Considerations for reflection

Reflection is something that I’ve been thinking and talking about a lot these days. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am presenting (tomorrow!!) on reflection. As co-facilitator of KOTESOL’s Reflective Practice Special Interest Group I have the wonderful opportunity to talk about and practice reflection in our monthly meetings in Seoul. If you would like to read more about the group, what we do and what we are planning to do you can click here and go to pages 3-4 for a short article on that. I find all the meetings helpful, inspiring,  and enlightening and in this post I’d like to share some ideas that came up in the February (2012) meeting that was facilitated by my friend and colleague Manpal Sahota. In the meeting we mostly focused on different ways of reflecting and tried to think about the decisions we might want to make if we decided to try reflecting in these particular ways. The different ways that we mostly focused on were group discussions, journals, class observations, and teaching portfolios.

The question we were asked for each of the different ways was, “What do you think a teacher would have to do/consider when planning to use these ways of reflecting?” 

The following are the questions/considerations that the group came up with (along with my own thoughts and additions): 

Journals

  • Is there a format/structure? What is it?
  • Do you want to follow a rubric? What type? Why?
  • Is there a specific topic/focus? Or just what comes to mind on the day?
  • How often do you write in the journal?
  • How long is each entry?
  • How much time do you spend on each entry?
  • Where do you write it?
  • When do you write it? (Examples include during class, right after class, another day)
  • Do you want to get feedback on the journal? From whom? How? On what?
  • Do you want to choose the journal topic before teaching the lesson?
  • When/how do you revisit the journal? What do you do
  • Do you include some degree of accountability for yourself? How? What is it?

A quick note about journaling: It seems to me that many people equate journaling with reflection. From my view, journaling is just one of the many ways that we can reflect. I think it is helpful to think of journaling as a useful way of reflecting but not the only way. Journaling is surely not the only way and is not the best way for everyone. Some people just don’t like writing. Some people don’t want more time on the computer. Some people feel better with charts or pictures. Some people think better when they are talking (with or without someone else). Some people are self conscious about their writing skills. So, let’s take a look at some other ways.

Group Discussions

  • What are the expectations? Are they the same for everyone? Are they clearly stated?
  • Are there agreed upon norms/code of conduct?
  • What are the goals and objectives of the discussions?
  • Where are the discussions held? How comfortable is the room? What equipment is there?
  • Is there a seating plan? What purposes does it serve?
  • When are the discussions? Day? Time? (Duration?)
  • What about refreshments? What? Who organizes? Who pays?
    Is booze ok?
  • Is there equal participation? Is this a concern? How can we create a situation where some  people don’t dominate and so everyone speaks? How can we create space for some people not to speak if they don’t wish to?
  • Is an agenda set before the discussion? Is an agenda set at the beginning of the discussion? (So that people know what is coming and what they can get out of it)
  • Is there a leader/facilitator? What are his/her roles? How is the leader determined (volunteer, nominated, rotating etc.)?

Class Observations

  • What are the goals of the observation? Is it for development of the teacher that is teaching? Is it for observers to learn new skills? Is it for teachers to practice new skills? Is it to show off? Is it for continued/future employment?
  • Are there guidelines? What are the guidelines? Where do the guidelines come from? What purpose do they serve?
  • Are there SMART objectives for the observation?
  • How will the observation be conducted (live/videotape/audiotape)?
  • Who will observe? A critical friend? Peer? Supervisor? Education professional? Other?
  • Which class will be observed? Some considerations include students’ level/ability, Student-teacher rapport, the time of day and the type of lesson.
  • Will the teacher do anything different/special for the observed class? Why/Why not?

Teaching Portfolios

  • What goes in them?
    Some possibilities: awards, philosophy, curricula, teaching material, lesson plans, conference information, student work, teaching demos, reflections)
  • What is the medium? Dead trees? Digital? Is it interactive (like an app or something?)
  • How long/big is it?
  • What is the format? How will we organize it (chronologically, by class type/student level)?
  • How often do we update it?
  • How can we make this more for reflection than for job hunting?
    (Some wisdom from the group: It is the curating that matters.

Of course this is just a short list of different ways of reflecting and some considerations for these ways as there are many more ways (and considerations). What other ways of reflecting would you add? What other considerations would you add? As always, any comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading and happy reflecting!

