I came across two interesting articles on reflection : “Making Reflection a Cornerstone of School Culture” – Part I and Part II. The authors are Bob Garmston and Bill Powell. The first article opens with the question “By what criteria should schools be evaluated?” It compares the differing views of politicians, parents and accredictaion agencies. It then refers to Roland Barth’s classic work, Improving Schools from Within.

Barth suggests the quality of a school is often reflected with remarkable precision in the quality of the adult-to-adult relationships within the school house. He observes that the manner in which adults speak to each other, share ideas form work partnerships and even manage conflicts is often a profoundly accurate predictor of the quality of learning within the classroom.

I have previously pointed to Barth’s writing. I like where this article heads as it reflects on what adult-to-adult relationships have to do with student learning. The article suggests the process of professional reflection. It goes on to say that we learn not from our experience in the classroom but from our reflection on our teaching and the corresponding student learning (Kusuma-Powell & Powell, 2001.

The article acknowledges that is is possible to engage in professional reflection as a solo activity by keeping a professional journal but the value increases when this reflection is expanded to colleagues and the instructional improvement can be powerful. The article goes on to suggest seven reasons why schools should embed reflection in the fafric of their culture.

Blogs can really be a great vehicle for sharing reflections. I really would like to see the day come when we educators, along with our students, are able to spend a good portion of the school day doing just this…reflecting about what we are learning.

The second part explored how to initiate and develop reflection in schools. It talked about not assuming the skills sets for reflection and collaboration are already present and may need to be taught. I have found that students have had little practice with this, both at the elementary and yes, even the university level. Actually, teachers also. One interesting example they gave was one of administrators and teachers using “walk through observations” as a springboard to promote teacher reflection on differentiated instruction.

How about a walk through observation on the use of technology and how it is being used? That would make for some interesting discussions.

I’ve been thinking about some ways to use blogs to help students develop the ability to assess thier own work and their thinking “about their thinking”. If we gave short assignments on blogs where they talk about their thinking this could help. I’m going to think of more ways to foster making connections between related concepts. I’m going to work at ways to think aloud more in front of students and encourage them to do the same. Regular writing is a must and what better way to do this than through blogs. It doesn’t have to be a big project.

Some possibilities:

Write down the most pressing question that is on their mind after a lesson. If they don’t have one have them imagine what another peer’s question might be? Then the next day have them comment to one of their classmates’ questions.

Re-state something said during class discussion and add something to the conversation.

Could there be another point of view on resolving a problem or an issue? Develop it.
Pose one multiple choice question and one essay type question for the material we covered today. Which one would assess learning better and why? This could make for a great classroom discussion on assessment.
Imagine yourself as the expert of this subject. Predict what will change in the next five years and give your reasons.

If you had only a few minutes to summarize the lesson today what would be the best way to do that so someone would remember what you said?

Can you give an example of how we could check to be sure if the information we are using is accurate?

State what is unclear to you about what we discussed. Have another student try to clarify for you.

Write down a “think aloud” about something you are interested in learning about that you believe is relevant and is related to what we are studying in class.

Hmmmm, I’m still thinking about this but we really need to be thinking of ways we can use blogs to get the students engaged – not cover more and more content but let them read, write, think, rethink – hmmm, let’s blog!