This conversation left some of us inspired while others were scratching their heads wondering how some educators are so innovative. How is it possible for some people to be so adept at creating amazing solutions to new problems, otherwise known as adaptive challenges?
There is a simple answer to this question: reflective practice.
Reflective practice is a term commonly used in the field of education, defined as “learning through and from experience towards gaining new insights of self and practice” (Finlay, 2008). Loughran challenges us to think about reflection as essential in learning: “Experience alone does not lead to learning; reflection on experience is essential” (Loughran, 2002).
Reflective practice is a process by which we as educators have been encouraged to participate in since the beginning of our training; yet, provision of the time and space to engage in this process is often overlooked or overshadowed by “more pressing issues.” As professionals, we are hurried from task to task —classroom instruction, classroom management, parent-teacher communication, paperwork, lunch lists, transportation changes—not to mention the new tasks and responsibilities added to this already robust list resulting from the pandemic.
Considering everything we are engaged in as we provide high-quality early learning experiences, it’s no wonder we sometimes find it difficult to designate time to reflect on our practice.
What if adding just one more thing to your plate would help you resolve many of the issues you face?
Reflective practice can help decrease your daily struggles and increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
Engaging in metacognition—the act of thinking about your thinking—provides time and space to reflect on current and develop new instructional strategies. Through this process teachers refine their practices with creative and innovative strategies.
Reflecting on my teaching practice has afforded me the opportunity to more effectively take on the perspective of the children and families I served as a teacher and now helps me in thinking about the perspective of the teachers and administrators I serve in my role here at Teaching Strategies.
When I engage in reflective practice, I ground my reflections within the goals I have set for myself. For example, during the three-week virtual kindergarten camp I hosted, one of my goals was to ensure children had social interaction. As I reflected on each day, I framed my reflection prompts around this topic.
Prompts for reflection on active engagement:
- Were the children excited to be part of the conversation?
- Were all children heard?
- How is my virtual classroom structure encouraging/hindering children’s interactions?
- Were the children talking to one another?
- What strategies can I use to encourage children to talk to one another rather than just to me?
Considering reflective practice prompted me to engage in the three-week virtual camp this summer. I knew that without personal experience with remote learning and teaching, I would lack the ability to effectively support my colleagues in the field.
At the end of each day of Kindergarten Camp, I spent time thinking about what took place. My reflection style varied: sometimes it took the form of making a list, while other times I brainstormed ideas using a web or simply engaged in a conversation with my peers.
While my experience providing online instruction to kindergarten-age children was limited to three weeks, reflection allowed me to learn about and understand effective methods of instruction and evolve my remote instructional practice.
Taking the time to invest in a 5-10 minute daily reflection provided high-value outcomes.
- I was able to celebrate successes that would have otherwise gone undetected.
- I brainstormed and developed effective strategies for encouraging social interaction
- I problem-solved and figured out how to create a document camera to model writing and drawing.
- And I developed a more robust list of questions to consider in the future.
I encourage you to engage in reflective practice. I believe you will find the return on investment for both you and your students to be immeasurable!