Helping teachers reflect on their practice

We know teacher reflection should be going on all year, but the end of the year is the perfect time for instructional coaches to help teachers stop and think about their teaching. This post includes questions and strategies for helping teachers reflect. Instead of just asking teachers to set goals, have them go through a reflective process to really bring their ideas to the forefront and think about where they'd like to grow and what they'd like to change! Helping teachers reflect on their practice can be challenging. As a coach, you’re walking a fine line.

Your relationship with the teacher is delicate. Teachers who feel attacked will not want your support, whether attacking was your intention or not.
Teachers who don’t feel challenged will not benefit from your support, however helpful you might be.

The end of the school year is a good time to reflect on teaching practices, but we should really do this throughout the year, as an ongoing practice. After a lesson, day, or unit are good times to stop and think: is this working?
But we’ve got to start somewhere! In order to encourage reflection, one thing you can do is to meet with teachers at the end of the school year to help them think back to their year and make some plans for the next year.

As you’re helping teachers think about the effectiveness of their teaching, here are a few questions you can ask and things you can do to facilitate the conversation and take it into action!

Questions to Ask:
About a specific lesson or unit

  • How do you feel about this lesson/unit?
  • What do you think went well?
  • How did you expect things to go differently?
  • Where did students struggle?
  • What seemed to work well to help them be successful?
  • How can you use those elements in other lessons?

About student progress

  • Did students make progress?
  • Did students make the progress you hoped they would make?
  • How do you know? What information are you using to decide this? (Data/observations/etc)
  • Why do you think that was the outcome? 
About student learning
  • What learning gaps do you see across your class?
  • What did you do to address these gaps?
  • Was it effective? How do you know?
  • What could you try next time to address this issue?
  • How could you address the same issue in a different way?
About strategies and methods
  • What did you try this year that worked well for you?
  • What did you try this year that didn’t work out well?
  • What have you learned that you’d like to try? What support/resources would you need to do that?
About what matters most

  • What were the best moments you spent with your students? What made them the best? How can you integrate those ideas into your teaching more often? 
  • If your child had been a student in a classroom exactly like yours, how would you have perceived the teacher and classroom? The climate? The dynamics? The opportunities to learn?  
  • What do you believe about teaching? How does that show up in your teaching? What could you do differently to better reflect those practices?
  • What do you want to learn more about? Where do you want to grow? How can I help you do that?
  • If you could change any one thing about the way you taught this year, what would it be?
  • If you had total control and choice in what you taught next year, what would your classroom look like? What elements of that can you integrate into your teaching next year? 

Things to Do:

  • Use a focused observation guide to help you record specific kinds of notes about a lesson the teacher is teaching. You can focus on student engagement, questioning, time management, or any other facet of teaching and learning to help teachers gather information. Need guides? Get them in the Instructional Coaching MegaPack
  • Offer to record the teacher teaching a lesson. They can watch it with you or on their own.
  • Help the teacher create and provide students with a survey. Ask them about their experience. Don’t shy away from asking the tough questions: What didn’t you like about class? What was challenging for you? What should I change?
  • Help teachers make a plan using the Better than Goal Setting free resource I shared on this post!
  • Offer a menu of support to show teachers how you can help them grow. Ideas might be book recommendations, sharing videos, book studies, modeled lessons, or coaching cycles. 

Help teachers make a plan using the download below!

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