August 4, 2016

Reflecting on What's in Your Closet, Part 2

Back in March, I wrote a post that started with...

“Students who reflect of their learning are better learners than those who do not” (Barkley, p. 30).

To continue this thought, I would like to apply my original post about students integrating new knowledge into existing knowledge through reflection (scaffolding) to us as teachers. The metaphor below can be interpreted many ways. Lets take a look at what's in the closet of a teacher as it relates to critical reflection.

Cross stated in Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley (2009) that:

"it is rather easy to hang clothes in a well-organized closet and retrieve them ready-to-wear. The point he makes here is that this process is easy when you understand and implement the principles of organization for the closet. For example, shoes go on the floor, knits are folded on shelves, suits have special hangers, etc. He also says that if, on the other hand, you just throw things into the closet and close the door, it will be a challenge to find the shirt you are looking for or both socks in the pair" (p. 30-34).

Reflection, in my opinion, inspires change. To make change, you have to identify what needs to be changed. We don’t just wake up and decide to change. This is a process that comes from seeing, doing, or learning something new, which is what I can the spark that ignites change. This can be done only by opening the closet door and looking inside. When understanding our principles of organizing the closet, and identifying what we have in the closet already, we are able to add in our new purchases.

Brookfield, In The Skillful Teacher (2006) states that when our teaching is determined by norms, habits, or uncritical imitation of teachers we have had personally, or are around us in our workplace, we have less chance of helping our students learn (p. 25). That's our goal right? We want them to learn. But are we helping them learn in the best way, and the way that works best for them?

When we can see our practice through the eyes of another, we are much better able to present lessons and teach in ways that are perceived as we intend them to be. This increases the likelihood that our actions will have the effects we want (Brookfield, p. 26). If you have ever wondered why something did not work, then reflection is for you! Ask yourself:
  • Why did this not work? 
  • What did my students not understand? 
  • How can I make them more engaged in this topic? 
  • What would I like to do if I were learning this? 
If you have been teaching the same book, same level, same activities day in and day out, a certain emotional flatness sets is and you may have become disinterested in the relevance and effectiveness of your lessons and tasks. "When we practice critical reflection, this staleness quickly dissipates. We discover that things are happening in our classes we had no awareness of (Brookfield, p. 27).

My call to action is to encourage you all to exercise your higher order thinking muscles and demonstrate reflective practices in your dealings with colleagues, and in the classroom. There is no better way to encourage critical thinking than to model it. Be the change you want to see.

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