How to Help Teachers to Reflect on Their Teaching

As an administrator, I conduct formal observations on all the teachers in our building. After the observation, I hold a meeting with the teacher to go over what I observed and ways they can grow for next time. I always ask the same question when I begin these meetings “Tell me what you think went well in the lesson and what you might change for next time”. Almost every teacher says they think the lesson went well. That students were understanding. If they mention any thing they might change it usually is a situation issue such as the technology wasn’t working or the students came back from break late so I didn’t have enough time for the lesson. I really struggle to get teachers to be able to think critically about their lesson and identify ways they can grow. I suppose as a teacher I wasn’t always big on reflecting on my teaching either. So here are a couple strategies I’ve used over the years that I’ve found helpful in helping teachers to reflect on their teaching.

1. Peer Observations

When trying to open teachers up to growth, I like to start by asking teachers to observe another teacher. This is a lot less threatening than someone coming into their classroom. But it provides a lot of benefit! Sometimes teachers can get stuck in a silow because they only ever see themselves teaching. They don’t really have any idea what the other teachers in the building are doing. Just getting teachers into another teacher’s classroom for a few minutes can open up a lot of new ideas and get them asking questions.

I started instructional rounds at my school. These are like mini peer observations. I choose 3 teachers every month or two who are really good at a certain skill or teaching technique. Then I send an email out to the whole staff and tell them the peer observation topics. If they are interested in those topics they can sign up for the observation. I find that having a specific focus keeps the peer observations positive. The purpose isn’t about the observing teachers telling the teacher we are observing what they can do better. The purpose is to see something great that teacher is doing and bring it back to their own classroom. If you want to get the forms I use for instructional rounds you can click below.

2. Study Student Data

You can’t deny what the data says. So even if a teacher thinks students are understanding and learning what she is teaching, if the data says otherwise the teacher needs to reflect on their own teaching and ask why does the data show something different than I thought?

What data can you study?

Teachers can look at formative assessments, summative assessments, baseline assessment vs end of the year assessment, student reflections etc. You can compare individual student progress or you can compare how the class did as a whole for a unit or topic.

3. Ask More Specific Questions

Each week our teachers meet with their grade level teams for collaboration and planning. Sometimes I join their meeting. I wanted to guide them in looking more critically at their own teaching. Sometimes we all get in a habit and continue the same routine each day without really thinking about whether or not it’s working. I created some discussion cards to steer our conversations. Sometimes we pick one card and discuss it as a group. Sometimes each teacher picks a different card, reads it aloud and answers the question for themself. The others in the groups are hopefully spurred to think of their own answer to the question too. You can get these discussion cards in my TPT store.

4. Help Them Set Goals

Each year the teachers at our school create a SMART Goal. Their goal is tied to their previous year’s evaluation. They decide how and at what pace they are going to work on the goal. If they want to try to achieve growth by December they can. Or they can have the goal be for the entire year. They come up with specific ways to reach the goals and how they will measure their growth.

The Importance of Reflection

Encouraging reflective practice in schools, not only benefits individual teachers but the school as a whole. 

Developing a culture of reflection improves schools by creating a strong foundation for continuously improving teaching and learning. It sends the message that learning is important for both students and teachers.

Reflecting practice creates an environment of collaboration as teachers question and adapt alongside their coworkers. Teachers can team-up, drawing on expertise and offer each other support. This helps to develop good practice across the school, resulting in a more productive working environment. 

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