John Dewey pointed us to an important understanding: “We do not learn from experiences but from reflection on our experiences.” In this podcast, Steve examines how teachers can provide students teaching and coaching to build their reflection capabilities. He also examines why teachers should seek collaborative opportunities to create time and structure for their own reflection.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with teachers in and out of their classroom settings. I have a great respect for the complexity of teaching and I know that all great teachers are continuous learners. I invite you to join me as I explore my thoughts and insights on a variety of topics, connected to teaching and learning. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:29 Students and teachers learning from reflection. Reflection is an important tool for learning. Reflection is defined as thinking for an extended period by linking recent experiences to similar ones in order to promote a more complex and interrelated mental schema or patterns. The thinking involves looking for commonalities, differences and interrelations beyond superficial elements. Reflection develops higher order thinking skills. Research indicates that reflection can create greater self awareness as well as greater appreciation of process as well as product and a deepening of learning.
Steve: 01:31 You’ve all heard the old saying that experience is the best teacher but John Dewey shared it correctly when he stated that we do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experiences. When learners passively receive information and don’t have time or use the time to reflect upon that experience, they are much less likely to use the information. During virtual online learning, teachers often assign a reflection question or reflection activity for students as independent or asynchronous work. It might sound like this: Having watched the two opposing views in the videos reflect upon how either or both have influenced your views. Many students need instruction and modeling and probably coaching to develop their reflection capacities. Often when asked to reflect students are more likely to summarize or even more limiting, report or sequence or retell what has happened. The critical element of reflection is asking oneself questions that guide thinking and often generate additional questions. Consider the earlier example. Having watched the two opposing views on the videos, reflect on how either or both might influence your views. A teacher may need to guide learners to building an answer to that question. In other words, to building their reflection. The teacher might provide questions that preceed the reflection. Questions like this: What view did you have about this topic before watching the video clips?
Steve: 04:01 What information in the videos was new to you or was information you had forgotten? How were the videos similar and different from each other? What questions came to your mind as you watched the videos? Have the videos influenced your views? Why or why not? At this point, the student should be able to write an in depth quality reflection to respond to the teacher’s original task assignment. Having watched the two opposing views on the videos, reflect on how either or both might influence your view. A student needs to recognize that when being asked to reflect, the first part of reflecting is coming up with the questions that one needs to ask him or herself. Having done some teaching and coaching on reflection, a next step that a teacher might take could be to ask students to collaborate together and then later, independently, to create questions that they would use as a guide to a reflective task.
Steve: 05:37 In other words, the teacher’s first assignment might be to prepare the questions you would ask yourself to respond to this reflection request and give the students feedback on those questions and then have the students take the next step of responding with their reflection. As an example, the teacher might assign a task: reflect upon the quality of work that you did in completing the social studies report on an explorer. First, create a list of questions that you will ask yourself before writing your reflection. Sample questions could be: how much time did I spend on researching and writing the report? How closely did I meet the requirements of the report? What did I do that wasn’t required? What did I learn? Is there anything I might do differently next time? By modeling your reflections and teaching, guiding and coaching your students in reflection, you can empower them with this important success skill. Reflection is a critical skill for us as teachers to advance our own ongoing learning. A paper from the Harvard business school titled “Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning,” examined the role of individual learning within organizations and the role of reflection in impacting an individual’s learning.
Steve: 07:32 The study examined the difference between spending time to get more experiences versus spending time reflecting upon experiences that one has had. They examined this dilemma. A minutes spent on accumulating additional experiences is a minute not available for articulating and codifying the experiences that have been accumulated in the past. The use this interesting example: consider a cardiac surgeon in training. She has completed 10 operations under the eye of an instructor. It is in everyone’s interest for the cardiac surgeon to get better as fast as possible. Now imagine that she was given a choice in planning her agenda for the next two weeks. Should she spend that time doing 10 additional surgeries, or should she take the same amount of time alternating between a few additional surgeries and spending time reflecting on the experiences that she has had to better understand what she did right or wrong? Every hour that she spends reflecting on how to get better is costly in terms of lost practice time. Conversely, every hour spent practicing consumes time that she could have spent reflecting on how to get better.
Steve: 09:13 What would be the optimal use of her time? Here was their finding. Once an individual has accumulated a certain amount of experience with a task, the benefit of accumulating experiences is inferior to the benefit of articulating and codifying the accumulated experiences. While that statement really reinforced for me, the importance of teachers working in professional learning communities in peer coaching and with instructional coaches, one of the problems in the hurried school day and the working of teachers in isolation is that we don’t have that time for extended reflection, which is critical in learning from our experiences and thus dramatically increasing our ongoing success with instruction and learning. When I’m coaching a teacher in a post-conference, one of my favorite questions to ask the teacher after a class is what did you learn during the class? This is often reflection time that we as teachers usually don’t get as we rush from one instructional period into the next. Very often when I’m doing a preconference with a teacher, I find that as the teacher is explaining her plan to me, she actually ends up modifying and changing her instructional plan. Not from anything that I suggested, but from the opportunity to reflect as she did the explaining in her words to me. I think it’s important that we stop and reflect upon reflection. When might our students gain more from reflective thinking time about the work that they’ve been doing more than doing more work? And what opportunities should we be creating for ourselves as educators to engage in those conversations with colleagues that provide us additional reflection time? Time to reflect, think, and learn. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 12:00 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley,Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.