Probably the most useful tool for professional development, I have found, is reflection. This is one of the reasons why I find blogging to be such a rewarding exercise, as I’ve pointed out in a previous post: 10 Reasons Why Teachers Should Blog and Tweet.
In my first couple of years as a teacher, I made a professional practice journal, which incorporated a set of structured reflection tools to help me organise my thinking (which needed all the organisation help it could get).
I found these tools to be extremely useful, so I have now reformatted them and uploaded them to share.
There are four different forms in this set, which you can download as interactive pdf files. (Thankyou to Anne Wisdom from MTEC 2011 for teaching me how to do that!) You can fill in the fields and save under the date or whatever name you like.
All the reflection tools in the set are published under a Creative Commons NonCommercial Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence.
1: Professional Practice 1 – Reflection
This is a very simple reflection tool for the end of an ordinary class lesson. There are three sections which ask about teaching and behaviour management strategies: what worked, what didn’t, and changes to make.
There’s a list down the bottom called “Professional and Interpersonal Goals”. It was created so I could keep to the forefront of my mind a number of little things which I was consistently having trouble with: things like raising my voice (which I was doing much too often), following through on behaviour management, refraining from getting into arguments with students, and trusting myself.
That list now contains a set of blank fields for you to fill out as you like, each with a checkbox to indicate whether that goal was achieved or not during the lesson.
2. Professional Practice 2 – What the hell was THAT?!!
We all have occasional lessons where everything just falls apart. This reflection tool was created after one of those lessons, where I wanted to analyse what happened in real depth so I could get to the bottom of what went wrong.
The sections are as follows:
- What happened
- Strategies I attempted
- Did they work? (Yes/No/Sort of)
- What I need to do or change
- General Comments
There’s also a section down the bottom for a more detailed evaluation of “Professional and Interpersonal Goals” as listed on the original Reflection form. This was made so I could see whether any of those niggling issues may have been a contributing factor in the event of a lesson going wrong, by making me grade how well I achieved each goal on an A-E scale.
3. Professional Practice 3 – Think I might be in for a difficult day?
I can’t tell you how many times this one saved my neck. I’m not a morning person so my brain takes a long time to wake up. This reflection tool is for the times when I’m worried that it won’t.
Whether it’s because I didn’t sleep properly the night before, had a bad lesson the day before, have a difficult class coming up, or a conflict with a student or colleague on my mind, or even that I just haven’t had time to have my coffee yet, this form has helped me on numerous occasions when I found the thought of the day ahead just a bit too overwhelming.
On a more personal note, this reflection tool was created in the midst of a long and painful struggle with depression and anxiety, which I faced every day for many years. It really helped me to “get out of my head” and focus specifically on the practical tasks of the day.
It includes the following sections:
- How I’m feeling right now
- This makes me precisely identify my physical, emotional, and mental state: tired, angry, stressed out, ill, or whatever.
- What’s on my mind right now
- This gives me a chance to get whatever is going on “off my chest”. Writing it down also has a way of making the issue smaller and bringing it into perspective.
- Is there anything concerning me specifically about today?
- This focuses my attention to the current day ahead, as well as any worries or concerns about what might be coming up
- Classes for today
- After getting concerns and worries off my chest, this brings my mind to practical matters, by making me list all the sessions immediately ahead.
- Tasks, strategies and goals to get through the day
- A list of everything that needs to be done that day, with checkboxes for ticking them off.
If you also struggle with anxiety and depression, I know what it is that you face every day, and I can tell you that you are not alone. My heart goes out to you, and I really hope that this reflection tool can be of some help.
4. Professional Practice 4 – Teaching and Behaviour Management Strategies Quick List
Filling out the Reflection form day after day helped me to get a comprehensive list of effective and ineffective teaching and behaviour management strategies. This table is a tool for getting all those strategies listed in one place for easy reference.
I really recommend these reflection tools for pre-service and early-career teachers, since they were created when I was in that stage myself, and I shaped them specifically to situations I was meeting at the time. However, they are also a good honing tool for me even today, so I can recommend them to more experienced teachers as well.
When I first created them, I used them after every single lesson for about a fortnight. After a while, I found that I only needed to fill them out once a day, and then a little later once a week, as reflection became more automatic.
Generally, my pattern nowadays is a doing a detailed reflection a couple of times a fortnight or once or twice a month. Every so often I have a “reflection blitz” where I might have a week of going through every lesson again, just to refocus, which is also useful. There’s really no set pattern: you can use them in whatever way works for you.
This article by Gabrielle Deschamps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.