Life is a Reflection!photo © 2010 Vinoth Chandar | more info (via: Wylio)
At the end of each year, I try to look back and see where I’ve been and where I’m going. This week, using a trial version of Scrivener (which I’m about to upgrade), I’m compiling previous blog posts to get a sense of what I was thinking. (Thanks to Traci Gardner for the idea.)

Because of my blogging, I’m able to see events that had an impact on my thinking, and I am hoping to recognize patterns and gain insights. I found this post on reflective teaching from nearly two years ago (just as my team from FA was finishing up our own PLP work).

February 7, 2009
I’ve been thinking about reflective teaching this year, trying to determine if reflection is what will make us better teachers. Content matters. But content doesn’t matter unless learning takes place.

So how do we become better learners? Reflecting upon how we learn best, what we want to know, and whether or not we know it.

John Dewey said,

…thinking enables us to direct our activities with foresight and to plan according to ends-in-view, or purpose of which we are aware.  It enables us to act in deliberate and intentional fashion…”

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Susan Black examines reflection as the basis of good teaching (unfortunately the link doesn’t appear to work any longer):

Teachers who have the right dispositions for reflection — being open-minded, responsible, and wholehearted, for example — study and question their own beliefs and practices and those of others through the light of different prisms, says Dewey. Reflection begins with a problem, he says, such as motivating reluctant students. Some teachers tackle classroom problems by turning to outside authorities for step-by-step solutions, but that’s not what Dewey calls reflective practice: Reflection is “a way of being a teacher”-a holistic approach that involves solving problems with one’s heart as well as one’s mind.

But she cautions that reflection doesn’t necessarily equate to excellence in the classroom:

Teacher reflection doesn’t automatically lead to improved practice, Zeichner and Liston argue. The notion that teachers improve simply by examining their actions and considering their effects on students oversimplifies a “complex reality,” they say. And it’s risky: Some teachers might reflect on classroom episodes and still come up shortsighted. Teachers who blame classroom problems on students or administrators or others, Zeichner and Liston write, and those who refuse to accept responsibility when students aren’t learning, can actually solidify bad practices through reflection.

As our Powerful Learning Practice team continues to develop our end of year project today, I hope we will consider Michigan State University’s statement and work toward this.

Teaching demands self-awareness, reflection, and continual growth. Teachers must be self-reflective, as persons and professionals, understanding that their development occurs over the course of their careers.

But let’s make sure when we look in the mirror, we’re not seeing smoke.

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Susan Carter Morgan

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