As a novice teacher trying to refine my craft, I routinely reflected upon the day’s events, either formally, in the form of evaluations, or informally, in the form of tossing and turning in bed as I tried to fall asleep. I struggled sorting out and developing an intentional reflective process that made a difference in the type of instruction I facilitated in my classroom. I thought I was doing what was best. I thought I was making informed decisions based upon the student experience. I thought I was getting better.
But, what eluded my grasp were the pieces of effective instruction that truly make a difference with student learning. I struggled isolating the decision points of the lesson that made a difference. I could walk away from the instructional experience and make broad statements about what worked and what didn’t work, but it wasn’t until I engaged in deep, meaningful peer reflections that I began to develop the skills to isolate the key factors of effective instruction. What the peer observation experience allowed me to do was identify and define the key components of my instruction that needed improving. The peer observation empowered me with the tools to be specific.
The peculiar piece about my peer observation experience was that it was by accident. If, I had not stumbled upon a colleague that was willing and able to work with me through that process I would still be stuck today. The gift of that experience was that it manifested the importance of reflection that allows teachers to improve and refine future instruction through specificity.
As an educator, I want to make my accidental experience intentional for all teachers. Charlotte Danielson’s research into the nature of meaningful reflection clearly establishes the fact that reflection is a learned skill and to harness its power we must first start by identifying a “consistent definition of good teaching” and then share this understanding. I believe what she is imploring the profession to do is be specific in articulating the criteria and attributes of good teaching and convey those clearly to teachers. Only once we all understand, can we begin to implement the rigorous and rich educational experience that every child deserves. Only once we all understand, can teachers and administrators have meaningful conversations that help each teacher reach “conclusions without prompting” (Danielson). Only once each of us have the capacity to analyze what works and adapt our instruction accordingly will student achievement improve.
The work Kelly and I have embarked upon is creating tools and processes that give teachers the ability to have a meaningful reflective instructional practice, and not have to wait for the accidental encounter to create that spark. We hope that you will join us.
If you haven’t had the opportunity, please review our Reflection Feedback forms from the previous blog. If you looked at the Reflection Feedback forms on a previous visit, we’ve added a link to make it easier to provide feedback. So, please take a moment and leave us some notes.
*Quoted materials are from the following source:
December 2010/January 2011 | Volume 68 | Number 4
The Effective Educator Pages 35-39
Evaluations That Help Teachers Learn