John Dewey once stated, “We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” Ongoing reflection is essential for our growth as educators. Consistent reflection on our experiences, and setting clear and meaningful goals for our own progress as teachers, should be a part of each day.
Finding the time to engage in regular personal reflection can be a challenge, with demands such as lesson planning, grading, and other responsibilities. However, reflection and goal setting helps us better understand our professional needs and plan the next steps in our learning journey. Through reflection, we focus on the continued development of essential SEL skills such as self-awareness and self-management and also focus on decision-making in our practice.
With daily reflection, we will grow and consistently improve our skills, while better processing complex or challenging experiences. When we take time to focus on some key questions such as “What went well today in our lessons?” “What is something that could have gone better?” it also helps us with our well-being. Reflecting gives us an opportunity to pause and recognize the impact of our work each day, which promotes more satisfaction and can decrease feelings of burnout that educators may experience.
teacher reflection Tips
Each day, take a few minutes to jot down thoughts about a class you taught, a conversation you had, or a tool you explored. This can help you be more intentional about and supported in your reflective practice.
1. Establish a dedicated reflection time: Being consistent with reflection is key. Consider setting aside a specific time each day or times during the week to reflect. Whether you start your day thinking about goals, focus on reflection during your lunch break or a planning period, or reflect on your teaching at the end of the day, find a time that works best for you. Make this time non-negotiable in your day.
I’ve been using Focusable this year to take time to focus, think, and reflect without distraction. Focusable is a fitness tracking app for your mind that helps you to pause in the day and reflect. It will help you to gain a better understanding of yourself and what is important to you and how that can impact your work.
2. Journaling and reflection tools: Capturing your thoughts throughout the day is important. At times, we may think about our experiences and consider new ideas but then lack the ability to capture these ideas. Consider getting a reflection journal or writing space to make notes of your thoughts and observations on a daily basis. Journals do not need to be anything fancy: You can use a notebook or even digital options like Google Docs or a tool like Evernote.
You can also get creative—grab a stack of note cards or make a digital reflection board using something like Google Jamboard or Padlet to post ideas. Write down at least two things you noticed that day, and then review your thoughts. Is there something you would change? How might you improve from the prior day?
3. Quick class closers: Try to take a few minutes at the end of each class or lesson to reflect on what went well and what you could improve upon. You can talk with students as they leave class and find out what helped and what they need for the next class. These quick interactions can spark reflective practice.
You can also use Google or Microsoft Forms occasionally to gather feedback from students about how the class is going. This can be a quick and efficient way to gather some information to guide your reflection and make adjustments in class as needed.
4. Voice memos and podcasts: When I started podcasting, it was simply a way to reflect on the methods and tools I was using in my classroom. Every Monday for the past three years, I’ve sat down during my lunch break and recorded an episode of the podcast. Even if you don’t publish the podcast, listening to your thoughts helps to promote deeper reflection.
Tools like Voxer, Anchor, and Flip can help you record your thoughts. Voxer is a walkie-talkie app that can be used to have group conversations or to store your own audio notes. You can even message and share links. Anchor is a podcasting tool that is easy to get started with, whether you record on your phone or your computer, and for your own use or to share with others. Flip can be used to record short clips of your thoughts that you can then go back and review, or you can even set up a group with colleagues to share your reflections and provide feedback to each other.
5. Professional learning communities (PLC): Teachers can reflect with their colleagues in a PLC by sharing their teaching experiences and discussing ways to improve their practice. Observations by administrators or colleagues can help us to include more reflection in our practice. With options like social media networks such as Slack, it is easy to have quick asynchronous conversations that can help you and your colleagues reflect and provide feedback to each other.
If time constraints make those observations difficult to schedule, there are virtual options as well. I’ve used Edthena, a virtual coaching platform. I record myself teaching or upload a video presentation and then use it to guide my reflections as my virtual AI coach asks me to think about my instructional methods. It is helpful to have guiding questions and interactions that give teachers access to their own coach to help them continue to reflect and build professional skills and have access to helpful resources.
6. Avoiding isolation: As you’re reflecting, self-care is important. You can try to make time to take a walk during the day. Be intentional about checking in with colleagues and exchanging ideas. Grabbing a cup of coffee with a teacher friend once a week can make a big difference to your well-being. These are opportunities to share ideas, ask questions, and connect with our colleagues. It’s important to avoid isolation in our days so that we can keep learning and growing together.
Taking time to reflect on your teaching practice can be a powerful way to grow and improve as a teacher. It can also help teachers to stay motivated and engaged in their work, as they can see the progress they are making and the impact they are having on their students.