Tagged: RPSIG

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): 


  • 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!

Reflective resolutions

I recently had the great pleasure of facilitating a reflective practice meeting in the KOTESOL Reflective Practice Special Interest Group (RP SIG). The main topic was resolutions, reflecting,  and plans for reflecting in the new year.

To start the meeting I asked the group about what they usually think of when they hear the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions.” As I expected, they laughed and said things like:

They don’t come true.
I do them just for fun.
I don’t believe in them.
We always forget about them by February.  

I asked the group why these resolutions don’t often happen. The answers included:

They are not specific enough.
They are unrealistic.
We don’t really care about them.
They are unclear.
We don’t really believe that we will do them.

It seemed to me that the answers were related to typical resolutions not being SMART. I was happy and somewhat surprised that most people were not familiar with the acronym SMART. In any case, I think the concept behind SMART objectives makes a lot of intuitive sense.

Another focus of the RP SIG session was to think about how using the ELC can help us make better, more useful and more personally important action plans. After thinking about how to make their resolutions SMARTER I asked the more experienced RP members to present the ELC to the new members.

I then asked group members to walk through the ELC and share how it played it role in the creation of their resolutions. From my perspective it was like doing the ELC in reverse because we had already created the plans. I really enjoyed hearing the descriptions and analyses that led up to the resolutions. My feeling was that by sharing the background we all got a better sense of why we made the resolutions that we did.

Some members mentioned that they had automatically gone through the ELC in their heads without thinking of it while others said they just came up with resolutions almost automatically. I am still continually curious about how “natural” the ELC is and how much training, practice and awareness is needed to use it effectively.

My personal experience leads me to believe that by starting with an event/concrete experience and working our way through the ELC we are more likely to come up with more suitable action plans. I wonder if others have similar or different thoughts and experiences.

Just as I was about to publish this I came across this blog post which I think offers a lot of wisdom. From this I was reminded of the importance of writing down goals. I also think that publishing/announcing/stating goals can be helpful. So, with that in mind, my blogging related resolution is to do at least 25 blog posts this year. That is just under a post every other week. I hope that you will keep coming back to this blog and feel free to nudge me if I don’t keep up with it!

Finally, one book related to goals and making changes that I found very helpful and interesting is  “Switch” from the brilliant and accessible Heath brothers.