Somewhere along the way ‘reflection’ might have come to mean ‘looking back at what we did and thinking about what we could have done better.’ This might be in the minds of students, looking at their work and ‘filling in another reflection.’ It might also be faculty looking at those empty boxes at the bottom of the unit planner and thinking ‘why do I need to do this’?
When we think about reflection for ourselves and others, we need to frame it carefully. The Oxford online dictionary as “serious thought or consideration.” It is not time-bound and it can take place at any time. When pair this with a pragmatic, future-oriented approach to inquiry as “critical reflective thought,” we see that it should appear frequently in the learning process.Pausing for thought, reviewing our work and self-assessing can give students the gift of time to think about their ‘gap’ between where they are and where they need to be, and of course about how they can close it. It is important to avoid ‘reflection fatigue’ with students, and getting creative can help with this: check out the Harvard Project Zero thinking routines for some inspiration. A colleague recently returned from a workshop with the idea of using Learner Profile attributes to frame reflection, too, which is an idea I’ll try out soon.
The new MYP planner, with three sections for reflection: (before, during and after the unit) nominally re-emphasises the importance of taking time out to give serious thought and consideration to the unit. Almost as soon as it was released I heard the comment “why should teachers reflect on what they haven’t yet done?“, belying the ‘reflection as backwards only’ misconception. If we communicate this clearly to teachers and try to build a culture of using the planner as a genuine tool for collaborative planning, rather than a bureaucratic chore we would hope to see a more self-directed approach to planning and critical evaluation of units and practices.
“I reflect on my reflection” is a lyric from the brilliant ‘Man or Muppet’ song. Enjoy – it’s better than this blog post.