Thursday with Liz!
Reflections are one of the most power professional development tools we have as educators. It is what allows us to continue to improve and get better at what we do with our students. Like many of you, I love to try new things in my class whether it is a lesson, a project, or integrating a new technology tool. I have learned that reflecting on the successes and challenges of my teaching is what has allowed me to grow as an educator. Working as a middle school teacher, I also have the opportunity to reflect as a team with my colleagues on a regular basis. I am fortunate to work with a wonderful group of teachers and we spend as much time reflecting as we do in planning a team project, field trip, or IDU (interdisciplinary unit). I know that this is what helps our team to increase our effectiveness, efficiency, and relationships each year.
Being able to actively reflect on my teaching was not always easy. In the beginning of my teaching career, I was on survival mode. I spent the majority of my time in the planning and preparing stage. I had to figure out how to set up the lesson, create the handout, and determine what implementation would look like. I had a binder that I would file all my lessons and handouts in with hopes that it would make it easier for me the following year. What I didn’t realize at the time was that a binder full of handouts was just a collection of paper. I was missing the reflection piece that was key to helping me truly learn, improve, and grow.
As I gained more experience, I realized the importance of reflections and I decided to keep a daily journal of reflections in my lesson plan book. It took about five to ten minutes at the end of each day and ended up being one of the key factors in my personal development. The daily journal allowed me to reflect upon what made a lesson work well and more importantly how I could improve it the next time. I recorded my thoughts about the mechanics of the lesson as well as student management, engagement, and learning. This helped me to think about successive lessons and what I could do to tie lessons together or clear up misconceptions. It was also really important in planning to teach that lesson the following year or when sharing it with colleagues. I could really see how this reflective journal helped to improve my instruction.
Although I have always had students reflect on their learning, I never really thought about how powerful of a tool this could be in my classroom to improve student understanding and learning. At the end of a unit or activity I would ask my students what they learned or how the lesson could be improved, but I didn’t really know if it was making an impact on them. I realized that recording reflections could be as powerful for my students as it was for me toward increasing learning and growth. I decided to have my students reflect and share about their learning on a regular basis. Instead of the reflections being anecdotal or just between teacher and student, I decided to have students use Edmodo to regularly publish and share their thoughts with their peers. I also decided to let students choose whether they would write, audio record, or video tape their reflections.
I have really enjoyed having students reflect, share, and connect what they are learning about in class. I see the quality of their reflections improve as the year goes on and I know that it is partly because it will be read or seen by their peers. It is especially rewarding when students reflect on what their classmates have said and when they connect it to their own learning. Learning and engaging in each other’s reflections is what adds to the value of the student PLN.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for incorporating student reflections in your class and how you think it impacts student learning.
Until next time…Aloha!