Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reflective Teaching

It's summertime which, for me, means a lot of planning a new course (is there ever enough time to do it right the first time?), reflecting, and … teaching summer school.  I teach an accelerated Pre-Calculus course for 12 students looking to take AP Calculus their senior year and every time I teach this class, I’m confronted with the concept of reflective teaching.  I think reflection is one of the most understated component of not good but great teachers.  This summer school curriculum (and most of the materials) was assembled over the years by my mentor teacher, Steve, and is a historical snapshot of what great reflective teaching can be and should be.  

In Steve’s 1,826 files for summer school he has titled each document specifically.  You might see “Concept of a function”, “Concept of a function v09”, “Concept of a function v10”, “Concept of a function v11”, and finally “Concept of a function v13”.  Most of his instructional activities have been rewritten multiple times and then passed onto a group of his mentees.  Each iteration has a sometime small but profound change that enhanced his students learning.  Sometimes he swapped some problems out for other, more meaningful, ones.  Other times he might add a section and other times, take a section out that led to misunderstandings.  

Steve had documents in each folder that were titled “0-tn-functions” which means “Teacher Notes”.  This document historically outlines these iterations and reflections to then create meaningful changes each subsequent year.  He listened and observed student learning then reworked each instructional activity to better bridge his curriculum to his assessments which were vertically aligned to the AP Calculus course (another blog entry).  Steve had phenomenal results with the largest group of students taking AP Calculus in Chicago as well as one of the highest pass rates.  I would contribute a certain portion of this to his reflective practice.
A Snapshot of the Quadratics Folder

I find that we have so many things on our plates that we don’t take time to reflect.  I encourage everyone this summer to start somewhere - reflect on each unit in a course: what worked? what didn’t?  Also, set yourself up for success - add a “Reflections” box to your lesson plans or unit plans or put a note in Google calendar to reflect once a month.  I’m working toward these goals but am no where near where I need to be.  I’m open for suggestions on what you do to make this a part of our daily practice.

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