When Teachers Thrive, Students Thrive: Creating the Professional Learning System that Makes the Difference—Part 1.2: Reflective Practice

December 12, 2023

By: Lee Kappes, Ed.D, Managing Director at the Danielson Group

Building upon last month’s post about Reflective Practice, we continue our focus on this important topic by sharing a few examples of practice and district models to highlight this sphere of influence’s ability to support deeper understanding and intentional, purposeful instructional decisions.

As a reminder, to be reflective about one’s teaching practice requires a process that includes: thinking about actions, reviewing evidence of student learning, identifying strengths and growth opportunities, and seeking new knowledge and new perspectives that can enhance one’s practice. The Danielson Group’s work in school district communities across the country have provided us multiple opportunities to observe many different examples of reflection in action, including: personal journal entries at the end of PLC time, one-on-one and group conversations with colleagues, observing and reflecting on the practice of colleagues, response to feedback protocols, written records of reflections, and more.


Effective PLCs

A professional learning community (PLC) is an important vehicle to provide educators opportunities for reflective practice and self directed learning within their work day. By organizing PLC activities in your school community, you can lay the foundation to support teachers, coaches, and school leaders as they work to make purposeful instructional decisions. Below is an example of the work the DG is currently engaged in with one of our PreK-12 school districts.


Reflective District Leadership Model: South Orange-Maplewood School District

An example from the field: Brian Johnson, Director of Learning Design and Delivery

Over the last three years, the Danielson Group and the School District of South Orange – Maplewood have engaged in building trust, empathy, and principled decision-making with all supervising school district administrators using a PLC model to support collaborative learning. Once every quarter district administrators came together in professional learning groups which I facilitated. In these sessions, the school leaders observed practice and analyzed a subset of Framework for Teaching (FFT) components that focused on a current district initiative. They practiced providing growth-focused feedback on those same components during formal and informal observations. The leadership PLC time also provided opportunities for administrators to raise challenges, share successes, and clarify expectations related to the implementation of the FFT as a tool to support growth and development.

The PLC Process: Reflective Practice In Action

A professional learning community (PLC) is a collective endeavor that allows educators to engage in reflection and collaborative conversations to generate new ideas, advance their learning, and enhance their practice. Using an inquiry-based approach when meeting in PLCs provides opportunities for communities of educators to explore collective and individual strengths and areas of growth.

Reflecting with accuracy and specificity, and being able to apply new learning to future interactions, is a skill that should be engaged in and supported by teachers, mentors, coaches, instructional leaders, and colleagues.
Over time, reflective practice becomes the way to think about and analyze one’s teaching practices through the lens of student success, which will lead to improvements in teaching and better outcomes for students.