“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Learning from experience plays a critical part in combining information and skills in context to create knowledge, and the meaning and form that such experiences can take are as varied as the countless subjects and disciplines themselves that comprise the broad sweep of human activity.
Confucius, rightly, acclaims reflection as the cardinal route to wisdom. We begin to learn by imitating those who know what we also want to know. We learn even more by trying our new knowledge out in the real world in some sense. But we only truly begin to embed that knowledge within us, we only truly begin to ‘know’, when we set out to cast a critical eye over our practice and we question why we do what we do, how we do it, what works, what does not work, and how can we do better.
In teaching, as in other professions, reflection can take many forms, each as valid as the other, but each bringing a different range and kind of insight to our professional practice. Here some ways I am thinking about:
Critical self-reflection – taking the time to go back over our own teaching, either from memory, or from notes taken, or increasingly today from a video of our teaching; we do this with the aim of challenging ourselves on what went well or not, and why;
Collaborative reflection – working with one or more colleagues who join with you in reflecting on your teaching, perhaps having observed your lesson live, or having watched a recorded video of your teaching after the event; of course, this can, and perhaps should, be reciprocal – collegiate reflection can be very powerful indeed.
Coaching and mentoring – working with either a more experienced colleague or an external expert who watches you teach (again either by classroom observation or through the use of video) and is able to offer advice – this can be done live or in retrospect, or both.
I am really excited about reflection like this and even more excited by the reaction of the middle manager group. Lets see what occurs in 2017.