Reflective Practice. Becoming a Teacher Detective and Loving It

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1 Reflective Practice Hello, my name is Dr. Anne Rodrigue. Today in this keynote presentation, I will define reflective practice - what it involves, how to get started, and how to make reflective practice an essential component of your professional growth. Reflection has been described by many researchers as: reflection in action, on action, and for action (Schon, 1987), combining critical thinking and critical practice (Ginsberg, 1988) and engaging teachers in examining the moral and ethical considerations of instructional procedures and actions (Zeichner & Liston, 1996). Valli (1997) has observed that reflective teachers, can look back at events, make judgments about them, and alter their teaching behaviours in light of craft, research, and ethical knowledge. In simpler terms, reflective practice is a way of helping teachers better understand what they know and the basis for their instructional practices. Reflection emphasizes learning because it emphasizes questioning and investigating as a means of arriving at understanding to shape and improve practice. It is about being the best teacher you can be understanding your motivations, examining your assumptions, and improving your knowledge base. Reflective practice is the opposite of taking things for granted. Teachers are learners. Teachers must be continually engaged in challenging assumptions, identifying areas of practice that need scrutiny, defining goals for improvement, and putting strategies in place to accomplish these goals. Reflective practice is more than debriefing after a particularly exhilarating or challenging lesson. It is more than asking why or what happened? It involves moving to the next step what does this tell me about my practice? Is this good practice as identified in research and where do I need to go from here? A reflective teacher is one who: Identifies and analyzes both problems and solutions. Examines all problems from an educational, social and ethical perspective. Takes into consideration context and pedagogical factors. Uses a problem-solving approach. Is a life-long learner. Wants to continually improve knowledge, sets goals. Searches for alternatives. Engages in self-questioning. Takes into consideration the needs and motivations of students. Constructs his/her knowledge base. Plans, then monitors, then evaluates, then changes, if necessary. Applauds the role of intuition but challenges it with theory. Reflective Practice Page 1

2 Uses evidence to make decisions. Experiments, experiments, experiments. Welcomes the advice and critique of colleagues. Is this you? Is this who you want to be? Strategies for Reflective Practice There are many different ways to engage in reflective practice either individually or collectively. Engaging teachers in deep conversations about practice that is contextualized, and based on their experience, observations and a strong knowledge base about teaching and learning supports the development of a professional learning community. Using Case Studies Case studies are considered effective tools to engage teachers in discussions on teaching situations. A good case is carefully designed for instruction and poses fundamental issues that reach beyond the particulars in the case and motivates on ongoing reflection and inquiry. (Barnett, 1999:26) Examining a case can be done as an individual or collective activity. Cases involve having a teacher examine her own belief system and practice and make judgments and/or comparisons. Using case studies forces teachers to engage in critical thinking as they attempt to understand the nuances and ambiguities of situation. Journaling Journaling is a way to record observations, examine other perspectives, analyze practice, interpret understanding, make comments, record confusion and/or growth, and reconstruct experiences. A teacher can frame a journal entry in the following way: 1) What was I trying to accomplish? 2) What were the teaching practices I used to accomplish this goal? 3) What teaching theories/assumptions drive these practices? 4) What made me teach this way? 5) What other options could I use to better assist my students? 6) What changes will I make in my practice? Journals can be private or shared with a close colleague. At the beginning, journaling takes time, as teachers need to determine guidelines for journal writing frameworks, privacy, time allotment etc. However, once the rules are established, journaling is an effective way of linking theory and practice. Journals can serve as an outlet for stress and a spur for developing an articulate professional knowledge base. Reflective Practice Page 2

