This post is the first in a series focusing on teacher reflective practice and how the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) and TIM Tools can be used to support this key element of a teacher’s professional growth.
While it’s tempting to go into an academic treatise on reflection and related theory in educational literature from Dewey onward, let’s instead simply consider reflection as the process of taking a step back from the day to day, or minute to minute, activity and viewing things through a different lens. This lens may be another level, perspective, viewpoint, or intentionally pursuing the insights that arise from just stepping away and allowing even a small amount of time to pass. The results of this reflection can aid a teachers in identifying and making changes that will allow them to be more efficient and more effective in their teaching.
Reflective Practice in Teaching
Simply put, reflection is essential to professional growth. If we stay in the weeds and remain focused on moving from task to task, we will continue doing things the same way we always have, not taking advantage of experiences and opportunities for making positive change. Taking stock of what happened in a particular lesson, for example, could be the difference between brushing off a student’s wildly different approach to an assignment and considering this different approach as an opportunity for revising the assignment so that it invites greater authenticity and engagement. Engaging in reflection allows teachers to make meaning from their experiences instead of moving on to the next thing.
Reflection can be effective when it is done just by the teacher him or herself. This might range from quickly jotting down notes after a lesson to journaling at the end of the day. More structured practices might involve responding to a standard set of questions or prompts for each lesson to capture important experiences and learnings.
Interactions with another professional, such as a coach or mentor, can enhance a teacher’s reflective practice. They can help broaden the perspective by asking questions and bringing up new areas for consideration. They are often able to bring to awareness things that the teacher may not be seeing, and help the teacher evaluate attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions. Combining these two approaches, teacher self-reflection and work with a mentor or coach, provides the greatest opportunity for professional growth.
Teacher Reflection and the TIM
In the Goal-Directed characteristic within the TIM, we emphasize fostering students’ ownership of their learning through increased self-direction and reflection. Emphasis is placed on students setting goals, planning activities, monitoring their progress, and reflecting on the outcomes. (For more on the Goal-Directed characteristic, read Dr. Winkelman’s post at https://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/goal-directed-learning/). If we apply this approach to teacher’s professional development, we see that in practice some of the activities may only happen on annual basis and possibly in the context of an evaluation. If the goal-directed elements are included in a teacher’s regular practice, and are self-directed, they will likely have much greater impact.
The TIM can serve as a helpful context for a teacher’s technology-related professional development. The matrix provides a framework for situating a teacher’s current practices and comfort level, setting goals, providing examples of activities, and can serve as a way to chart progress. Several of the TIM Evaluation Tools extend and specifically address these components, while also incorporating reflection.
The next posts in this series will expand on how specific TIM Tools can be used to structure and support teachers’ reflection as part of their ongoing professional growth.
Reflective practice is key for teachers’ continued professional growth and refinement of their practice. When we encourage teachers to engage in regular reflection, whether formal or informal, it is essential that that the reflective practice and its results be meaningful and helpful for the teacher.
Christine Harmes is a consultant on research, measurement, and evaluation, and an ICF-certified coach. Her research interests focus on improving teacher use of technology, computer-based testing and usability. At the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida, Dr. Harmes focuses on research and tool development related to technology integration.