned that Terry Heick, founder and director of teachthought says “reflection is a fundamental tenet of learning.”

In fact, reflection has been recognized as an important component of professional learning for many years, for both teachers and students. However, according to Robert Marzano, we have not fully embraced this idea as critical to student achievement.

Let’s start with this idea, that what the teacher does in the classroom has a direct effect on student learning. Marzano, in his book Becoming a Reflective Teacher, likes to explain this with a figure:

How do we begin developing this practice ourselves, and just as importantly, how do we model this for our students? And what is reflective thinking? If you Google this (and there’s a rabbit trail I followed for a while!) you’ll find lots of sites. I liked one from that had this definition:

Dewey (1933) suggests that reflective thinking is an active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge, of the grounds that support that knowledge, and the further conclusions to which that knowledge leads. Learners are aware of and control their learning by actively participating in reflective thinking – assessing what they know, what they need to know, and how they bridge that gap – during learning situations.

Great – now we know what it is, but still haven’t figured out how to make time for it. Well, there’s the rub: making time. As teachers, we have to decide that this is important, and then make opportunities for it to happen. One faculty member told me he likes to give students “wicked problems” to grapple with. Does it take a lot of time? Yes, mostly because these problems have no single or “right” answer. But they give students the opportunity to reason through a problem and then talk (or reflect) on their responses.
What if you decided the day after reading this post that you are going to take that first step, but you don’t want to completely overhaul your class. Try this – give students several minutes to do some retrieval practice: Describe the topics from the past week (assessing what they know), and describe what you still need to work on to be ready for the next exam (what they need to know, and how they bridge that gap). Have students spend some time talking with each other, and maybe have small teams combine their topics to return to you. Feedback from students is a great way for us to become more reflective, and this activity might help you prepare a better review or study session! Let us know how it works.

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