How many of us sit down at the end of the day and reflect on the lesson? I mean really sit down and think about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the potential. For many of us, I’m sure the intentions are there, but on a really bad day, we’re probably more inclined to pack up our things, get home, call it a day, and think “tomorrow will be better”. In these moments, as much as with the great days, it’s important for us to reflect because reflecting doesn’t mean kicking us when we’re down, but rather it means finding ways to bring us back up and truly know that tomorrow will be better because today wasn’t terribly horrible.
When I was first learning how to be an educator, I was taught how important it is to allow students to reflect on their practice so they can measure their own successes and determine next steps that are important to them. One of the greatest skills you learn as you reflect is critical thinking, which for English language learners in academic settings is crucial when it comes to writing papers. Reflective practice also allows teachers to provide students with opportunities for ‘teachable moments’.
Reflective Practice for Students
When I taught, I used reflective practice as an intrapersonal activity and had students write quietly in their journals. They could write about what went well or badly that week, but I really wanted to hear about why they thought that way and how they would use that experience to their advantage. I would then read the journals and provide some notes of encouragement or opportunities to open up dialogue. The main outcomes I wanted them to be able to achieve were to
- build confidence in English writing in a less formal manner,
- problem solve to create a better outcome, and
- stay focused on their goals.
Some students loved the activity while others did it because they were asked to. Some days I took it personally that they weren’t as into it as I wanted them to be; those were my bad days, but looking back now, I didn’t take a moment to do reflective practice for myself. I guess it was more do as I say not as I do.
Reflective Practice for Educators
When I started my master’s of education program last fall, the first article I had to read was all about reflective practice for educators. I was immediately hooked to the article and I highlighted sections, made margin notes, and posed questions on every page. Although the article is geared toward Early Childhood Educators, the theory and premise stands for any educator in any field. The article by Leeson (2010) illustrated how important it is for educators to have a reflective practice and not just in isolation, but in a team setting. Leeson (2010) states that by engaging in reflective practice, educators are able to
- build confidence in their practice,
- be more flexible and adaptable in diverse settings, and
- enhance creativity.
These outcomes made complete sense to me, and it’s naturally what I and many other educators strive to do in our profession. Leeson (2010) provides educators with multiple ways to engage in this practice:
- independent journaling;
- journaling at first, the problem solving independently, and bringing the solutions to a team; or
- storytelling in a team setting and problem solving together.
In my current position, I am privileged to be able to work in a team setting and have a manager who encourages this type of practice. Because I work one-to-one with students, my job can be very isolating because only the student and I know how the session went. However, there are many days that I am grateful to be able to walk in the office and say “that appointment was rough and I’m not sure if I did my best”. We educators can be pretty tough on ourselves and having a reflective practice team can help us realize what we did well and how we can build our confidence and skill set to enhance the next experience.
Do you have a reflective practice? If so, why did you start and how do you practice?
Leeson, C. (2010). In praise of reflective practice. In J. Willan, R. Parker-Reese, & J. Savage (Eds.), Early Childhood Studies. Exeter, England: Learning Matters.