Reflecting On Reflection

When I was in the Faculty of Education, we did numerous assignments on the importance of reflection. Reflection became almost like a joke. We all knew that good teachers reflect, but we didn’t think that we needed to keep on reflecting on reflection.

Eleven years later, and I now definitely know why there was this emphasis on reflection. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my professional goals for this year is to improve my math program by incorporating more problem-solving into it. I’ve really taken this goal seriously, and I’ve made many changes to my math program since September. With my students discussing their math thinking more, I’ve been using my flipcam even more to record my interactions with them. And this is where I’ve really started to reflect …

During math centres yesterday, I recorded these three videos of students solving some money problems:

As I was recording the videos, I was really pleased with how things were going. Students were explaining what they were doing, and they were showing me that they understood combining coin values. Then I went home to watch the videos last night. I couldn’t believe it. Why did I need to jump in so quickly to help the student in the third video solve the math problem? Why didn’t I give her a chance to figure it out on her own? Why must I always end with, “good job?” What could I say instead?

This morning, I was talking to our math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, and she really helped me out. She suggested that if this were to happen again that I stop the recording, walk away, give the child a chance to continue to play with some options, and then come back and record again. Then I wouldn’t be the one doing the problem-solving: the child would be the one doing the problem-solving. What a great idea! Thanks Kelly!

Today, the problem presented itself again. Instead of doing what I did yesterday, I did walk away, and then when I came back, here’s what the child explained:

She did figure out the problem, and correctly too, but again, I can’t help but reflect. Why did I need to jump in prematurely and show her that she counted the coins incorrectly? What would have happened if I didn’t interrupt? Would she have noticed? Would she have gone back and corrected the error on her own? I also noticed that she ended up jumping from 13 cents to 18 cents. I know that she got the correct answer, but does she really know that 13+5=18. If I had her rearrange the coins and count them a different way, would she have shown me that she could still get the same answer? Would this have helped me see how she “counts on” different coin amounts? Yet again, I notice that I still end with the, “good job,” statement. Will I ever be able to change this?

Oh, the power of reflection! I feel myself analyzing every word that I say as I say it, and then again, as I listen to myself on the recording. The power of technology lets us double our reflection time. 🙂 And I’m glad that it does because I know that this additional time both watching my students and listening to myself will ultimately have the biggest benefit for my students. Am I perfect? No. Will I ever be? No. But will I get just a little bit better every time I try? I sure hope so! 



14 thoughts on “Reflecting On Reflection

  1. Thank you for sharing your reflections. Your post shows deep, analytical reflection. You provide such a strong example of how powerful video taping can be in the reflection process.


  2. Thanks Kathy! Since I started videotaping in the classroom, I’ve become much better at reflecting on my teaching practices. At first, the videotapes were hard to watch, but now I’m glad that I videotape as much as I do.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Aviva,
    Thanks so much for sharing your reflections! Your journey in reflection definitely outlines your choice in improving your own instruction.

    Two questions for you:
    Do you think our teacher training “leads” us to the “good job” statements because we have that “approval” role?

    What would happen if you ended with a “thank you” to the student for sharing with you (instead of the “good job”)?

  4. Thanks for the comment, Fran! You make an interesting point about our teacher training. Maybe that’s exactly why I feel the need to say, “good job!” I guess I also want to encourage my young students to continue to take risks and share their learning, and when I say, “good job,” they beam. This helps me believe that they will continue to take these risks. I love the “thank you” option though. I’m going to have to try this!


  5. As a high school teacher, when I think about taping the classroom, I do the whole class. This made me think about taping writing conferences. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks for the comment, Cody! I hope that you do try taping writing conferences. I always find it amazing to re-listen to what individual students say as well as to re-listen to what we say to them. It’s amazing what a power tool videotaping can be for reflection!


  6. Aviva,
    I know what you mean about the word reflection. At one school I was at it was used so often we would jokingly take out our mirrors from our purses and say we were reflecting.
    Seriously, it is important and we need to take time to make it work for us. To reflect means to replay what you did in your mind and watch every frame as if in a movie and look at what can be done in a more effective manner. Good job is one of those phrases we need to permanently retire. Alfie Kohn is right about that one. Wishing you a wonderful week!

    • Thanks for your comment, JoAnn! I know what you mean about “good job.” Today, I tried saying, “thank you” instead. I think that this worked better. It was hard not to end with “good job,” but I’m finally getting better at it! 🙂

      Have a great week!

  7. Excellent blog. Some habits are hard to break, and praise is one of them. If you want to get away from giving praise for an answer, try having other comments ready to use as an alternate such as “that’s an useful strategy” or “I understand your thinking” or “that’s interesting”. You can always ask them if they have another strategy as well. For example, when they are counting the coins, can they count them in a different order? Can they track the amount using a rekenrack, hundreds chart, or counters? Giving praise is something that is really difficult to move away from, especially when it comes from the heart. It is important to do because it sometimes will shutdown thinking and lead kids to think there is a right way or better way to answer a question (Van de Walle). Try to save the praise for behaviour and use more explicit feedback and questioning for math.

  8. Thanks @kmcc! I really appreciate you sharing some other options of what I can do instead of just saying, “good job!” This is definitely the hardest habit to break. I’ll try some of your options now though!


  9. Aviva,
    It’s me again, Ashleigh Strasser from the University of South Alabama in Mobile Alabama. I think that your blog posts are great. You are a very motivating educator. I am about 3 years away from having my own classroom and I hope to remember some of your ideas and thought when I get there. I think that video reflection is a great idea. You do things that you aren’t aware of. I think that you are amazing. Keep us the great work and thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

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