The Value of Reflection: Looking Back as a Way to Move Forward

Community Engagement Project Reflection

Time is a priceless commodity in the teaching and learning arena.  If you ask any educator, there’s never enough time to do something, to teach something, to learn something, to create something.  The lack of time is a ubiquitous reality in many professions, but I feel it is especially true in teaching.

Despite the consistent lack of time, reflection is essential in our practice.  Borg (1993), as cited in Moayeri & Rahimiy (2019) describes teachers as “active, thinking decision-makers who make instructional choices by drawing on complex practically-oriented, personalized, and context-sensitive networks of knowledge, thoughts, and beliefs” (p. 131).


Figure 1:  Reflective Practice Mind Map (Rody, 2022)

Why do we need to reflect?  I offer three reasons:

Affirmation

It is in reflective practice that affirmation happens – where teachers are affirmed of our value in who we are and not because of what we can do.  Affirmation helps us understand the role we have in society and we take this responsibility seriously.  It fuels our desire to keep working hard, to do our best and to keep striving so we can meet the shifting demands in our work. When we take time to affirm ourselves, we develop confidence and stamina to continue to make a difference.

Growth

It is in reflective practice that growth happens. When we reflect, we gather data and allow our students to speak to us through their work, the conversations we have with them and the decisions they make about their own learning. We consider the learning objectives and review evidence that shows what our students have learned. We review our guiding principles and documents, such as standards, scope and sequence of our curricular units and planners for units of study so we can determine the progress that our students have made. We evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching decisions.  We identify areas of strength as well as areas for improvement.  We do all of these processes interconnectedly so we can draw a complete picture of the learning that takes place. We are guided by the conclusions drawn to inform our practice. Whether we see a big need to change or minor adjustments to make, growth happens.

As a member of our professional learning community (PLC)  in my grade level, this is something we do often and something we do intentionally.  We slow down the process and pause – we put our students’ work in the fore and we take stock of what worked, what needs to be added or taken out and things we can improve. We hold each other accountable. This practice helps each of us refine our practice individually and collectively.  

Empowerment

It is in reflective practice that empowerment happens.  When we take time to be reflective educators, we become problem-solvers and innovators. We develop a critical eye to examine our work for the purpose of producing quality teaching. We seek to improve how we teach so we can motivate and inspire our students.

As teachers, we are in the position to help students become lifelong learners. First, we have to model what that looks like in our own lives and in our teaching. Having the mindset of a lifelong learner makes reflection a priority because there is a lot to be learned when we consider something in retrospect or with hindsight. When we can glean what we can do differently or do better, it can empower us to move forward. 

Teaching is a dynamic profession.  As teachers, we grow with our students.  We should not expect to be the same people as when we started. Times change, needs change, students change and resources change. We change. Reflecting on our practice on a regular basis helps us develop into the kind of educators that teach with passion, relevance and intention.  

References:

Kamal, J. (2020, August 11). “Making Time for Reflective Practice.” https://www.edutopia.org/article/making-time-reflective-practice

Moayeri, M. & Rahimiy, R. (2019, January – June). The significance of promoting teacher reflection: A review article. Latin American Journal of Content and Language Integrated Learning, 12(1), 128-143.

Zajic, J. E. & Maksimovic, J. (2020). Contemporary teachers’ action research – basis for the development of reflective practice in education. Research in Pedagogy, 10(2), 354-366.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

css.php