Characteristics of a Reflective Educator

This is the fourteenth post in the Professional Development 2.0 series. If you have not already, I would encourage you to start with the first thirteen posts:

It has been said by many educators that for learning to occur, the learner must be taken out of his or her comfort zone. The idea behind this is that to truly learn something significant, there needs to be an element of struggle. It is a fine line because students should not be struggling to the point where they get too frustrated or give up, but they need to realize that they do not know it or cannot do it already. They need to understand what they do not know, what they need to know, and why they need to know it to move forward with mastering a new skill or content. Otherwise, why are they wasting their time learning something that they already know or that will not help them?

This idea should not be applied to students but to learners; as educators, we need to be continually learning and improving. I posit that to improve in any meaningful way, educators need to be reflective. They need to be constantly discerning what they know, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they need to do to improve. Just as importantly, they need to be thinking along these lines not just about themselves, but about all of their students.

What are the characteristics of a reflective educator? This list tries to quantify some qualities of a reflective educator, but it is by no means a complete list. It should also not be viewed as a checklist that one has to achieve every point of to be considered “reflective.”

  • The reflective educator has time set aside specifically for thinking about his professional practice, growth needs, and students’ needs.
  • The reflective educator takes action upon his focused thoughts about professional practice. He does not continue in a course of action that he has realized is not working.
  • The reflective educator analyzes his own lessons to see what worked and what did not. He makes changes as necessary. When a lesson does not go well, which will happen to everyone, he learns from it and does not teach the lesson the same way again.
  • The reflective educator recognizes the inherent differences in his classes (when he has more than one group of students) and does not treat all classes the same by teaching exactly the same lesson.
  • The reflective educator takes planned time within class to determine the efficacy of the lesson and take steps to improve it, if need be.
  • The reflective educator knows both his strengths and his students’ strengths. His lessons are designed around their strengths and areas of interest to maximize learning.
  • The reflective educator is cognizant of his own weaknesses and takes planned steps to improve in those areas.
  • The reflective educator seeks feedback from many sources, such as other teachers, students, parents, and administrators. He is open to constructive criticism.
  • The reflective educator understands that he cannot optimally teach students by himself. Teaching is a complex field and it takes help from many others.
  • The reflective educator shares his experience with the understanding that it can benefit others who may be able to learn from his experiences.

The next few posts will attempt to provide a method of reflection that will help educators to try to strive for some of the aforementioned goals. While you do not need to utilize any of the tools that I am going to propose to be a reflective educator, it certainly can help to make the process easier and more intentional.

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