3 reasons you must stop to reflect as a teacher

There are probably a million reasons why teachers should stop and reflect on their practice frequently and consistently and there are probably as many different ways of reflecting, from using surveys such as those provided by AITSL in the teacher self-assessment tool to the constant reflections that we do on our practice throughout a single lesson.

The importance of such reflections should not be overlooked. It is how we as teachers constantly improve our practice to become master craftsmen. Paula Zwozdiak-Myers wrote in The teacher’s reflective practice handbook:

“Central to your development as a teacher is your commitment and capacity to analyse and evaluate what is happening in your own lessons and to use your professional judgement both to reflect and act upon these analyses and evaluations to improve pupil learning and the quality of your teaching. This enables you to make informed judgements derived from an evidence base about the effectiveness of both.” – Zwozdiak-Myers, 2018.

1. Reflecting on practice improves student learning

Reflecting on our teaching practices has a huge impact on what we do in our classrooms. Research is clear that how we teach is more important than what we teach. Reflecting on our teaching helps us to identify what is working and what is not and then make adjustments, do research, and find new methods for teaching particular topics to help our students learn.

2. Reflecting on practice helps us and our students be lifelong learners

Every time you reflect on practice you are modelling lifelong learning. By using a simple questionnaire, having a conversation with a colleague or even by walking through one of your lessons in your head you are learning. And, if you reflect deeply you are bound to end up examining research and current practices of other teachers to learn new ways that you can help your students learn. This forces you to use analysis and evaluate what you see or read in order to determine if it is worth trying in your classroom. Reflecting on your practice can help you to continue to learn and refine your teaching craft! 

As we reflect on our teaching, if we take a moment to model this with our students, they will also improve their understanding of the reflective process. Often I ask my students to reflect on their learning, and I find it helpful to do my own reflections as they do theirs. Sometimes I model this for them before they reflect. I talk about the evidence of learning that I have observed and how my reflections should not just be based on feelings, but on the evidence before me. 

3. Reflecting on our practice helps target our professional learning

This is one of the most important reasons why our reflection needs to exist beyond our classrooms. So often our reflective practice applies only to our immediate actions in the classroom and whether they worked or not. But, I want to encourage you to reflect more broadly as a teacher (I do not want you to neglect the classroom, simply expand beyond it). 

There is so much more to teaching than our classroom actions. What we do and say during a lunch duty, to our colleagues in the staffroom or to a parent on the phone is just as important (or more important) than the actions implemented in the classroom. 

I love using the National Teaching Standards to guide my reflections as a teacher. It helps me to ensure that I am reflecting on every aspect of my role and not just the classroom. I want to know if I know my students, how well I adapt my teaching for them, if I am engaged in networks beyond my school walls, and how I can better engage with the parents of my students. 

After reflecting, I then set goals for my learning for the year. If I wanted to improve my knowledge of how students learn for example, I might then find a workshop on this topic, complete an online course, and/or read books on cognitive psychology, watch TED talks on the topic or simply Google “how do we learn?”. 

Reflecting on practice

Now is by far the best time for you to reflect on your practice, because if you wait until tomorrow or next week it won’t happen. It doesn’t matter if it is the beginning of the year, half way through term 3 or if you are about to have a long holiday. Today you should reflect on your practice. 

To help you do this well, we have a free online course “Reflecting on Practice” that helps guide you through the reflective process in order to identify goals for your own professional development so that you continue to refine your teaching. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you could be the best teacher in the world and yet still improve through reflection. Or maybe you are brand new and struggling, this process will still help you to grow as a teacher and in turn will result in better learning for your students. Which, I know for me, is always the ultimate goal!

Check out the course below and register today. I would love to see your reflections, comments and goals for your continued professional learning.

During this 3 hour course, you will use the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and your school/system priorities to reflect on your practice and set professional development goals to help you grow as an educator. For more information and to sign up to this NESA accredited free course click the green button below.

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