Thoughts About Arts Education

Active Reflection Linked to Authentic Need, Not Dictated Activities


How many of us explicitly use reflection tasks to link professional development to our school/classroom goals? Take the 3-2-1 comments from the exit card and apply those comments to daily work in the classroom?

What if we flipped and incorporated these reflection tools into our pedagogy and not as a “check the box activity” or for performance appraisal purposes? But to make explicit links through our reflection tasks on how their daily practices are addressing the school’s goals and urgent student learning needs.

A good place to start is through professional development. After identifying the key learning from the professional development, ask:

  1. How do you take the theory and/or examples and then turn them into action?  

  2. How do you drive the learning forward in away that will not only uphold strong pedagogy, but address the learning needs of the students in your classroom?

  3. What else do you need to keep learning as an educator while addressing the learning needs of your students?

  4. How will you monitor the impact on student learning through the work?

Through my experience leading activities on school improvement, quite often hear (or read on feedback forms) that a barrier to completing this work is “not enough time.” The teams needed more time to talk, more time to gather data, more time to reflect. In fact, “more time” was the number one requested resource.

Let’s just face it, there will never be enough time.

What if we switched it around, made time and structured reflective conversations that aligned with our professional development into our long range planning time? Instead of “pop reflections” where we pose a question and encourage five minutes or focused discussion, encourage educators to bring data to frame the conversation. Build on that data to create next steps and then apply those next steps in the classroom.

In order for this to be truly successful we need monitoring systems that work for the individual teacher. Methods where the teacher doesn’t only collect the data, but uses their own framework to analyze the data and plan next steps. In this framework, the teacher can synthesize all of the observations/conversations and funnel them into actionable next steps.

Create a sustainable monitoring system that works for you. There are lots of options - from running log using a Google Doc to physical portfolio of student work. Pick one that works for you and set aside some time to link your professional development with addressing the student learning needs.

I encourage educators to start moving away from “pop reflections” and reflecting when someone tells you to do so. Being explicit, and setting goals the merge your professional development, data and student learning needs, will have great, positive impact not only on student learning, but your own pedagogical development.