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7 comments

  1. Laura Phelps (@pterolaur)

    Great post Michael. I’ll be sending it round to all the mentors here in Borneo – I think it’ll be especially useful for when we start handing over to ‘key teachers’ here and they start to do the things we’ve been doing. One other way of reflecting that I’d add is team-teaching: I’ve had reasonable success with it here, especially in situations where levels of English have prevented more abstract discussion. Done right I think both people can get a lot out of it…but maybe the main consideration there would be whether both people really *want* to do it, because sharing a classroom is a big deal and it shouldn’t feel like an imposition. Thanks again for the post 🙂

  2. mikecorea

    Hello, Ms. Phelps,
    Thanks so much for the comments! You know what? When I was writing my post I was thinking about your (excellent) post about team teaching and reflection.
    (Readers that are not Laura, go here now: http://ptefldactyl.blogspot.com/2012/02/team-teaching-as-reflective-practice.html)

    Team teaching (or co-teaching, or two teachers in the same room at the same time, or two teachers supposed to be in the same room at the same time or whatever it is supposed to be) is a really hot issue here in Korea. Interestingly, I have not heard much talk about using it as a learning/reflecting tool but I think there is a lot of potential there. Of course the “wanting” to do it factor is key!

    Cheers

  3. haeundaelife

    Hi Mike,

    Great post on reflection, thanks! It has given me a firm basis on which to begin. I am stuck with one aspect, accountability. I can tell myself to be accountable, and I will probably do so reasonably well. Do you have any great ideas that have worked well for you?

    And on Laura’s idea of team teaching, I would agree, it is a big issue here. I currently co-teach with Korean teachers and would love to start actively reflecting with them.

    Problems I have run into include:

    1) time constraints
    2) teacher ability to be open about their thoughts (ie. they sometimes struggle with judgement vs. description and don’t want to offend)
    3) teacher desire to include me outside of my prescribed hour with their class.

    Any thoughts?

    • mikecorea

      Hello Haeundaelife,

      Thanks for the comments and feedback. Much appreciated.

      You asked about accountability. For me it is about setting the right conditions for me to do the thing. I just emailed someone to tell them that I would give them feedback on something tomorrow. Before emailing this it was just going to be “someday” or “soon” which don’t really work well for me. So now, I have pushed myself and “published” (or at least made public) my plan so it will be harder for me to shirk responsibility. One new friend from twitter was using twitter to publicize his reflective plans which I thought was an interesting move.

      I hope this helps!

      As for team-teaching…I think that having a reflective partner can be one of the bonuses of this situation but I also think that it is largely ignored and underutilized. As you know lots of the time teachers are just focused on getting through the day and any extra “work” might be a tough sell. I think the three points you have mentioned are pretty typical. My thought is that maybe you can get started with one of your co-teachers. Maybe get started by clearly stating what you want to do and what you hope to get out of it. It’s very possible that none of them will be interested and I think this is is fine too. I think getting into exploration and away from judgement is a big step for many and might not be something they are interested in. I don’t mean to sound defeatist but I think it can be a challenge. I wish you the best of luck. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Thanks again for the comments.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      ps-While reflecting with your co-teacher(s) would be great I think there is still a lot to reflect on with others that you don’t happen to teach with.

      • haeundaelife

        Hi Mike, thanks for the advice. I like the idea of ‘publishing’ my intentions. or perhaps, at least reporting on what has been accomplished.

        You make some great points about the co’s and I have already gotten going with one piece of advice. I approached the teacher I am closest with and received a luke warm reception. Going to take it slow, and who knows.

        Furthermore, you are certainly correct about reflection with others outside of my own personal school setting. I am making taking the first steps to forging a Busan reflections group. WIll keep you updated.

        Thanks again!

        John

  4. Bubbles Sylver

    Hello Dear Sir,

    I would like to take a moment of your time to thank you heartily for such an interesting and thought provoking post. I myself am a progenitor of reflective teaching practices and as such would have much to say on such a topic. For instance, are the body of teachers using reflective practices wholly subsumed with progressing their skills as teachers? Is this a noble achievement for which to be aiming? Your heartfelt list, with its beating and pulsing ideas for many various reflections makes me think in fact that the answer must be a gigantic NO. Instead, perhaps the truly enlightening achievement to be gained from reflective teaching is one of exploration. Could not this journey of exploration lead to a higher state of energy for the teacher in the classroom? Could it not simply lead to a web of connectedness which nourishes and enriches us as teachers? In short, I believe in my humble opinion, that this list is in fact the starting point to explore the true meaning of the providential power of reflective teaching. With it, the teachers, even those in the pantheon of excellence, can discover the way they are existing within the always-developing worldly environment of education and the dappled webiness of their own classroom.

    With much gratitude,

    Bubbles Sylver

  5. Pingback: Assigning Art Journals to Art Students | scribology

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