As a lifelong educator, self-reflection has been at the center of every role I have held in K12 education. From being an English teacher to CAO, Director of Innovation, and Assistant Superintendent, my work has always been grounded in research, practice, and self-reflection. Creating a culture where self-reflection is embraced as a way to greater growth and personal satisfaction has afforded me the opportunity to help others embrace it as an ongoing practice. Self-reflection keeps us grounded in the things we can control and change. When we, as educators, live from this place, the future is extremely bright.
When it comes to growing as an educational professional, there is no greater way to speed growth than through honest and accurate self-reflection. Professional athletes spend many hours and a lot of energy reviewing their practice and game day performance through the use of video–both individually and with their coaches and teammates. Great coaches understand the power of self-reflection to ensure high-performance athletes continue to enhance their performance and continue to crush not only their competition but also their past peak performance metrics.
Administrators, instructional coaches, and leaders have an amazing opportunity to support self-reflection and professional growth by using video to enhance self-reflection. When teachers self-reflect on their performance, they increase their confidence and skills. Great leaders skillfully use the following techniques to help their teachers accurately assess their past performance.
Ask Great Questions
Great leaders ask great questions. Leaders and coaches who know how to ask great questions allow for more effective and honest self-reflection when working with teachers. Great questions are open-ended; they allow for evidence based responses that will increase the accuracy of self-reflection. Questions such as, “What do you notice when you view the first five minutes of the video?” and “What would you like to focus on specifically as we review the video from yesterday’s lesson?” Because these questions are open-ended, they allow the teacher to have full control of the direction and conversation. On a psychological level, this gives the teacher greater agency and also has the added benefit of building trust and rapport with the leader/coach. An open-ended question that allows teachers to genuinely explore their prior thinking and actions, creates safety and provides greater agency for the teacher to be in control of their learning. When we take control of our learning, we can become more focused and attuned to the nuances and details to support or deny our findings.
Use the Teacher’s Words
Self-reflection becomes more accurate when there is specific evidence tied to generalizations. Using video allows for the use of both quantitative and qualitative evidence to demonstrate growth. When I would coach a teacher, I often started by asking “When thinking about the lesson, what would be the best use of your time during our coaching session today?” Then, as the teacher began to verbally process, I would take specific notes around the exact words and phrases the teacher used. For example, during a coaching session a teacher shared, “The lesson did not go very well.” In order to increase self-reflection, I asked, “Can you reference the point in the video where things started to ‘not go very well’ during the lesson?” Using the exact words the teacher uses allows them to explore their beliefs more deeply. By reflecting on the words a teacher uses, there is a likelihood that agency will be increased. The coach builds mutual trust and rapport as this sends a positive message by implying that the teacher does indeed have insights into the accuracy of the statement. Using the teacher’s language to guide the coaching conversation creates an opportunity for deeper self-reflection and ownership of the work.
Go Slow to Go Fast
Self-reflection takes time. Using video allows for the coach and teacher to each thoughtfully consider when and how to reflect. While the coach may be guiding the reflection, the teacher should always be in the driver’s seat. When using video to self-reflect, it is important to slow down the process and allow teachers time to process. Bombarding the teacher with too many questions or asking closed-ended questions are ineffective methods to achieve honest and accurate self-reflection. The use of a video-based platform, such as ADVANCEfeedback, is most effective and powerful when the teacher is given space to ask for specific feedback. A great first step when coaching a teacher is to move at their pace which will likely result in greater self-reflection that is aligned with evidence validated by the teacher. This continues to allow the teacher the agency needed to make the adjustments to their practice.
Increasing self-reflection is an ongoing process. Asking great questions, using the teacher’s language, and slowing to the teacher’s pace creates opportunities for honest and accurate self-reflection to occur. Using video for teacher self-reflection can dramatically increase both the accuracy and competency of teachers’ self-reflection and ultimately enhance their teaching methods.