The Importance of Learner and Educator Reflection

I talk a lot about the need for learners to reflect when involved in the process of, well, learning. Whether it is a more traditional assignment or a more extensive authentic learning experience, reflection is a tool for growth. A once and done approach only serves to penalize learners for, in my opinion, points in which the teacher falls short. Was it a lack of appropriate support and scaffolding? Was it a case of an inauthentic and non-relevant assignment? Was the task simply too complex or not complex enough for a learner? Was the time allotted for completion not long enough?  These are questions that all educators should be asking themselves!

Reflection requires a learner to pause before moving forward. Taking pause requires one to determine which portions of the process need revision and which portions of the process are ready for continued development. Reflection requires the learner to be open to new ideas and to focus on self-assessment. Reflection fosters idea development. What is it that I need to continue to do? What do I need to do differently? Why is something working or why isn’t it? What other ideas may be better than the one on which I am currently focused.

Reflection is something that needs to be built into the learning process. Reserve time for your learners to do this reflection. Model the reflection process for them. Use the reflection to have your learners self-assess and for you to assess their current needs.

Admittedly, reflection wasn’t something that came easily to me. My idea of reflection was simply placing a sticky note on my lesson plans that said something to the effect of, “this didn’t work well” or “this didn’t take as long as I had planned.” Truthfully, this limited reflection only served to confuse me the following year. Why didn’t it work well? Why didn’t it take as long as I had anticipated? I needed to do something more detailed. I needed to do something that would better serve my learners.

It wasn’t until I completed my National Board Certification that I realized the need for true and deep reflection. The certification process required me to analyze learner work and to videotape classes and evaluate the results. This was time consuming, but well worth the hours spent. (It was nearly 300 hours to complete the portfolio process for NBPTS!) It was through this process that I started looking at what was happening in my classroom through a more critical eye. It was this process that made me realize that I was at fault when my learners weren’t on target. It was me that wasn’t meeting their needs in some way. The reflection required me to ask those difficult questions I listed in the first paragraph of this post.

Reflecting can be hard for us to do, as educators. It ofter shows our flaws. The value, however, is in realizing the power of revision and how much better our work can be. Join me, in placing more emphasis on reflecting, both in your own work and with the work of your learners.

Posted in Assessment, Authenticity, Learners.

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