March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Reflecting on Your Own Practice

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Frederick Nelson

Very often teachers are encouraged to reflect on their professional practice, typically with prompts such as “How did that go?” or “What went well, what didn’t go well, and what would I do differently next time?” These self-inquiries, while relevant to a teaching episode, may result in a consideration of only the surface features of a teacher’s practice. Other questions might dig deeper.

“What was the most enjoyable part of the class for me? The least enjoyable? Why?”

This question may get at my own confidence and competence with respect to the lesson content or delivery. Perhaps I enjoyed the Engagement section of a 5E lesson on buoyancy where I described my personal experience going snorkeling. This reflection helps me understand that my role as a teacher includes some sharing on my life outside the classroom and attempting to make connections to content. Or, if I found myself wanting to get through the Explanation stage of that lesson, that feeling could point to a lack of preparation.

“What evidence from students seems to show that something was learned? How do these responses match with my objectives for the lesson?”

These questions address the role of formative assessment in the lesson. My reflections could recall students’ oral answers to questions, their nonverbal feedback, or their interaction with each other while working on activities. If I struggle to answer these questions, my planning did not consider formative assessment sufficiently.

“What were student attitudes like when they came into the class? What were they like when the class was over?”

These questions provide some evidence of student motivation and relevance of the lesson. If students were clearly energetic and animated when they come into my class, but were quiet and not smiling when they left, something has happened during that class session that may have contributed to this change. Perhaps I rushed them through the activity and they became frustrated. Perhaps the content was at an inappropriate level of complexity. Students like to feel successful in their learning, and this feeling often shows on their faces.

When reflecting on your practice, ask yourself some new questions and think about what answers to those questions might tell you.

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Written by Frederick Nelson

Frederick Nelson

Frederick Nelson is an Assistant Professor of Science Education, California State University, Fresno and is CSTA’s Region 3 Director

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For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

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