Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Reflection- a Powerful Tool: Karyn Gray

Whether something goes right or something goes wrong.....reflect on it and learn from it.

I've always been a strong believer in the power of reflection for empowering our learning. This morning I experienced first hand the power of reflection in a real life learning situation.

I'm travelling at the moment. I'm not an experienced traveller, and for me, that makes me not a very confident traveller. And I got completely lost while in transit. I was in a foreign country, I couldn't understand the signs or the people, the airport was huge and I had become separated from the person I was travelling with. It was early and none of the information desks were manned.
And I quickly became overwhelmed and panicked. Everything I should have done went out the window for a little while. I just shut down and couldn't think or operate.
After a little while, I settled my thinking enough to work out a plan and pretty soon all was okay. I figured out a place to go to and we met back up. The story might have ended there, with me feeling like I'd really mucked up and feeling embarrassed and pretty small.

But the powerful thing was that maybe an hour later, when I'd calmed down enough to have a rational conversation, the person I was travelling with asked me some questions that made me reflect, not just on my actions but my reactions. Just one or two  powerful questions, that made me reflect on what had happened and what I could learn from it.

After that incident but without that conversation I would be feeling even less confident as a traveller now. But because of that reflective conversation facilitated by a couple of well worded questions, I've learnt from it in a positive way and probably have even gained in confidence in my ability to handle a similar situation in the future.

How often do kids feel overwhelmed  like this in our classrooms and we don't even realise it?

How often do we have good intentions to reflect with students in our classes but it gets dropped off the end because we run out of time? How  well do we develop and use the right questions to help our students reflect on their experiences and learn from them?

I've always known reflection was really important in a classroom. This morning I realised how much reflection is important for real learning, and I also realised reflections can be even more powerful if completed collaboratively. And that to make an honest reflection you need  to have trust in the person facilitating the reflection.

We need to teach everyone- teachers and students- to question other students in ways that will make them confront their own actions and reactions.

Learning to learn, or the development of learning power, is getting better at knowing when, how and what to do when you don't know what to do' It is about unpacking, understanding, constructing a response to a situation or problem. Reflection is also about developing, building upon, and in some cases, changing existing behaviour and practice. Guy Claxton

Without that reflective conversation this morning I could easily face the same situation and do something similar. Now I'm pretty sure I won't because someone took the time to have a collaborative and reflective conversation with me about my actions and my reactions.

How do we ensure we do this for our students both after their moments of clarity and/or their moments of overwhelming panic? How do we ensure we give them every opportunity to reflect about not just their actions but their reactions as well? And ultimately to learn from them?

Something to think about as we start preparing for the new school year. I am now thinking about how I can make our classroom reflections more collaborative and honest. And I'm  going to remember to focus reflections as much on reactions as on actions. And the implications from these reflections for further learning.