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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Reflective practices

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I am currently pursuing a graduate degree on an online university. A part of the course work is to get involved in a blog and share information on improving student's learning. During the course, one of the topics that stood out for me is "Reflective Processes". How many of us as educators engage in the process. It is not just stating at the end of a lesson plan that 95% of the students understood the lesson. I will share an excerpt from a discussion and hope that you may benefit from it. As well as it improves student learning in your classroom. 'All teachers, I believe engage in reflective practices. The difference really lies in the frequency and dept of the process. Kottler, Zehm, Kottler (2005) cited that “teachers seldom take care” to engage in this “important practice” (Tomlinson 2003). Quickly analyzing what the topic should entail, I though the practices constituted the evaluation process that should take place at the end of the lesson. Sure enough, I could not be further from the truth. Reflection is an on going “process” (Kottler, Zehm, Kottler 2005) and not a destination. A philosophical definition would be: Being reflective essentially means being an independent thinker. It means knowing how to reason, to think for yourself, to combine intuition and logic in the process of solving problems. It means being introspective about phenomena that take place both within your internal world and the world around you. (Kottler, Zehm, Kottler, 2005, p. 136). The idea, concept and validity opened my eyes. A deeper understanding brought forth notion of which I will share in the proceeding paragraphs of the discussion. The concepts that I found most interesting are that reflective practices encourage educators to be thinkers (Kottler, Zehm, Kottler, 2005) and “There is no formula to success” (Tomlinson 2003). It is explosive to foster the thought that it is better to think out of the box, and making the lesson realistic to students. If teacher practice to think critically, automatically the students develop the same attitude toward the subject. Accepting the teaching objective as it is “not an option”, but to modify it to suit the situation in the classroom.' Reference: Kottler, J.A., Zehm, S. J., & Kottler, E (2005). On being a teacher: The Human dimension. Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin Press. Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). The response of reflection. ASCD Express. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol1/121-tomlinson.aspx I hope that your appetite got wet. Find out some more about the practices. Send me your feedback on this post. Thank you.

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Janet Tooby's picture
Janet Tooby
mentoring exceptional children 3 to 15

My contact with you about matters of reflecting maintains the view about how we are all 'learning' together. A paper I wrote recently Why Stay on Earth if not to Grow fits with the early childhood ethos that children, and adults select their experiences based on their need to make meaning of their world and as learners we need that reflective feedback about our experiences as you suggest. so having another reflect back our experience presents us with a greater awareness of our selves.

The focus of the paper is about one child in a preschool setting where I worked in a team with six women five of whom were Indigenous to the area. As a team we worked together to support this child whose personal integrity was significantly compromised. We realized the significance of his wounds we creatively changed those traditional routines of getting children ready for school so to assimilate learners to follow adult-centric methods in which compliance and instructions demanded attentiveness, concentration and responsiveness which are often beyond some children's ability to respond.

As Judy Willis suggests some children zone out or act up simply because they are unable to be responsive to our instruction and when a child cannot do what we expect this increases the tension between us. Some children have a mistrust for adults who are trying to coerce them into doing something such as herding them into a corner and make them listen to their words which they may not want to hear for various reasons some children have a reaction to an adults voice of authority.

As we know there is a sequential order in which children learn information and the skills needed to listen to a story with a group of children is quite significant. We make these assumptions that children know how to attend to our words and it's a demand they must comply to. But here we are setting children up to fail when they are unable to respond to us. They may not now about story books and the sequential order of following a story from start to finish. So we are not attuned to them but expect them to be attuned to us. In the centre when I first arrived children as young as three were made to listen to shush and many were targeted for being 'naughty' or 'misbehaving' which compromises their personal integrity.

Gradually the changes we made supported book learning by one wise teacher who showed us how by inviting those children who were not able to respond to picture books in the formal group as she provided them with opportunities to read the rich symbolic imagery that most picture books provide. Listening to children talking switched the interaction into the child centered spheres of learning and as our ability to respond to children is our responsibility it only makes sense to be responsive to their learning stages of psycho social growth. As children exclaim in voices full of joy oh look at this bird hiding look Auntie Val oh yes I can see that bird in the bushes too. This different way of working made a difference rather than enforcing children to hear our speak, instead their individual voices were heard.

This first step to 'reading' the illustrations of a story defines the early antecedents for learning to read.

Listening to children talking also precedes their ability to listen to adults. Reflecting back what children say and do are powerful agents in the antecedents for learning. As we know children will mimic adults therefor our responsiveness to them is gradually impressed upon children's memories. Reflecting back to children what they see and hear brings about a strong sense of trust in themselves and others. How we behave directly effects how children react so when children feel acknowledged this in turn brings them to acknowledgement of themselves it is part of a feed back loop. I see the future of education as an interactive and integrated model in which learners pass through those sequential ordered patterns which comes from their making meaning based on their gifts and talents. I see this as growth in all domains: psycho social, body/ mind consciousness and cognition in resources within space time relationships These are experiences for the child to integrate all the separate parts into a whole person who belongs and has the ability to respond to their internal and external landscapes of consciousness.

About reflective learning you may like to consider this feed back loop in the form of a figure of eight at the cross over is a circle of trust. Our roles and responsibilities as knowledgeable adults are in this domain of creating trusting relationships and for me it looks like this feed back loop with trust between us. I have an enigmatic mystery as does the child so in my loop what protects that is my personal integrity which sits in front of the mystery that is hidden from view. The child in her loop has the same enigma which is out of bounds and her personal integrity forms the same boundary of protection.

In front of that personal integrity I have this ability to filter incoming information. As an adult I can classify what comes to me and categorize information having had a breadth of experience to call upon. So here are the wisdom of age which we cannot expect of a child. These things also are privy to me and I am reserved in my responses to another knowing that my frames of reference are different to another, especially a child. My responses are given based on what I know about children's learning my responses may be in offering materials to extend her experiences or a gesture to say I acknowledge you. I am presenting my trust and belief in her ability to make meaning of her world in ways that are unique to her and in turn this nourishes her growth and sense of well being. We all know what it feels like to be received and embraced and how these experiences supported our steps to learning. We also know how humiliation, shame and being told we are wrong inhibits our ability to relate. What impressions we make become the impressions in learners memories so we walk forward gently when in the presence of another persons integrity. I hope this makes sense to you and good luck with this blog.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts about this topic about being receptive, reflective and responsive to children which I believe enhances their self awareness and awareness of others. Sincerely Janet Hannah Tooby

yours sincerely Janet Hannah Tooby.

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