Monday, January 28, 2013

Reflecting is Knowledge

Reflection – what does this mean?  When seeing this word many thoughts might come to mind… looking in a mirror or a pool of water, in mathematics it might refer to the inverse function across an axis or it could be looking back on one’s day or a specific event.  There are several definitions of reflection, but the one that I think applies to this topic for educators and students is, "a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration."  The type of reflection I’m referring to is reflection on one's practice.  Oftentimes reflection is used informally.  After an event or lesson has occurred one considers how it went.  What would stay the same for next time? What should change? Did this work at all?  It is deeper reflection that offers the best opportunities to enhance instruction.  The point is not only to look at what could have changed about the lesson, but also how the students responded to the way the lesson was taught.  Reflection can happen while instruction is occurring.  It is the ability to “read and flex.” “David Hunt once noted that excellent teachers are able to 'read and flex.' In effect, he meant that teachers can be responsive to learners (read) and then flexibly adapt instruction (Reiman & DeAngelis, 2003, p. 9).”   This is something that develops over time but can be practiced every day through reflection – “practice in practice.”  An article written by Sprinthall, Reimand and Thies-Sprinthall (1993) summed up teacher reflection nicely by stating, “Higher order reflection and action by the teacher indicates a disposition to react and flex, to select an appropriate repertoire of skills and materials, to vary the instructional structure by pupil’s needs, to create an empathetic yet challenging atmosphere, to adapt new strategies for new educational problems; in short to educate in the root meaning of that word (p. 296).”

Reflection enhances our learning.  This is important for adults as well as children.  Educators take the time to reflect on their practice, but students should do the same.  If students can be taught to discuss or write about what they have learned it becomes part of their knowledge bank.  Reflection can be a journal entry, KWL (what I know about…, what I want to know about…, what I’ve learned about… – the first 2 questions are asked in the beginning of the lesson and the last question at the end), drawing a picture, an exit ticket or a skit that students perform etc… When students do any kind of reflection another important component is feedback on their reflection.  This helps guide their understanding of the concepts and also allows teachers to clear up any misconceptions students may have on a topic.  It also gives the teacher the opportunity to encourage students to dig deeper into the concept as well as provide a positive reinforcement for what they have learned.  Another element to feedback is that it keeps the line of communication open between student and teacher, which enables a trusting relationship to form, thus providing a comfortable environment for students to ask questions and to learn.

“We must be the change we want to see in the world”
-   Gandi

Reiman, A. & DeAngelis Peace, S. (2003).  SUCCEED AT Mentoring, Coaching & Supervision.  

Spinthall, N., Reiman, A., & Thies-Sprinthall, L. (1993).  Roletaking and Reflection:  Promoting the Conceptual and Moral Development of Teachers.  Learning and Individual Differences, 3(4), 283-299.

By:  Karen Wilson, STEM Coach

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