How To Get The Most Out Of Professional Development This Summer

TeacherVision Advisory Board Member and veteran teacher, Jessica, shares her tips for how to find professional development opportunities, and how to get the most out of them.

Tips for reflection inspired by Robert Marzano's teachings

Now Is The Time To Reflect

Whether you have been counting down the days or the last few weeks have flown by, it is hard to believe that the end of the school year is here. It is likely that you feel a combination of excitement and fatigue as you finish your last few days at school. From packing up your classroom to writing grades and comments to celebrating your students at assemblies and class parties, so much happens in May.

You may feel the same combination of anticipation and exhaustion when you begin to reflect on the past year, and set goals for summer planning. It is tempting to do anything but think about teaching the first week of summer break, but you may regret that choice when you begin to plan and your teaching year isn’t fresh in your mind.

So, why should I prioritize teacher reflection at the end of the school year?

Whether this was your first year of teaching or your twentieth, no two years are the same. The students are different and you change and evolve throughout your career. There is little to no time built into your work days to reflect on how things are going both for you and your students. Taking the time at the end of the school year to reflect will set you up for productive summer planning and help shape your goals for next year.

Reflection guides us to identify areas of strength and areas of growth, so we can set goals for improving our teacher practice, and use our summer planning to work towards those goals.

Time off during the summer is essential for rest and renewal. In order to have the energy you need in August, your summer reflection and planning should be productive, not all-consuming.

So, where do I begin? What should I reflect on? What frameworks can I use?

In order to support you with a reflection approach that allows you to reflect smarter not harder, we partnered with PCG Education to share strategies and tips inspired by the course, Becoming A Reflective Teacher. It is likely that you have encountered Robert Marzano’s work. He is one of the nation’s leading education researchers and teacher training instructors. Marzano believes teacher skills are improved by identifying personal strengths and weaknesses, setting goals, and engaging in focused practice to meet those goals. To check out the course syllabus and learn more about Robert Marzono’s philosophy and frameworks, visit our professional development hub.

Reflection Tips and Strategies Inspired by Robert Marzano

The Tip: Student Survey Data Can Provide Focused Feedback 

The Strategy: End-of-year student survey or exit ticket

It can be challenging to determine the most effective, yet fun way to spend the last week of school with your students. This is an ideal time to provide students with time and space to reflect on their experience in the classroom. Giving students a survey or exit ticket will provide you with feedback and data that will inform your reflection and help you identify your strengths and challenges. When we reflect in isolation, we only have our own experience to rely on. When we invite our students into the reflection process, we are showing them that we value their perspective, and their feedback will help drive any changes that we make in our classrooms the following year. If your classroom is 1:1, Google Forms is an ideal tool for surveying your students. If you prefer to have students write down their feedback, creating an exit ticket with a series of questions will be equally helpful.

The Tip: Growth Goals Are A Key Element To Becoming A Reflective Teacher

The Strategy: Conduct a self-audit

One of Marzano’s recommendations for reflection is to conduct a self-audit. An audit involves an approach to self-reflection where you identify both your strengths and your challenges within the classroom environment. In order to organize the audit process, it is important to have a scale or set of criteria that you use to assess your teaching in a variety of categories like differentiating instruction, building strong relationships with students, and balancing formative and summative assessments. The Marzano scale is 0-4. The numbers will help you identify specific areas of your teaching that you want to work on this summer.

The Tip: Prioritize Student Engagement

The Strategy: Ask yourself, “what do I typically do to notice when students are not engaged?”

It doesn’t matter how well-paced your lesson is or if you asked a variety of question types, if students aren’t engaged in their learning. Marzano believes that one of the most important components of reflection is student engagement. During this part of your reflection, think about the times in your classroom where students were highly engaged in the work. What did you hear students saying? What did you see students doing? Consider also the times when students weren’t engaged. What did you hear them saying? What did you seem them doing or not doing? When considering what your growth goals will be, it is always important to prioritize student engagement.

The Tip: Reflect Using A Framework That Works For You

The Strategy: Teaching isn’t one-size-fits all and reflection isn’t either

If the end of your reflection will result in forming teacher growth goals, then the process of reflection can and should be personalized to you. Some teachers prefer to go back through their lesson plans and notes, and use a t-chart in order to identify one one side, what went well this year that they want to keep doing, and what was challenging that they plan to address. If you prefer more structure, I share my favorite reflection templates in, How To Use Mantras For Meaningful Teacher Reflection and How To Turn Teaching Goals Into Teaching Habits. Whatever your approach, find a framework that works for you so that your reflections feel purposeful and productive rather than forced.

The Tip: Set Growth Goals And Use Those Goals To Drive Summer Planning

The Strategy: There are many different ways to set goals

Many teachers prefer to use the SMART goal framework so their goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Regardless of the framework you choose, it is essential that your reflection results in goal setting. These goals provide structure for your summer planning and are the result of reflecting smarter not harder. To learn more about Marzano’s approach to teacher reflection, sign up for PCG’s online course, Becoming A Reflective Teacher.

How do you plan to reflect this summer? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Julie Mason is the Head of Content and Curriculum for TeacherVision. She brings expertise in blended and personalized learning, instructional coaching, and curriculum design to the role. She was a middle and high school English teacher for eight years and most recently taught at Dana Hall, an all-girls school in Wellesley, MA. She was a blended and personalized learning instructional coach for K-12 teachers at BetterLesson for two years, and she has presented at The National Principals Conference, ISTE, and ASCD where she shared her expertised on how instructional coaching builds teacher capacity in K-12 schools. She has extensive experience designing and facilitating professional development for teachers, and she oversees the TeacherVision advisory board.

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