When Teachers Thrive, Students Thrive: Creating the Professional Learning System that Makes the Difference—Part 1.1: Reflective Practice

November 17, 2023

Introduction to a three-part blog series

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

We know educators strive for excellence in their practice and work tirelessly to create equitable, trusting classrooms for all students. To enhance this work, the Danielson Group’s approach to professional learning supports district leaders, school leaders, and teachers to build a professional learning system that is guided and defined by five interrelated principles, driven by three spheres of influence, and models a constructivist approach to learning.

Three Spheres Of Influence

    • Reflective Practice

    • Collaborative Inquiry

    • Instructional Coaching


When anchored intentionally and purposefully to a defined instructional vision, these three constructs maximize the possibilities for school improvement and teacher growth.

More About Reflective Practice

The ability to engage in reflective practice that leads to professional growth and student success is an essential aspect of teaching. When we engage successfully in reflection, we are better able to focus our intentions on student learning.

Reflecting on teaching practice begins with a clear understanding of the agreed upon definition of instructional expectations. Teaching is a complex, multi-faceted undertaking which requires ongoing decision making at a fast pace. 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. This includes attention not only to the specific events or activities that occur during learning but also to one’s beliefs, mindsets, and identities that may influence the experience of students. Reflection may occur in conversation with colleagues, by keeping a journal or written record of reflections, and by engaging in the process of thinking about – and acting on – what you observe and are able to learn on your own.

Ultimately, reflection is a habit and mindset that teachers use in a variety of contexts, including their personal lives. It’s a disposition that they also work to encourage and build in students. Reflecting with accuracy and specificity, and being able to apply new learning to future interactions, is a skill that should be supported by 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 leading to improvements in teaching and better outcomes for students.

Download A New Tool

Now it’s your turn: download the Self-Assessment and Reflection Protocol from our Teaching Important Content resource suite to practice within your own professional learning community. This protocol can be used in multiple ways and for a variety of purposes.

    • As an opportunity for individual teachers to reflect on their practice by focusing on one, or all, of these critical components.

    • By grade level and/or department teams, or an entire staff to gauge how teachers are doing and where support might be needed.

    • As a way to gauge teacher growth and progress from a beginning point to an end-point (and along the way), whether it’s the beginning/end of the year, or as a readiness indicator at the launch of an inquiry cycle.

Stay Tuned

Our team is here to support the connectivity and the growth of educators within schoolwide systems as you continue to build engaging professional learning communities. The Danielson Group is motivated to continue these conversations with each one of you as readers, thought partners, and district partners in this series to help every educator take action in support of instructional excellence and the success of each and every student.

In this extended blog series, we will share more examples of practice and district models to highlight the three spheres of influence that provide the organizing structures and processes for the guiding principles to come to life and support deeper understanding and intentional, purposeful instructional decisions.