The previous article in this series set out the importance of teacher self-reflection and professional noticing to becoming a better professional. This article suggests how to start the process – either working by yourself or with a trusted colleague or mentor.

The complete self-reflection series: 

Self-Reflection (Part 1): Introduction: Could ‘noticing’ and ‘reflection’ transform teaching?

Self-Reflection (Part 2): 8 Ways to reflect on a lesson and share your reflections

Self-Reflection (Bonus blog): 7 Ideas for remote reflection in teaching

Self-Reflection (Part 3): Creating a wider culture of self-reflection in your school

Self-Reflection (Part 4): How schools have enabled self-reflection and noticing

Self-Reflection (Part 5): Using Lessonvu’s ALIGN tool to implement self-reflection

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Teacher Self-Reflection is a common requirement for trainee teachers and those who are new to the classroom, but as the challenges of a full teaching timetable take their toll, most teachers will stop reflecting on the best part of their lesson. For some, any reflection is a negative process – the teacher just identifies problems with a lesson but does not have the time or approach to analyse the problem issues and come up with solutions.

This article sets out an alternative workload-friendly and sustainable approach. It’s important as self-reflection has been identified as one of the most meaningful activities teachers can take – and it is far more useful and effective than a one-off annual observation for teacher development.

Teacher using white board

1. Start small

Before you start, make sure that you are clear about your goals:. it’s important to start small. It would be difficult to focus on more than one teaching group and their issues, so it could be beneficial to zoom in even closer and look at a small group or even a single individual you’re concerned about. Your issue might be something you’re concerned about – examples might include behaviour management, explaining new ideas, questioning, or effective group work. This case study from Hereford Academy shows an NQT focusing on specific issues with one year 9 class.

2. Plan when to reflect before you start

Teacher self-reflection works best when you can spend time doing it close to the lesson you’re thinking about – so try to find a lesson before lunchtime, at the end of the day or when you have free time.

3. Create the right mindset for reflection

The problem with the focus on graded or ‘tick box’ lesson observations means that many teachers can approach reflection as a process for demonstrating how ‘good’ they are. It’s important to frame reflection as an objective approach – all teachers will do many things well but be able to identify areas to become even better at.

4. Make notes as soon as possible

Write down your impressions of the lesson as soon as possible. It might seem difficult to do this, but one idea to help is to draw a timeline of the lesson on a blank sheet of paper. You can jot words against specific times as the lesson progresses and then go back and expand your thoughts once the lesson is over. It can help to have students work in front of you when reflecting after the lesson so you can see how they responded to the teaching.

5. Focus on student learning, not your teaching

Rather than critiquing your teaching, focus your review on the learning that took place. Were students able to carry out the tasks you set the way you wanted them to? Were there obvious misconceptions in their learning? Did they ask and answer questions in the way you would have expected?

6. Identify ways of ‘doing things differently’

Rather than thinking about doing things ‘better’, focus on what changes you could make that might affect student learning. For example, in this case study from Aston University Engineering Academy, teacher Zara Sahota considered different ways of enabling students to let her know when they understood (or did not understand) new ideas.

7. Discuss ideas with colleagues or mentors

At this stage, it is often a good idea to discuss your findings with a colleague or mentor. As our previous blog on ‘lesson study’ pointed out, discussing teaching and learning in an autonomous way can motivate and re-energise teachers. Colleagues can draw on their personal experiences and also suggest ways of implementing and assessing changes you make.

8. Teach again and repeat the process

Self-reflection is an ongoing process – so make sure you apply your new ideas and see their impact. Ensure that you give them time to have an impact and be honest about the changes made as a result.

To find out more about how ONVU Learning can help your school improve its teaching and learning using our innovative teacher training and development solution called Lessonvu, please get in touch with our team now.