Last year, I visited the Municipal Schools of Reggio Emilia and this year I visited the La Casa Amarilla, Aleph, and Transforma schools in Lima Peru. The depth of their professional development inspired me. The educators at the schools shared frequently about their practice and the role reflection has on their work.
Reflective practice is defined in a practical way on Wikipedia as “the ability to reflect on ones actions to engage in continuous learning.” The definition continues saying reflective practice, “involves paying attention to practical values and theories that inform everyday actions and leads to insight.”
Looking further, some research shares reflective practice as a method to solve problems instead of having a proactive lens to examine our work, forming questions, and gaining insight.
In our field, reflective practice is a way of life and the guiding light of our co-learning journey with the children. Engaging in professional development through reflective practice can take many forms. It is a process that takes time and is developed through careful examination and documentation.
Educators have different methods for collecting documentation and reflecting on the experiences in the classroom. I am going to share the methods I use to reflect on my work with the children that have helped my professional development over the years.
Write Morning Pages. Every morning I reflect on the day before by writing three handwritten pages about any information I want to process. It could be about a specific project or about a big idea that is on my mind. It could be about a problem I am pondering. The purpose of this exercise is to clear out the thoughts in my head and prepare myself for the new day ahead. I find during this time of free writing and thinking I come up with several ideas that I later implement in the classroom.
Write One Page at the End of the Day.Almost immediately after the last child is picked up from the program I sit down and write a reflection of what happened that day. I am not writing about everything that happened, I am writing about what caught my attention and what questions I have about the experience. This is not a call to action in the moment. This documentation I will read over the following day before the children come into the program to prepare my mind for the work ahead.
Look at Documentation and Ask Questions. Once or twice a week I look over and write out the documentation of my work with the children. This is a time of slowly reading over the story of what happened during a particular project and formulating ideas and questions about what I witnessed and where the work is going. During this process many questions come up and invite new ideas for discussion and action with the children.
Talk with Peers about their Experience. Another aspect of my reflective practice is to share some of my ideas and questions with other educators. The other educators in our classroom have observed the investigations and actions of the children and have their own opinions and questions about the work we are engaged in. This is a time of sharing and supporting each other with questions, ideas, and possible roads for the learning journey to travel on.
Share Documentation and Ideas with Leadership. One of the most beneficial practices I have encountered involves coming together with the leadership of the school and sharing the learning journey with them. Since the leadership is not in the classroom on a continuous basis they bring a different perspective to the documentation, questions, and insights of your work with the children. They have a view that is much different from the team of educators that work alongside each other daily.
These are a few ideas how to engage in reflective practice. I would love to hear methods you have witnessed, read about, or practiced yourself that have proven beneficial to your work with children. If you engage in reflective practice you know how it enhances your work with children and provides an element of self-care through the examination of your daily experience. If you do not engage in reflective practice I would encourage you to look into starting as it will reap benefits for you and all of the members of your learning community.