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Creating a Culture of Reflection

Updated on April 5, 2012

As teachers, we are taught to reflect upon our daily experiences in order to better our techniques for the following day. Reflection is an ongoing, natural process in which we analyze past occurrences in order to assist with the development of future actions (Han, 1995). In education, reflection is the key constituent in being a professional (Schon, as cited in Han, 1995). Daily reflection provides teachers the opportunity to analyze daily situations. One tool that is heavily relied on for reflection is assessment. An assessment informs a teacher if learning has taken place and assists in identifying some issues that need to be addressed. Addressing the issues requires a sophisticated understanding of learning and reflecting upon the factors that may affect the learning, including teaching, development, motivation, the educational environment, and the assessment given (O’Donnell, Reeve, & Smith, 2008). At times, reflection may not be used because it can be seen as negative tool because the teacher may begin to feel embarrassed, frustrated, and confused of his/her shortcomings or with the students’ lack of understanding. Reflection on both the positive and the negative experiences enable growth and future successes. The process of reflection seems to be very complex but it is needed. Is this same practice of reflection used in other professions?

Rewards of Reflection

Although, the process and content in which reflection is utilized in education may not be done in the same manner, best practices may be used in other professions. Best practices may mean different things to different people in different situations but it still refers to the techniques and strategies for success in that particular field (Feit, & Petr, 2009). The purposes of the best practices in a particular field still have the same goal in mind, success. Success drives reflection and reflection drives success. In order to achieve success, employees must continuously monitor and reflect on utilized approaches as part of a continuous quality improvement effort (Feit, & Petr, 2009).

Besides self reflection, an external reflection is also needed for success. External sources, such as principals, managers, and CEOs drive the reflection of employees. At times, employees may become stagnant because they are used to unconsciously performing numerous acts that form the foundation of their culture. The idea of correct behavior, what we should be doing, shows how culture controls the norms (Zwell, 2000). The observations provided by the people in charge motivate employees to live up to their boss’ expectations or goals and move beyond what is expected. Principals, managers, and CEOs are excellent motivators because providing constructive feedback assists employees in being committed to continually learning and improving their performance (Zwell, 2000).

As a society that strives to succeed, reflection is in most cases used regularly. Reflection is necessary to keep abreast of the on goings of the business. The types of reflection vary between a range of professions. For example, in retail the information analyzed is gained from the sales and losses for the day. Employees focus on the techniques used to create sales and develop ways to decrease losses. In dining, sales and losses are also pinpointed but customer satisfaction is also taken into consideration. Did the customers enjoy the food and services? The customers’ reactions to certain situations stimulate employees’ strive for customer satisfaction. In education, reflection is necessary for student achievement. Teachers must reflect on their own teaching strategies, on student interaction, and student performance.

Creating a culture of reflection is also a necessary skill my students can definitely benefit from. As a kindergarten teacher, I am setting the foundation for my students. Many of my students have never been in a school setting before, so reflection may be done unconsciously but not identified. Holding daily individual conferences, talking in large groups, and providing skills for self-reflection will provide a skill for my students that will last them until adulthood. We begin Mondays with reflecting on events that took place over the weekend. My students are allowed to share events that have occurred and how the events may have made them feel. Other students also have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any relatable situations. As kindergarteners, thus far all of my students come in unable to read and are ready to learn. Although they are unable to read, the students are still able to think critically and reflect upon stories read aloud. The students begin to recall events, reflect on the characters, identify problems in the stories, and express their likes and dislikes. This constant modeling of talk and reflection provides background knowledge for the students to utilize when they do become independent readers. Providing a genre of text also assists the students with thinking critically in an array of situations. The scaffolded learning in a large group setting transfers to the students’ when they are ready to read independently. During individual conferencing and independent reading, the students utilize the large group skills but other skills are also developed based on the student’s individual needs. Individual conferencing provides the student an opportunity to raise any questions or bring attention to any difficulty he/she may be having while reading. The difficult part is to get the students to reflect on their own errors and needs. With much practice, the students are able to recall strategies they should have used to identify an unknown word. They also begin to reflect on events within the story they are reading and relate some events from the current story to a story previously read. During independent reading, the students are able to apply any conversations, strategies, or techniques learned during individual conferencing to successfully read their own story independently. Developing reflecting skills at this early age may seem complex but the students are extremely capable. When using topics that interest them and creating new interests for the students, they are willing to discuss anything. As simple as reflection may seem as an adult, it has to be taught at some point.

Risks of Reflection

Reflection involves continuous risk taking because negative reflection may occur but is it truly negative or constructive? Some risk taking activities may include reflecting without fear on new ideas, testing tentative explanations, and offering a variety of interpretations (Brookfield, 1987). These activities cause one to critically analyze certain situations, which may leave the person being analyzed feeling criticized. The potential feeling of criticism may also cause the analyzer to evaluate sparingly to conserve one’s feelings. “Critically analyzing assumptions is one of the most difficult of all capacities to model, since it entails a willingness to scrutinize one’s existing givens-an activity that can frequently be threatening and anxiety-producing” (Brookfield, 1987). Students are left in a difficult position because everything learned in undergraduate and some graduate work may be grimaced upon. The new learned behavior of disagreement, which may have been seen as disrespectful, is the new way of thinking.

Creating a culture of reflection is something that can be achieved in every aspect one step at a time. At this point, many professions reflect daily, whether it is to increase sales, profit, or success in life. Identifying that there are some risks and some rewards, assist students in making an informed decision. At some points, risks need to be taken in reflection for growth. Reflection leads to transformation. The people affected by transformation are those that change as a consequence of learning. “To achieve transformation, it is necessary to reconsider existing views, challenge the status quos, and question the things within the life/work environment” (Brockbank, 2006).

References

Brockbank, A. & McGill, I. (2006). Facilitating Reflective Learning Through Mentoring & Coaching. Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page Limited.


Brookfield, S. D. (1987). Developing critical thinkers: Challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Feit, M.D., & Petr, C. (2009). Multidimensional Evidence-Based Practice: Synthesizing Knowledge, Research, and Values. New York, NY: Routledge.


Han, E. (1995). Reflection is essential in teacher education. Retrieved July 22, 2009. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3614/is_199507/ai_n8731473/pg_3/?tag=content;col1


O’Donnel, A., Reeve, J., & Smith, J. (2008). Educational Psychology: Reflection for Action. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Zwell, M. (2000). Creating a Culture of Competence. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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