Learning = reflection on experiences
I recently heard this gem for the first time while working in different work groups at RVS. Quoting John Dewey, one of our division learning specialists Dan McWilliam was driving home the importance of reflection during teacher-created learning experiences by using different tools to capture thoughts and offer a range of opportunities to do so. The more I thought of it, the more I related this quote to our school’s intensive school evaluation from the IB that culminated this week.
In a journey that began May 2016, our Self Study involved our whole staff evaluating countless elements of our school. The International Baccalaureate emphasizes reflection throughout their program – teachers are constantly reflecting on their units of inquiry, and students are encouraged to reflect using the attitudes, learner profile attributes and key concepts. Yet to really dive in and look at all 73 Standards and Practices, to reflect on all learning experiences provided at a school for the last 4 years?
It is a huge project. It is daunting the scope of how deep you must question aspects of your school. It requires full participation by all staff involved. It requires an honest approach to analyzing everything from how you communicate your learning to your stakeholders, to how you view assessments – the why and the how. How does your school enable students to voice, choice and ownership? How does your school adopt a constructivist, inquiry-based approach? How does staff collaboration enhance teaching and learning? Are the provincial requirements meshed with the IB practices?
We are 2 days removed from IB representatives visiting our school and evaluating our practices and philosophies. They interviewed every grade team. They interviewed representatives from the school division. Parents and other members of the community were interviewed. They observed classes and spoke with students. The structure of the IB means we won’t likely see results from this visit anywhere between 1-3 months from now. However, our learning that has occurred through our in-depth reflection of our experiences is immeasurable and is already impacting our practice.
With or without results from the IB, we know we have areas to improve in. We’ve learned we need to address inclusion and our what our digital portfolios look like, both vertically and horizontally. We’ve learned we need to improve our transdisciplinary approach to student learning to help cement deeper connections. We’ve learned we need to provide more relevant, engaging, challenging and significant learning experiences for students. We’ve learned we need to ensure that students know the why and the how of learning. We’ve learned we need to improve on encouraging self-initiated action.
We’ve learned all of this because of an in-depth reflection. We’ve learned all of this because the whole staff and our stakeholders were involved in our reflection. We’re for the better because of it. However, without dedicated time and purpose to reflect on experiences, how can teachers learn if what they’re doing is actually best practice?
Now, to count the days until the IB’s feedback and suggestions arrive…