believe

We began the semester with a community gathering where we examined four topics that included self-growth/reflective practice, focusing, listening, and gratitude.  When talking about reflective practice, the following statement from Osterman and  Kottkamp (1993) was shared:  “Reflective practice, while often confused with reflection, is neither a solitary nor a relaxed meditative process. To the contrary, reflective practice is a challenging, demanding, and often trying process that is most successful as a collaborative effort” (p. 2).

The last part of the community gathering was devoted to collaborative, reflective practice by looking at information from last spring.  We reviewed the comments we generated about who are students are today and reviewed statements from undergraduate and graduate students about what engages their learning.  Then, we worked in small groups to integrate our thinking about these points and to develop some activities/approaches that honor this information.  

Comments from groups:

  • Co-construction of projects or rubrics – this involves students from the beginning to help determine objectives and outcomes. 
  • Have students write goals.  Place goal on a sticky note and put that on a poster.  Over the semester, monitor progress.  When the goal is achieved, take the note down and put up a new one that is developed in consolation with the instructor. 
  • Two minutes breaks:  After 20 minutes in the classroom, take a two minute break.  Teach them how to use different energizers.  This is good to model for our students who will be working with children/students in the field. 
  • Collaborative work including on-line discussion groups where students respond to each other.
  • Use project-based learning and having students developing their own evaluation tools. 
  • Work with students in a way that is flexible.
  • Self-reflective journaling and small group work. 
  • The professor could check in after each class to see how the class went rather than waiting for the end of the semester.  When questioned about the vulnerability around doing this, the group leader said she would rather self-correct, get it right and teach better; it’s not a personal thing.  It’s better to get the feedback throughout rather than waiting for complaining at the end of the semester.  If you wait, students feel like you are not aware of what is going on with them.   Many of our professions require our students to be aware of others and what is going on with them.  If we are not doing this in the classroom, then they don’t see how someone with institutional power can focus on someone with less power and help them.
  • Need to set clear expectations at the beginning of the semester.  Syllabus should be clear.  Make it clear how you want to be addressed.   
  • Need to set up a safe environment so the students feel we are accessible.  Students need to feel free to communicate with us.  Even the seating arrangement of the class can make a difference. 
  • It is important to build a sense of community in the classroom so the students feel comfortable with taking more risks academically and dispositionally.  Example was having students write part of their identity, how they got to where they are or using personal literacy projects where students trace back where they have been and how they arrived at where they are today.
  • The importance of playing games and being silly was presented.  When students get uncomfortable, it is important to ask why. 
  • It is important for students to have many ways to demonstrate what they know.  Open-ended questions with lots of time for sharing are important.   

Examining our work together from last year and adding more to it this year honors reflective practice.  I deeply appreciate who we are as a community and the ability we have to focus our energy on making a difference in others’ lives.  As we do this, our lives and the life of our community are enriched.  I believe in what we can do together!

References

Image:  http://thestartover.com/2012/06/13/i-believe/

Osterman, K.F., & Kottkamp, R.B. (1993).  Reflective practice for educators: Improving schooling through professional development. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.