Why I love…Reflecting/Reflections

Reflection: is a word that can have multiple interpretations. As seen below by the definitions from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/reflection
noun
1.
the act of reflecting, as in casting back a light or heat, mirroring, or giving back or showing an image; the state of being reflected in this way.
2.
an image; representation; counterpart.
3.
a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.

There were other definitions of reflection but I’m going to stick with these three as, for the purpose of reflection in teaching which definition is important? How is reflection useful? And more specifically, why in teaching is reflection so important?
I’m going to focus on these as being important to teaching. However, even then reflection is only useful if you take action on what you have learnt from the reflection. In my practice I do try to reflect continuously on what I’ve done and what I could change to develop the outcome for the students. That I think is the crux of the matter. What are we doing and how is it impacting on the outcomes for the students?

1.
the act of reflecting, as in casting back a light or heat, mirroring, or giving back or showing an image; the state of being reflected in this way.

How can this be useful in teaching?

I’d say body language is hugely important (in life as well as in teaching). In the classroom we are constantly reinforcing or mirroring expectations, ways to behave and our own thoughts and opinions about what is happening in the room. Unconsciously, or not we are projecting an image to the students all the time and it is up to us to mirror and reflect appropriately in all our interactions with students. This can range from the tone of voice we use to the expression on our faces during whole class interactions. It is hugely important to show that we value contributions and can adapt our own reactions to suit even the trickiest of students. The ‘heat or light’ in this definition is interesting as I believe this can link into the emotions that we help to create with the heat becoming symbolic of anger and frustration and the light symbolising calmness and creativity, although I could be talking nonsense! We do have an important part in the mirroring of attitudes and reactions though which shouldn’t be underestimated.
2.
an image; representation; counterpart.

Again, I think this is important in how we present ourselves in a professional capacity. Our school persona is a public and professional representation of ourselves and while it isn’t our entire identity and it can be difficult to reconcile our personal and professional identities at times, and it is a part of what makes up our identity as a teacher. @Mrsspalding did a great blog on this.  However, if we remember to be polite, kind and respectful in all our dealings in school then the image or representation that we show will hopefully be a positive reflection.

3.
a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.

This is the type of reflections we try to encourage in our lessons coming from the student. We mark and we offer feedback both through our verbal interactions and our written ones. When we do this, what we then want are students to reflect on this and go further by taking improvement action. How do we facilitate this?

Here are just some of the ways I have tried to do this in my classroom:

• DIRT Marking – Directed Improvements Relating to Targets
• WWW & EBI – What went well and Even Better If and why
• Improvement time being built into SOW/SOL and ensuring that every piece of feedback is worked on
• Whole class feedback to increase the frequency of feedback given to students
• Green Pen work embedded – with self and peer assessment using specific criteria
• Breaking down the answers and giving examples of a variety of answers
• Finding common patterns of problems and re-teaching elements
• Post it note feedback – students ask a question and I type an answer
• Common issues feedback with tips and hints to help: Common Writing Issues & Resolutions & Reading issues document
• Target posters
• Using specific targets and getting students to work on the target with a new task
• Breaking how to improve down into smaller chunks
• Using success criteria
• Using examples of excellent reflection work
• Using the visualiser to show example of work from students to help all students think about what they have been doing

However, the most important part in all of these above is the planning to help students reflect. If I haven’t planned these activities effectively then the reflections I get can range from Thanks Miss, detailed feedback to nothing written at all in reflection and this leads to frustration (and that is from both me and the students). Often students find it difficult to reflect on their work; as if they knew how to do it in the first place, they would have done it. So, what is the answer?

Repetition, reminders and revising are good for this. Reminding students constantly of times when they have improved previously, they need prompting to recall, recollect, remember previous work and skills that they have, and reflection helps with this.
Modelling of good practice is also important and live modelling can really help. Asking them questions which prompt detailed answers is useful and shows the students that with the right series of questions they can succeed.

Writing at the same time as the students has a multitude of useful benefits and I wrote about this here – https://t.co/LGALvXzT60 but it is also a really useful reflective tool for me too.

Breaking it down is also a good way to encourage students to reflect. I try not to only use WWW & EBI but to expand on this. I try to use the WWW and why? to encourage more detail. Also having a range of questions which link to the success criteria pre-prepared, as if students know what they have to achieve at the outset then they are more likely to strive to achieve it.

Ultimately, we want the students to reflect as this is a skill that helps them improve. If we start with Y7 encouraging them to self and peer assess in detail and with guidance it will help them as they go up the school to be self-reflective and to understand how to improve. Again, if we are specific about how and why students need to respond to feedback then again, this will help them improve.

Educational Reading

Finally, continuous reading, reflecting and refining what I do to help classes is also useful. I’ve found the plethora of blogs on different teaching subjects so helpful and have challenged myself to read an Educational teaching book every month this year thanks to a challenge I picked up from Jamie Thom. I’m going to use this to reflect on the lessons I learn from these books. So far, this year I have read: (@pepmccrea) Peps McCrea’s Memorable Teaching, which was excellent for thinking about how to help students retain knowledge; Pivotal Paul Dix’s (@pivotalpaul) “When the Adult Changes the Behaviour Changes” and this was excellent from reflecting on how my own mood, attitude and presentation in the classroom can escalate or de-escalate a situation and has been incredibly useful (I’m in the process of doing a review for our school T&L blog); this month I am reading (@teachergratitude1) Jamie Thom’s Slow Teaching and this has been brilliant for making little tweaks to my teaching and although I haven’t finished it yet, I would highly recommend it to any teacher who wants to reflect carefully on their own practice and what they can do in the classroom to make life a little easier (again I will review this for our T&L blog and my own blog when finished). Next month I am looking forward to reading my Headteacher (@chrishildrew’s) Chris Hildrew’s new book “Becoming a Growth Mindset School” which again I will use to reflect on little tweaks that I can make in the classroom.

One of the biggest things that stuck with me from my PGCE was the need to be a reflective practitioner and I think that since joining Twitter and starting to read more blogs, borrow people’s ideas and think carefully about what I am doing I have become a more thoughtful and reflective teacher and hopefully this can only be a good thing.

I hope that reflecting on why reflection is important is useful, it has made me think at least! Also, interestingly I started this post in 2016, so this has taken a considerable amount of reflection to leave my mind and become an actual blog post!

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