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But Why Do We Do What We Do?

December 8, 2015

Master Teacher Guest Blog Series

Part 4: Reflect Honestly

Post 4 of 4

Merriam-Webster defines self-reflection as “careful thought about your own behavior and beliefs.” As such, self-reflection can be a lonely experience. In the context of teaching, you’re turning the focus inward and assessing not your students, but yourself. What did you do to make this lesson successful? What could you do better next time?

Typically, there are no shortcuts to self-reflection, no way for someone else to be self-reflective for you. However, through their commitment to reflecting on each and every lesson on the site, BetterLesson’s Master Teachers give you a head start to this reflective process!

Today, Caroline Courter describes the process that she and other BetterLesson Master Teachers use when reflecting on their lessons and offers tips on how readers can use these reflections to inform their own teaching. Enjoy!


 

courterHonest reflection is an integral practice for a person’s development. This is true professionally, personally, and academically. It is even true for students! From kindergarten through high school, the Engineering strand of Next Generation Science Standards specifically outlines the ways in which students should be reflecting on their experiences and understanding of the world and proposing solutions to solve the problems they identify.

  • At the lower elementary level students are required to “…define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.”
  • In upper elementary this standard expands, requiring students to “…identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.”
  • By middle school, students are expected to “develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.”

We are requiring students to be reflective problem solvers who question the world around them and seek to make improvements. As teachers, we need to be engaging in honest reflection as well!

The barrier to honest reflection as a teacher is real: it takes time. With all of our other responsibilities, time is at a premium. In my experience, however, the time I spent reflecting on my lessons paid off enormously down the road. I am no stranger to reflection – as a Master Teacher for BetterLesson, I provided at least one reflection on every single lesson I wrote. The benefits of all this reflection are two-fold:

First, as the Master Teacher, I slid into a routine of reflection and came to anticipate what I would write up. I found myself analyzing the lesson even before I taught it, which was great because I was able to improve my lessons based on what I thought may become an area of improvement.

Second, it benefits teachers who use my lessons because as you (the reader) view a lesson and the reflection, you can see areas that I would change or areas that worked well for my class. It provides you with an analysis before you teach the lesson, enabling you to change or adapt the lesson as necessary to meet the needs of your students. For example, at the beginning of my unit on Soil and Water, I wrote this reflection about the benefits of administering a pre-assessment before diving into the lesson.

In addition to the reflections, another aspect that is incredibly helpful about Master Teacher lessons is the inclusion of the “why” behind choices made in the classroom. Instead of the typical online lesson plans that only provide the materials and procedure, Master Teachers include their rationale behind the choices they make. For example, in the Preparation section of my lesson on Living Organisms in the Rainforest, I explain what my students have already covered before I teach this lesson. This helps you, as the reader, to understand how I have developed background knowledge before this lesson so that you can either teach similar background knowledge or adjust the lesson to meet your needs.

In the Think section of my lesson on Investigating Balance, I describe why modeling the expectations before beginning the activity is vital to the success of the lesson. This is intended to provide another layer of explanation for you before teaching the lesson. By including the ‘why’ behind our choices, Master Teachers want you to be able to see that every move in a classroom can be used as an important instructional decision. Ultimately, by providing reflections and rationale for instructional choices, the BetterLesson Master Teacher lessons can become a helpful way for you to make more purposeful choices in your own classroom and maximize student learning!


 

Dr. Caroline Courter is an AIG (Academically and Intellectually Gifted) specialist for K-5 students at the New Hanover County Schools in Wilmington, North Carolina. She holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Supervision, both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. A veteran teacher, Caroline has brought her passion for STEM to North Carolina students in Kindergarten, first, second, and fifth grades.

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