Since the inception of this blog, I have mentioned on more than a few occasions how important it is to reflect on our work as teachers. Most educators normally refer to this as Reflective Practice.
Reflective Practice involves taking an analytical and critical look at what we do in our classrooms. We are trying to ascertain lots of things in this process, but mostly we are scrutinising our work practices and seeing if what we are doing is working.
Because this process involves for the most part, self monitoring, lots of plain old honesty is required for this to work well. There is no point kidding yourself on, as the evidence from your classroom will speak otherwise!
However the good news is, the very fact that a teacher thinks about Reflective Practice, indicates that they are serious about their work and want to make a positive impact on the students in front of them.
Okay, so sometimes we only think about how our lessons went, when something has gone wrong. All teachers have delivered poor a lesson in their careers and it’s important to stop and think about why it happened, so we can improve.
Nevertheless, real reflection is more systematic than that, and we need to be recording what we do on a much more regular basis.
The Teacher Diary
In this process, the teacher diary is indispensable. You really want somewhere to gather data about what has gone on in your lessons.
More than likely, you will already be using a teacher diary in some way as part of your record keeping system.
The teacher diary is ideal for this as your reflections are likely to be personal and for your eyes only.
Furthermore, your diary is private and confidential and sits nicely with the confidential nature of your notes, especially where student data is concerned.
I’ll speak more about using the teacher diary this week. But you should be looking to record and self reflect continually on…
What I am I doing?
Why am I doing this?
Is it working?
If not, why not? If so, how effective is it?
What can I do to improve?
Getting a colleague to sit in and observe your lessons can be a powerful part of strengthening your practice.
Some teachers get self conscious about sharing their classrooms with a peer. This is perfectly natural and I would be concerned if this wasn’t the case.
But the benefits outweigh the short term anxiety. Peer observation works best when done on a regular basis. So look to work with someone a couple of times in each term.
One-off observations don’t allow you see patterns in feedback that observers share with you.
You can of course record your own lessons using audio or video means. I’m fairly sure that this won’t be a problem in your school setting as long as privacy protocols are followed.
Watching or listening to yourself can be a bit of an eye opener: Do I really say ‘umm’ before ever new sentence? I had no idea that I didn’t allow enough wait time! (and so on…)
This can be a brilliant way to find patterns within your practice, that otherwise you wouldn’t know existed unless you asked.
At the end of the school year I often distributed feedback forms to my students to anonymously provide general feedback on a number of areas.
Occasionally some of what you get back will be nonsense, but look out for genuine areas that you can work on.
Many brilliant plans have never been realised because the person never acted on them.
So when you get feedback, make sure you act upon it. Think about what you have recorded. When appropriate, have a chat with a colleague about your observations and reflections.
Getting another pair of eyes on it, can often help you improve your game. This would be an ideal time to link up with a mentor teacher.
Unless you are perfect, throughout your career you will go through continual improvement and refinement in what you do as a teacher, so make the most of Professional Development opportunities to strengthen areas you have identified as needing extra support.