Critical reflection is an important aspect of both teaching and learning. Educational philosopher and theorist John Dewey (1933) recognized that it is the reflection on our experiences that leads to learning – not merely the experience itself. We learn from those experiences that we ponder, explore, review, and question. Today researchers are looking at the developmental or evolutionary aspects of critical reflection in teaching. Still, it is reflection, not experience alone, that is found to be of value to the teacher (Garmeston, 2001). It is the reflective process that provides the greatest opportunities for professional understanding and self-assessment.
Becoming a reflective practitioner is a goal of the Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation Program at Oregon State University. Reflection has many definitions in the context of teacher cognition. Reflection involves “a state of doubt, hesitation, perplexity, or mental difficulty, in which thinking originates.” This uncertainty is followed by the act of searching to find materials that will resolve this doubt and settle the perplexity (Dewey, 1933).
Reflection, however, is more that “just thinking hard about what you do” (Bullough and Gitlin, 1995). Reflective practitioners give careful attention to their experiences and how meaning is made and justified. They analyze the influence of context and how they shape human behavior. Reflection is about change. Reflection is inquiry into pedagogy and curriculum, the underlying assumptions and consequences of these actions (Liston & Zeichner, 1987).
Becoming reflective requires active engagement in and consciousness of the experience, and in this case, the act of narrative writing. Reflection requires the ability to analyze and prioritize issues, to use tacit and resource-based knowledge, and to develop a feasible plan of action. Clarke (1995) suggests that reflection is not about a single event in time, but occurs over time as teachers begin to construct meaning for themselves.
What reflection is NOT about:
Many beginning teachers have the tendency to merely recount events that occurred rather than analyzing the meaning and possible ramifications of those events. In your written reflections, you should include only as much description of events as is necessary to provide a context for analysis or evidence of claims that you are making.
What to include in your lesson reflections:
Each lesson reflection will have a different focus, depending on the events that unfold. The following are suggestions of questions to consider in your reflections. Please separate your reflection into these three sections.
Analysis of the Lesson
This is not a blow by blow description of the lesson. Rather you should provide specific evidence to support claims that you are making about the lesson itself:
- Was the timing appropriate?
- Did the activities align with your objectives?
- What were the particular benefits and drawbacks of the methods you chose?
- Would a different method have been better (i.e., a lab rather than a demonstration)?
- Did you have enough questions?
- Were the questions at the appropriate level?
- What would you do differently and why? Clarify both how you would do this lesson differently but also on changes that you will be making in future lessons.
Evidence of student learning
As you are teaching your lesson, you will be constantly assessing the students’ progress. Your reflection is the opportunity to summarize and analyze what you were considering about students during the lessons. Some examples of questions you might consider are:
- Do you have specific concerns about their progress?
- Were the students engaged and motivated?
- What happened in the lesson that seemed to motivate students to be engaged in the lesson?
- Which students were actively engaged and which ones had disengaged?
- What can you do to engage the students more, and to more appropriately meet student needs?
- What do your students understand as a result of your lesson? What evidence do you have for this claim?
Reflect on the student learning, identifying specific situations and your reaction to those situations. Choose two or three students (including both males and females) to focus on for each lesson and then reflect more deeply on their progress in the class and in the lesson. In your reflection describe your developing perception on these students as learners in the class and what kinds of strategies work for them in particular.
Implications for Future Lessons
This section describes how you use your learning from this lesson to rethink or revise future lessons.
- Are there other ways you might consider structuring this lesson in the future?
- Are there other strategies or resources that you could have used to support student learning?
- What evidence suggested this change?
Based on your observations of students’ participation in class and written work;
- What will you do next?
- Did things come up that will change what you do tomorrow or later in the unit?
- Are there topics on which you need to spend more (or less) time?
- What else has today’s lesson made you think about regarding your teaching?
Reflections Scoring Guide:
A –Reflections demonstrate analytic thinking, self-awareness, and an honest self-evaluation of teaching. Claims about teaching and learning are clearly supported by evidence.
B – Reflections attempt an honest self-evaluation of teaching but may be lacking in depth. Provides some evidence for claims made about teaching and learning.
C –Reflections do not demonstrate self-awareness or an honest self-evaluation of teaching. Lacks evidence for claims about teaching and learning.