Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reflective Thinking: 3 Steps to Better Planning

"It is necessary ... for a man to go away by himself ... to sit on a rock .. and ask, 'Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?"
-Carl Sandberg-

As an educators, we are constantly trying to get my scholars to look back on their work and find their strengths and areas for improvement.  This year, one of my biggest goals is to improve my own reflection processes, especially in relation to my lesson planning practices.  I think that the coming long weekend is a great opportunity for us all to take a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished so far, and were we are headed with the rest of the year.

For my regular readers, you can see my previous discussion of my lesson planning process (Gradual Release of Responsibility format) in this previous post-  10 Step Plan:  Gradual Release of Reponsibility

I want to take this opportunity to look a little closer at the reflection process and how we can improve our reflections on lessons, identifying best practices, areas needing improvement, and action plans to improve future lessons.

Part 1:  What is happening?
Part 2:  What do you want to happen?
Part 3:  What will you do to make it happen?

At the bottom of every lesson plan, I try to leave some room for myself to reflect on what happened that day.  Reflections may be general (in broad challenges or areas of improvement) or specific (how a specific child responded to a style of instruction).

Part 1:  What is happening? - This is the act of looking at your own lesson as objectively as possible (a fun and challenging variation may be to go through this process with a respected peer.)

Based on the day's lesson, ask yourself the following questions (and be tough on yourself for evidence):
  1. Did the scholars meet the learning target?  How can you prove it?
    • Sample evidence:  Journal entries, project, exit slip, classwork, or questioning.  No matter what, you should be able to say "The scholars did/did not meet the learning target as demonstrated by their _____________."
  2. Were the students productively engaged?  How do you know this?
    • This is challenging to prove, but should be evidenced by the products the scholars produce within the class period(s)
  3. Did you make changes to your original plan as you went along?  Why?  What were the changes?
    • What were the reasons for your changes?  Think classroom environment, materials, differentiation, misconceptions, skipped steps, lack of scaffolds or student resources.
    • Which of these were within your control, and how would you plan for them differently in the future?
Part 2:  What do you want to happen??
  1. If your scholars did meet the learning target ask yourself if it was challenging enough, and what you can do next to move those scholars upward.
  2. If your scholars did not meet the learning target, ask yourself why and what you need to do differently (hint: focus on the changes you had to make to your lesson that were not written in)
  3. What would you need to do differently to avoid or correct the changes you identified in step three listed above?
Part 3:  What will you do to make it happen?
  1. Give yourself a SMART goal to create an action plan.  The elements for a SMART goal are as follows:
    • Here is a goal that is NOT  SMART:  I will ask more questions.
    • S:  Specific
      • Choose one very specific element.  For example, "questions" is not specific.  "increase process and open-ended questions" is more specific.
    • M: Measurable
      • You should give yourself something to measure to help prove you have met your goal.  For example, with the above example, you could say "I will ask at least 3 open ended questions in the guided practice portion of my lesson"
    • A:  Achievable
      • The goal needs to be something you can actually do and makes sense.  For example, you do not want to say you are going to question every single student in the room.  That is ineffective and counter-productive.
    • R:  Relevant
      • Very simply put, the goal you set must have some relevance to what you are doing in the classroom (constantly improving instruction).  
    • T:  Time-Bound
      • When are you going to complete this challenge you gave yourself?
      • This is often the most difficult, and where we set ourselves up for failure.  Give yourself a deadline by which you can measure (using your measurement above) and re-start the reflection process
    • Our finished SMART goal would look something more like this:
      • By the end of next week, I will ask at least 3 open ended or process questions in the guided practice portion of my lesson.
I have found that writing out my goals and incorporating them into the next lesson plan has made their implementation much easier.  This is just one strategy that has worked for me, and I would love to hear how you reflect on your work.  

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1 comment:

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