3 Engaging in a Reflective Practice Group In a reflective practice group, participants share a difficult situation they experienced. The group decides to choose one situation. The teacher involved explains the situation outlining the facts and describing the emotions. Each participant then provides a hypothesis for the reason why the teacher took the action. Then the group shares the hypotheses and suggests the teaching theory that supports it. The teacher then responds to the hypotheses and relates them to the experience. Then the group views the situation from the perspective of the students and discusses how things could have been handled differently, examines the benefits that change could have, and compares the original approach to the new one. The group then summarizes and debriefs. Using a Network Networks are one of the newest ways to create a professional learning community. Electronic mailing list can serve as frameworks for reflective practice by connecting teacher colleagues both outside and inside the school. Electronic mailing lists have been described as, a rich forum for students to flesh out their reflections on teaching, to touch base with their colleagues, and to seek (and give) advice to support current concerns. (Johanson et. al., 1999, p.2). An electronic mailing list may be in some ways a friendlier environment for sharing profound thoughts on educational practice. Cubbison (1999) believes that online communication provides a space that is more comfortable to share multiple perspectives, thoughts and ideas more openly and without hesitation. Networking can take different forms. It can be similar to what you are experiencing with Survive & Thrive or it can be an dialogue and reflection on a theme including assigned readings and tasks. Creating A Learning Portfolio Most teachers know the purpose of portfolios and their value for learning. But portfolios can also be used for reflective purposes. A reflective portfolio is one that serves as a framework for documenting a learning journey. Teachers can collect artifacts and evidence, either discuss them with colleagues, or reflect individually. Learning portfolios should begin with a stated need, concern or question. Identify your goal and what you will do to accomplish this. Decide what types of materials should be included in your portfolio as evidence, including the type of research you need to begin your exploration. Document all the stages of your growth in the portfolio using titles such as Essential Learnings, Hypothesis, Results of My Findings, and Changes in My Practice. Conducting Action Research Action research is investigating in a deliberate fashion, an issue, concern or question about teaching. It can be individual or collective. Action research involves using the Reflective Practice Page 3

4 tools of a researcher to investigate your own environment. Action research involves 4 steps: 1. Identify the issue. 2. Imagine ways of tackling it (exploring types and sources of data). 3. Evaluate the situation (use the tools to collect the data and analyse it). 4. Change practice in light of what you learned. Doing action research is a serious undertaking. Teachers may want to practice the other strategies of reflective practice before embarking on an action research project. There are many good web sites where you can examine strategies for conducting action research. I will provide some of these in my resource list. Today, I have presented to you a concept that you can use to underpin your entire teaching career. Reflective practice is about learning to be a professional educator, learning to do what it takes to develop a continually evolving knowledge base about teaching, and learning to use that knowledge to achieve high levels of student learning and professional satisfaction. Reflective Practice Page 4

5 Bibliography Bella N.J. (2004) Reflective Analysis of Student Work. Improving Teaching Through Collaboration. Campbell, A., McNamara O. & Gilroy P. (2004) Practitioner Research and Professional Development in Education. Cornwall: Paul Chapman Publishing. Dana N.F. & Yendol-Silva D. (2003) The Reflective Educator s Guide to Classroom Research. Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Through Practitioner Inquiry. Earl L.M. (2003) Assessment As Learning Using Classroom Assessment To Maximize Student Learning. Farrell, T.S.C. (2004) Reflective Practice in Action. 80 Reflection Breaks for Busy Teachers. Ginsburg, M.B. (1988) Contradictions in teacher education and society: A critical analysis. New York: Falmer. Kaagan S. S. (2004) 30 Reflective Staff Development Exercises for Educators. California: Corwin Press. Martin-Kniep G.O. (2004) Developing Learning Communities Through Teacher Expertise. Reagan T.C., Case C.W. & Brubache J.W. (2000) Becoming a Reflective Educator (Second Edition) How to Build a Culture of Inquiry in the Schools. Taggart G.L. & Wilson A. P. (1998) Promoting Reflective Thinking in Teachers. 44 Action Strategies. Schön, D. (1987) Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Valli, L. (1997) as cited in Farrell, T.S.C. (2004) Reflective Practice in Action. 80 Reflection Breaks for Busy Teachers. Van Manen, J. (1977) Linking ways of knowing with ways of being practical. Curriculum inquiry, 6, York-Barr J., Sommers W.A., Ghere G.S. & Montie J. ( 2001) Reflective Practice To Improve Schools. An Action Guide for Educators. Zeichner, K.M. & Liston, D.P. (1996) Reflective teaching: An introduction. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Reflective Practice Page 5

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