Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Teaching Is A Conversation - part two

              Since I wrote my previous post, I have continued to talk with the teachers with whom I'll work this year, and I am struck by the amount of reflection we are considering in the questions asked:  What happened last year that felt successful? What needs more time? What scaffolds were needed most (and why)? What prevents your basic goals as a language arts teacher from being achieved?  And so on.  And as I reflected on these conversations, I began to see that reflection holds the top place in our talks.  This led me to wondering how to place this same kind of reflection into the curriculum for students, and to explain its importance to the teachers.
                Reflection is the heart of learning.  For teachers to reflect on their plans and their students in the year ahead and along the way at each juncture is critical.  And the more they understand what critical reflection can mean, the more they will understand about their teaching.  Yet I wonder how much reflection is asked of the student?  And how is the reflection taught so that the thinking can be more productive?  So often curriculum plans demand such time constraints that students might not have the time for reflection of their own work, considering whether they are ready to move onto another part of learning, or prefer to flesh out that which was previously studied, to see if improvement or going deeper is what is needed. 
I believe students could be taught to do thoughtful reflection as a habit.  To respond to a project with answers to these questions is a beginning:  what worked? what didn’t work?, why?, what’s next? In addition to contemplating the answers that are given, students need time to follow through with what’s next.  And finally, they may need to ask the questions again. 

          If the questions are asked, in a form of evaluation of the learning task, can the answers to what’s next be ignored?  How can reflection be authentic if there is no follow-up?  Teachers reflect often and make changes because of their thinking.  Students should be able to do that too.  Two articles that are meaningful to me in the area of critical reflection are here and here.  


  1. Linda, great conversations with colleagues! I love listening in and your discussions give me so much to think about as well. Being a mentor again this year for a new teacher in my district, I find that I am being more reflective. Thinking about why we do things and thinking about other ways to teach something.

    I love how you brought it back to the students! You are so right! They need these questions to think about their learning, especially the "what's next?" question!

    Thank you for giving me more to reflection upon. :) And ask, "What's next?"

  2. I think that it is reflection like this that drives our teaching forward, improves and enriches it. Thank you for these two posts - they give me much to think about!


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