Every day, in every classroom, with every lesson, we as teachers are provided a powerful professional learning experience. As we engineer opportunities for our students to think more deeply about their learning targets, reflecting on the lessons provides an opportunity for us to think more deeply about our practice. The more effective we are at reflecting, the more we learn every day, the more effective we are as professionals. As Chris described below, reflection that is specific and intentional can transform us as professionals. But, just like with our students, learning to reflect more effectively requires feedback on the accuracy of our reflections.
Reflection is self-feedback. As with any feedback loop, this practice will at times confirm what we hold true and at others challenge us to refine our practice. How do we know that our self-feedback is accurate? That our conclusions about what works for students are true?
- Define your goal.
So often, our reflection time on the lessons of the week happen when – miraculously – we find a quiet moment. In the shower, on the drive home, cleaning bubblegum off the desks. So we think about how we have performed the goals we have identified for the day. Were the student’s engaged? How did that grouping strategy work? Did they respond to my questions? Did it feel like they were learning? Was Jimmy eating his pencil? We judge our performance by how well we enacted the script, rather than considering how we might change the plot.
Focusing this energy on the end game, the end goal, can help us define how well we are progressing toward the goal. In our classrooms, the goal has to be student growth.
2. Look at the three measures of effective teaching.
The MET Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, suggested that there are really three sides to looking at teaching effectiveness. The teacher’s interaction with students, the teacher’s interaction with the content of the lesson, and the students’ interaction with the content. Within this Trinity, we can find some great ideas for learning to learn more about our classrooms.
- Student Work: what does the student work from the lesson reveal about the effectiveness of the lesson? What were the misconceptions leading into the activity? What misconceptions remain?
- Teacher’s Reflections: What were my intentions in planning this lesson? What decisions did I make that impacted student learning? Does the student evidence suggest these decisions were more or less effective than other choices?
- Students’ Reflections: This is often the hardest piece to quantify. Asking students what they think they have learned today is an amazing formative assessment of how well they have mastered a content standard as well as how well they are learning to meta-cognate. How well are they learning to think about their learning?
Looking at all three sources of evidence together lets us see what conflicts and what is confirmed. The three lenses bring the kernal - what is really effecting student learning - into focus.
3. Get feedback on your self-feedback.
Find a colleague, give them your evidence, and see if they see what you see. These conversations can happen in PLCs or with a coach or in the hallway between classes. The most effective and striking professional learning I have experienced has come from talking about my teaching with other teachers.