The Reflective Educator/Facilitator Part Two: Meaningful Self-Reflection and Record-Keeping to Improve Your Practice
My most recent post from the Inspired Educator Blog Archives “Embracing the Quiet and Taking Time to Reflect” focused on the importance of prioritizing time for self-reflection to improve your work as a teacher, trainer, counselor or group facilitator. Taking the time to reflect on our professional practice helps us find meaning and develop insight into what strategies or approaches are most effective. It helps us to use what we learn each day from our clients or students to improve our work in the future.
Reflective practice is an important part of documenting and communicating the value of your program or course offerings. Ongoing gathering of data such as quotes, student work, and client testimonials can help you “tell the story” of your program or class and monitor progress and successes along the way. Maintaining an ongoing record of lesson plans and activity sequences can be very useful in planning future programs or lessons. Some of our best tools and strategies are developed “on the fly” when a lesson plan goes awry, or we adapt to the needs at hand and create something new or better. If we don’t have a systematic way to capture these teachable moments they can be lost.
Though we know the importance of reflective practice, many of us find that daily reflection and record keeping can be a great challenge with all the demands of the present. Often we engage only in record keeping that is required for administrative needs rather than meaningful reflection that will improve our practice.
There are simple ways to start or improve your self-reflective practice. Practitioner reflection could take the form of an electronic or handwritten journal, a daily lesson or training report, a scrapbook/sketchbook, a space on your lesson planning sheet or calendar for notes, an activity log, or regular check-ins and report-outs with a co-teacher or colleague. Experiment and make it meaningful and useful for you.
The logbook from my workshops or team building sessions includes notes on successes, variations of activities, and program outcomes. I alternate between handwritten and electronic versions of my notes and include pictures, quotes from group members, group generated lists, drawings, and other artifacts. This ongoing journal has helped me understand what activities work best and when. I use it when the educators and trainers I work with want follow up resources and notes. It helps facilitate our planning of what’s next, improving upon lessons, initiating creative inspiration for new activities, and identifying opportunities for collaboration.
These records have also allowed us see the progress of our participants over time and share the value of these experiences to administrators, parents, other educators and community members. Regardless of how you keep records, the most important thing is to make reflection a regular habit and to record not only what happened, but also what it meant and how the information will improve your work.
Suggested Questions for Practitioner Reflection
- What was the goal of the lesson or experience? Was that goal met? How?
- What activities did you plan and which ones did you use with the group? Did you learn something new about the activities? Why were the changes made?
- Were there some new adaptations or adjustments to the lesson that should be repeated?
- How did the group progress through the activities/material? Was there enough time?
- What were some participant reactions to or reflections on the experience?
- What did you learn from your participants? What did you learn about yourself?
- Was there an important moment or outcome that should be shared with a program administrator or other interested party?
- Are there photos, testimonials, quotes, journal statements or other documentation of the experience and outcomes that should be saved or shared?
- What would you do differently in the future?
- What will you do to follow up the next time the group or class meets?
Find a system of regular reflective practice that works for you. Consciously carving out time in your schedule to reflect, plan and record experiences is worth the effort. When you regularly reflect on your work and its meaning, methods and outcomes, you will continually improve your practice by looking more deeply into the WHY behind what you do.
Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts on the subject of practitioner self-reflection, suggestions for improving self-reflective practice or reflective questions to add to the list.
Look for my next post on personal reflection and planning to improve your practice.
Happy New Year!