Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Reflection: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I've been sitting on these thoughts for a while, sadly. I'd like to say I've been reflecting on them, but that's been pretty sporadic. Reflection, for both teachers and students, has become one of those big ideas that gets in your head and is then everywhere you look. At least for me it is.

Dean Shareski writes about the importance of modeling reflection for our students. I think most teachers do a lot of reflecting, but I doubt their students see it. I know mine don't typically.
"Imagine if every teacher recorded themselves each day and watched it. Hmmmm. We want our students to be reflective and would love for them to document and describe their learning in detail. Why aren't we actively modeling this? Not just for the sake of modeling but because it makes us better. Imagine if a movie director or actor never watched their work?"
Another post from Dean caught my attention because of his push to help his students (preservice teachers) reflect but also his own reflection on how that is going. In this instance his focus is on having students give themselves a grade and justify it. My favorite bit, not surprisingly, is the idea that even very young students could do this.

"I suppose in some respects, I'm still assessing, assessing their assessments but my goal was to do two things. First to empower them to think deeply about their learning. While I've always advocated for reflection, I tried to emphasize more documentation. I still need to structure this better but that was my intent."
"I'm thinking that even 6 year olds should be able to assess themselves. If we give them the tools and expectations. As far as trust goes, it seems that it speaks to the climate of your classroom to some degree. I will say that since I was the one submitting the grade, if I felt it to be way out of line, I had the authority to adjust it, I just never did."

A brilliant teacher in my school, just down the hall from me, really struck me with her thoughts on how she helps her young students reflect on goals they set. Powerful. Simple, in many ways, but very powerful.
"During morning meeting my goal everyday (and sometimes I just forget...) is to read the reminders together with the students. Then each student decides what they want to work on that day - do they want to try to sit with their hands in their lap, do they want to make a goal of sharing, of listening, or of walking safely? They put a sticky note with their name on their poster. At the end of the day (if I 1. remember and 2. have the time) we talk about how their goals went - did they sit quietly, did they keep their hands in their lap, etc. I like that it lets us focus on just ONE behavior a day. During the reflection time one of my kids may have had a rough day but he can at least say, "my goal was to keep my hands in my lap and I did that." It is a good reminder to me to find the positive even on our most difficult days. Sure you threw your pants in the toilet, but you know what - you did walk safely. Thank you for that. Sometimes I ask them to identify what they did well that day from our posters as a way to get them to reflect on their behaviors. Some of them are not ready to grasp the larger intangible concept of setting a goal and trying to meet it, but the conversations allow us to repeat the language of the expected behaviors over and over again. The more we talk about those expected behaviors the more likely we are to see it."

Another of my favorite folks, Doyle, also wrote about reflection recently (or somewhat recently). I think this statement really covers what I believe about what I want my classroom to be.

"Schools should be places of reflection, learning spaces helping children see the world, to see their role in the world, the whole world.."
My big take-away from all of this is the versatility of reflection. It is a critical tool for teachers and students in assessment, growth, personal and classroom management, and curiosity and creativity. If students were supported in becoming reflective learners I believe they would grow in all areas.


leelzebub said...

Great stuff to think about. One characteristic all my favorite classes shared was a version of reflection by the teacher as well as the students. In DS106, for instance, the professors will often to the work along side us. This makes me feel like they treat me as an intellectual equal, and implies that although I don't have the experience they do, they believe in my ability to attain it.

I think it would have been great to see this modeled in my k-12 education. If a teacher had written an essay about a book with us, or shared some kind of reflection, I would have felt much more connected to my classes.

Fred Haas said...


What I appreciate here is how you decide to weave some threads from others into a whole that captures the essence of what you are trying to achieve in reflecting. You trace the thoughts of the "giants," known and perhaps not as well known, as a way into your wn reflection. It is not just cut post of quotes. It is much more than that.

All I kept thinking about was how much of what you are addressing has to do with creating a culture in a classroom and school that truly values reflective practice and doesn't just pay lip service to it. If anyone finds that they are one of the few that are engaged with students in this kind of thinking, it can be challenging.

Also, reflection takes time, thought, and a willingness to slow down - and even be still - long enough that the inward journey can happen. That is not something that always comes naturally when we are young and on the go, like many students find themselves, which I why I quite like your colleagues emphasis on conversations. Sometimes they can be the bridge in helping our students get where we hope they go.


Shannon (@shauser) said...

Like Fred, I loved the way you wove this together through the thoughts of others.
This post is a good demonstration of how everyone takes in the thoughts and ideas of others to reflect and come to new understanding. No man is an island unto himself, as the saying goes. I know as a young learner it was important for me to see that process and to see that it wasn't divine inspiration or unreachable genius that produced ideas.

Jenny said...

leelzebub, you've triggered a connection for me between this idea and the importance of personal relationships in classrooms (something we've been talking about at school). Those relationships often grow out of shared reflections or such.

Fred, thank you so much for your kind words. Threading my thoughts together is often a challenge and I'm not always sure it translates to others well. Slowing down is also a challenge for me quite frequently. Allowing conversations to develop and grow into reflections requires time and, for me at least, patience.

Shannon, divine inspiration is a great term for how things in school often appear. The production of ideas should be seen as achievable by students or what else is the purpose of school? Thanks for pushing my thinking.