Big Ideas
Chapter: Meaning Making

(3) Reflection

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-7-00-57-amThe word “reflection” appears in many of our programs’ frameworks and training/support models.  Usually, the target of that reflection is measurable student progress and data. 

While making meaning of student success and failure is obviously critically  important, our most transformational teachers seem to invest time and space to reflect on a much broader suite of questions.  In our strongest classrooms. teachers are reflecting not only on student performance data but also on their own and others’ actions, progress, relationships, and purposes.  These teachers tell us that reflection is the key to their own growth. 

Going Slow to Go Fast, and Far

Too often, transformational classroom leadership has been interpreted as “working more and harder” in the face of enormous challenges.  No doubt, staying oriented to a transformational vision of students’ futures is hard work.  But much more importantly it is different work. screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-7-01-46-am

What separates people who work hard from leaders who work purposefully seems to be reflection on why they are doing what they are doing.  What separates people who do from leaders who do and grow seems to be reflection on where they have been, are, and want to be.

Recall the Good to Great study we did with Jim Collins.  In that study, our highest impact teachers

appear to exhibit more introspection, coupled with a greater sense of self-efficacy and high expectations for themselves than do either their matches or the improvers. This introspection and expectation, which was evident in teacher interviews, is driven by more and better reflection, and more of a learning and improvement orientation than was exhibited by their matches or the improvers as they discussed their experiences.

Franco Mosso, head of Enseña Peru, credits thoughtful reflection as a critical driver of his teachers’ and organization’s success, tying reflection directly to the “orientation to vision” theme that we hear from transformational classrooms:

Keep it simple and think really, really strategically.  Our work can be so simple and so purposeful, but you have to all the time think about the strategic choice you are making.  I don’t think our participants have a problem carrying out things.  The difference between the transformative and the non-transformative is conviction and whether they have clarity of where they are going—and they have to give themselves time to think about that clarity in whatever way works for them.

The Importance of Student Reflection

437b0646As we’ve studied our highest-impact teachers and schools, we’ve noticed trends in that they ask and position their students to be reflecting constantly.  In some cases, this is done in small ways (like the teacher who uses student self-tracking sheets and reflection-writing and goal-setting to develop students’ own reflection-based leadership.) In other cases, more macro reflective practices have emerged in classrooms, such as holding weekly roundtable seminars where her students reflect on the ways that they’ve operated as leaders over the course of the week, the ways they haven’t, and how they want to improve.

How can we expand and deepen the role of reflection in our programs in ways that help accelerate our participants’ growth as leaders in and out of the classroom?



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