Looking Back to Move Forward
Reflection. We do it all the time, without even knowing it. We innately think about things we’ve done or the experiences we’ve had (thinking about our thinking), but we have a more difficult time being intentional with our reflection. Thinking about thinking about our thinking. This doesn’t make it any less important, it just means we have to habituate ourselves to become more aware of when we are reflecting, how we document it and how we learn from it.
We’ve been focusing on our reflective practice over the past couple months via several avenues.
** Assessment Policy
As per our staff essential agreement, we review our assessment policy annually in order to refresh ourselves to the idea of assessment and what our beliefs at Prairie Waters are around it. This year we spent time questioning the value of some of our current practices, staff suggested new practices we are incorporating into our assessment repertoire, specifically using social media (class blogs and Twitter) as a way to capture student voice and understanding and to include these anecdotes as feedback on the report card. As well, we reflected on the clarity of the document. If the intended audience is teachers, parents and the greater community, is it written in a way and with language that is easily understandable for all? We also discussed the replacement of Parent/Teacher conferences with Three Way Conferencing. This allows student voice and reflection to be included in the dialogue, as well as drive the goal setting for everyone involved in the child’s learning. It brings the idea of reflection and goal setting into a triangulated environment, with the student at the centre, surrounded by the people that will support them in achieving their self-defined goals.
** Unit of Inquiry Planners
In the hustle and bustle of a school day, teachers find it challenging to find the time to sit down and engage in an in-depth, authentic and meaningful reflection of their inquiries and how they can improve them in future iterations. While they recognize the importance of doing so, it remains a challenge to find a way to do it that doesn’t make it feel ‘force fed’. One of our grade 5 teachers, after reading a Tweet that linked to a blog, which talked about involving the kids in the reflection process of the PYP planner, he decided to give it a go. He wrote the reflection questions that are in the planner to guide teachers’ thinking in somewhat simplified language and gave them to the kids to brainstorm their reflections. What a simplistic way to gauge exactly how the students understood the elements of the unit, and rather than trying to write that in our ‘teacher speak’ in the reflection section, he took it straight from the most reliable source. The students! You can check out his reflective blog post on the process with the kids as well.
** Digital Portfolios
All of our teachers are now working in the digital portfolio domain with their kids, and our students are becoming extremely competent in uploading content to their portfolios. However, in most classrooms, we’re still uploading the same content for every student. Be it a summative assessment, a writing assignment, etc. Teachers are beginning to feel comfortable enough with their students’ abilities at uploading content, that they are now shifting to thinking about kid-selection in what they want on their own portfolio. Along with those selections, it’s vital that the students are reflecting on those pieces. Using an Edutopia document (40 Reflection Questions ) that was created to deepen kids’ reflection about their learning through 4 different domains of thinking, teachers will choose several of the questions each time a student is uploading their work to answer, along with their sample piece.
Currently, we have 2 fellowships happening at our school. A Teacher Fellowship, taken on by a grade 2 teacher, Ms. Mrak, called Awakening Passions (follow her Blog, and Twitter to keep up to date!), and a Leadership Fellowship, taken on by Mr. Siemens, Ms. Rentz and Mrs. Friske. Both of these fellowships aim to improve the quality of experience that our learners receive while at Prairie Waters. Along with the fellowships comes significant opportunity to reflect on improving practice and shifting pedagogical approaches to ensure a student-centred environment; where our kids know they are in the driver seat, that the school is theirs and can be adapted to meet their learning needs however they may see fit.
We all reflect on a consistent basis, it’s a reflexive action, like breathing – but when we bring the intentionality to it, that’s when powerful learning and improvement will soar to heights we have never seen before.