The key to teacher effectiveness lies in teacher reflection about practice. Here are four reflection strategies a master teacher uses to improve and strengthen their practice.
Of all the academic tasks teachers face, getting inside students' heads is one of the trickiest. It is also the most crucial. Learning outcomes of our students determines how effective we are as educators. How do we know and understand the effectiveness we are creating on children? The key lies in reflecting on what, why, and how we do things.
Reflective teaching practice is ‘learning through and from experience towards gaining new insights of self and practice.’ It can be a private process and discussed with colleagues and leaders. It is more a systematic process of collecting, recording, and analyzing a teacher’s thoughts and observations and those of their students and then making changes. It’s not a one-time approach but a cyclical process that needs to occur regularly to have an impact.
It took me some time to understand how reflection works until I started putting down more than what went well and what did not in my classroom. It happened, when one day, despite being fully prepared for the class, I had a disastrous lesson. The children did not cooperate. There were cold responses. I wondered why! When I thought about my day’s events, I couldn't figure it out. There was a feeling of something amiss. I felt it was so much more than just knowing what I did. I needed to learn what real reflection looked like.
Here are four strategies I have used over the past few years to expand the possibilities of my reflective practice beyond the mundane 'what went well?' and 'what did not go well?' questions and helped me grow as a learner and a teacher.
Asking your students how the lesson went is always a scary but very important activity. This can be done in class with a quick show of hands or a Google Form emailed to your students. A major part of reflection is about taking an honest look at how things are going. Every teacher, during the delivery of a topic, should take feedback. It provides us insight into where the learner is at and how we can plan our teaching to take students where we want them to go.
Exit slip at the end of each class containing questions like, "What have I learned?" is a great way to collect student feedback. You can also ask questions like, "Where I need help?" and "How else the teacher could have taught this topic?" These can help the teacher to look into their classroom activities and tweak their plans accordingly.
After each lesson, teachers can write in a notebook about what happened, noting her reactions and feelings and those of the students. The last 15 minutes can be slotted in the school timetable before the closure time for the students and teachers to reflect and write their daily reflections.
Once while penning down during journal writing time, I realized my students were pretty dull and unexcited that day. I could not understand why. After quite a lot of thinking too, I was not able to find out. I decided to question a few students the next day. What came as a surprise to me was the most unexpected need of the children. I had promised them a games period after the examination which I had forgotten inadvertently. Students did not remind me thinking I may not give them time due to the pressure to cover the syllabus and moreover the exam was around the corner.
It may sound very simple but goes a long way in understanding oneself and others. What came as a harsh reality was that, till then I used to think I am an approachable teacher. Children freely put forth their demands without assuming things but it was not so. When students don't feel comfortable asking for a games period how would they be comfortable in sharing more important issues. From then on I decided I will set aside a few minutes during the class hour for connection time. Establish good rapport with them by making them comfortable and then start my class.
We need to record a video of our lesson first for self-observation. A video recording of a teacher's lessons is valuable because it provides an unaltered and unbiased vantage point for how effective their lesson was from both a teacher and student perspective. A video helps to catch disruptive behavior that they may not have spotted at the time. In my school, expert teachers' classes are recorded using the school webcam and circulated to novice teachers for watching and learning. In the primary classes, the focus of teacher learning is mostly on lesson strategy, and in the secondary, it is innovative teaching practices.
Teachers could watch a publicly available video of another teacher and then encourage conversations about the teaching and learning. In my school, two periods a week are planned in the annual calendar for teachers to meet. During these hours, teachers watch videos and share their takeaways/ learnings with the whole group. Teachers can share their regular/ best practices and ask for feedback. It would help them know/ understand what and how they do their lessons with respect to other teachers' and reflect on their practices. New teachers undergo a workshop on Socratic Discussions during the induction programme held in the beginning of the academic session. Senior Teachers give a demonstration of Socratic questioning to make the novice teachers understand how to ask critical questions.
About the Author
Savitha is a Senior Secondary School English Teacher and a Team Leader at a reputed School in Tamilnadu, India. She has a Masters in English Language and Literature and a degree in Education. She has worked in many schools across India. She has visited schools in London on a teacher Exchange Programme to learn how teachers teach and students learn in other locations. In addition to engaging with students in an academic setting in the English classroom, she also conducts a Teacher Enrichment Programme on teaching English. Expanding students' perspectives, developing insights, and helping them to actualize their full potential has been the highlight of her 25-year career in education. Her goal is to share what she has learned and facilitated in her classroom with others. You can contact Savitha via ravisavitha20 at gmail.com