By Teresa Lien
Whether it’s annual New Year's resolutions or looking ahead to the upcoming decade, it’s all about reflections. We reflect on the past and reflect on the future. Being a reflective practitioner is imperative for growth as educators. It reinforces our commitment to excellence. I imagine an initial response might be “When do I have the time?” Or, “How can I think about anything beyond what needs to happen in the moment?” Those are fair questions.
Reflecting is thinking. We are continuously reflecting. As Charlotte Danielson says, “Teaching is a thinking person’s job.” That being said, the questions to ask are, "How do we think productively so it includes reflection on teaching? What do we do to support our thinking so that we reflect in teaching?"
Most often, when we take the time to reflect, it comes after the lesson has ended and we recall the negative or less than positive aspects of the teaching and learning. Then we ruminate about what went wrong or what frustrated us. This might lead us into a series of self-defeating behaviors and reflecting could become a cycle of corrective responses. We reflect on practice with faded memories.
What if we intentionally reflect in practice? Would our teaching acuity, the clarity or sharpness of how we teach, increase our command of the craft? What if we concentrated on what is working in the moment? How would we apply our strengths to reinforce other teaching skills? This would not involve additional time, but it would require us to deliberately maintain a focus to reflect in teaching. To be a skillful reflective practitioner, a structure to accompany our thinking will increase its effectiveness and benefits.
Most professions use a framework to navigate their work. The type of framework varies depending on the purpose of their work. In education, we have choices for frameworks. If the teacher is the single most important factor to student achievement in schools, then let’s spend our energy and attention on what matters to teaching. A robust framework provides educators with a foundation to structure thinking about teaching and learning for multiple purposes.
The assets of the Framework for Teaching (Danielson) is that it supports deeper learning for teachers and students, has the lenses of instructional excellence and equity, and promotes a learning culture. It provides a common language and contributes to the teacher’s thinking for their work. For example, a teacher who internalizes the Framework for Teaching knows how to pursue higher levels of engagement during a lesson so that they are able to make instructional shifts in the moment. When teachers and other educators collaborate, the Framework for Teaching guides their dialogue to remain constructive to teaching and learning. During professional conversations, informal or formal, the exchanges are reliable with the Framework for Teaching. Whether thinking through the Framework Domains or the Framework Clusters, teachers and other educators will be confident their work is consistent with advancing student learning. The Framework for Teaching identifies our strengths, as individuals and teams, to inform how we build our capacity to excel for our students.
My 2020 vision is for educators to achieve coherence in their learning, from teaching moments to professional learning, for meaningful and lasting results that strengthens their teaching acuity through reflective practice. I will continue to work in the field to support this vision.