Craftsmanship, Feedback, and Reflection (Part 1) - Steve Barkley

Craftsmanship, Feedback, and Reflection (Part 1)

Learning Pioneers, an online learning network for educator collaboration and learning, featured a video conversation with Ron Berger and Trevor MacKenzie exploring craftsmanship, feedback and reflection. I have previously had the pleasure of learning from both Ron and Trevor. As I listened to their conversation that mostly focused on feedback, reflection, and craftsmanship for students, I found myself continually reflecting on how the same points they raised applied to instructional coaches and school leaders, planning for teachers.

Here are some of their points along with my reflections.

Woman tailor working on leather fabric


Ron began a discussion of craftsmanship identifying that in the real world we are judged by the quality of person we are and the quality of the work we do, not by scores on a timed assessment.

In an interview with Edutopia Ron provides this illustration of  rigor and high standards while doing important, exceptional work that has an impact beyond the classroom.

“My sixth graders tested the water quality of all the local streams and lakes. They tested everyone’s private wells in town to see if their water was safe to drink. We were able to take elementary-age kids and do adult-level scientific and demographic research. They learned how to use computers for this work and prepared reports for the town and for the state.”

Ron describes that we trust craftspeople because they have high standards. Trevor added that craftspeople take exceptional care and work in a process of refinement. That work leads to pride and joy in what they create.

As I listened to their conversation, I pondered the value of considering craftsmanship in teaching. My sense is that teachers have too few opportunities to discuss the refinement of their practice. Certainly, it’s the kind of conversations that should be occurring in coaching conferences and PLC settings. How do school leaders communicate to teachers that they recognize their craftsmanship and their high standards? How do we communicate the trust we have in their work? Teachers taking increasing control of focusing their own professional growth plans and PLC agendas is one way to communicate that trust.


Both Ron and Trevor reinforced the commitment of time to encourage and support reflection, connecting to John Dewey’s statement, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Ron: “Without time to reflect and structures to reflect students are not going to learn.”

Trevor: “Are we providing space and slowing down to give students the opportunity to practice thoughtfulness and develop self -awareness?”

Thoughtfulness word abstract in vintage letterpress wood type printing blocks

Much of the growth that teachers gain from coaching occurs from reflection that is generated in coaching conversations. I always smile when a coachee looks at me and says, “That’s a great question.” I’m amazed when a coachee generates an idea for advancing student success during our coaching and wants to give me the credit for the idea. It was all the teacher’s idea that emerged from her reflection.

Alexandra Spalding’s post, The Ultimate Guide to Reflective Practice in Teaching states that,” the  best teachers are reflective, and they’re the first to say that their practice can always be improved.” She identifies these benefits to reflective teaching:

1. Reflection is at the heart of effective professional development. If you don’t spend time giving purposeful thought to your professional practice you cannot improve.

2. Remain relevant and innovative

Self-reflection helps you to create and experiment with new ideas and approaches to ensure your teaching is relevant, fresh and impactful for your students.

3. Stay learner focused

Reflective practice will help you better understand your learners, their abilities and needs. By reflecting, you can better put yourself in your students’ shoes and see yourself through their eyes.

4. Developing reflective learners

Reflective teachers are more likely to develop reflective learners. If teachers practise reflection they can more effectively encourage learners to reflect on, analyse, evaluate and improve their own learning.

5. Humility

When you reflect you must be honest. At least honest with yourself about your choices, success, mistakes, and growth. Self-reflection acts as a constant reminder to stay humble and continue working hard to achieve results.”

Craftmanship requires reflection. If school leaders value teacher craftsmanship, providing the space and structures to encourage reflection will be part of leadership’s purposeful practice. In part 2 of this blog, I’ll look at the connections that Ron and Trevor made with feedback to reflection and craftsmanship and share my connections to coaching and leadership.

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One Response to “ Craftsmanship, Feedback, and Reflection (Part 1) ”

  1. Kevin Hatfield Says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful article on teacher efficacy.

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