Monday, September 25, 2006

Let's take a moment to reflect..... please.....

The idea of TEACHER REFLECTION gets a bad rap on some of my daily blog reads. Some folks complain that teaching preservice teachers to REFLECT is just fluff. They make fun of it. Call it a waste of time. It's identified as something ed professors do OTHER than teach teachers to teach.

Well, it just so happens that lately I've been working hard with my intern on how we teachers ask ourselves questions to assess and change our lessons. With the ultimate goal in mind -- improved student achievement-- good teachers think through the days' events, consider the various layers of learning that resulted from the implementation of research based instructional techniques (of course), figure out what we did well, and most importantly, what we must do to improve our teaching. You know, so student achievement is improved.

What's so fluffy about that?

UPDATE: Check out this article about reflection in the NY Times....

If journalling is just a method for recording the cute stories or heart wrenching challenges of the day, then, yes, I guess you could call that fluff... ie instructionally useless.

But when our thinking promotes/records a process of considering why and how and when and what next... all with the express goal of getting kids' to better understand the material, that's instructionally useful.

In our class of emotionally disabled kindergartners, first, and second graders, teaching kids to work more independently is a big deal. Little Brenda has been balking big time during her math lessons, withdrawing and whining unless she gets undivided one-on-one attention, missing fairly easy concepts (maybe on purpose?) and generally causing a scene. And yet, she comes in each morning, sits at her desk and completes 5 or 6 of the same kind of math problems-- without a fuss and with a high accuracy rate.

Ahh, the perfect chance to reflect.....

I asked my intern... What does Brenda's helplessness at math workshop “look like”? What is it about the two different learning settings (morning seat work vs. a workshop setting with another kid) that is different? How are they the same? What are the payoffs in each situation? And the consequences for non-compliance? Might scheduling be a part of the equation? Any other questions you might ask yourself to get a better handle on the situation?

So ye who poo-poo reflection, I say
don't let the soft-fluffy feeling of the word reflect fool you. Reflection, at it's best, is the hard, unvarnished, critical look at how we actually teach kids will learn.

1 comment:

molly_g said...

Coming at it from the outside, "reflecting" doesn't seem to be what you are doing. To this corporate-employed gal, it sounds a lot like data collection and analysis topped off with a whole lot of ongoing process improvement. This seems like it would be especially valuable in a class w/ kids with special needs, as it is so vital to find out what works for each kid individually.

I've said this before, but if only I could have you out here in Denver!!!