Reflection Improves Instruction
Use reflection as a learning opportunity. Defuse potentially harmful moments by having students reflect on their unacceptable behavior. This forces students to think about the situation and come to terms with why their actions were inappropriate. True interest in students' personal development will result in more respect and interest from students.
Write out your reflections for each lesson. Before a lesson, identify one or two aspects to consider. After the lesson, ask yourself what you did well and what could be improved. Keep your reflections organized by storing the lessons and reflections together. This may mean keeping files in your computer in the same folder as the lesson files or keeping a journal. Make sure you look back at your reflections and make the necessary improvements before teaching the same lesson, project, or unit the next time around.
Reflect on student learning. Develop a system to reflect on what each student is learning. Try to determine what the student truly comprehends. What do their eyes tell you? Ask questions that require critical thinking such as "What is the most important part of this topic?" There may not be a right or wrong answer; however, you will be able to judge the extent of their understanding. Remember, it's better to have students struggling and engaged in the material than have students completely removed from the lesson.
Reflect with others. Schedule informal meetings and visits with other teachers who teach similar content. Learn what others think you are doing well and how you can improve. Reflect together about what "works" when teaching difficult concepts. Your students all have unique learning styles; learning a variety of teaching methods is beneficial in reaching each and every student.
Create activities that allow students to reflect on their own learning. Ask students to write short summaries that reflect on the "big idea." It will help them communicate their ideas more effectively and allow them to self-evaluate their progress. You will also benefit by assessing understanding outside of computational fluency.
Ask for students to reflect on the class. Learn when your students are most engaged and how you can better serve them. This should be part of a regular routine, especially when starting a new grading period. It may be awkward for students to give constructive criticism, so be conscious to ask the questions in a way that will yield useful feedback. Set up a feedback box so that students can submit anonymous feedback. Consider their needs and make changes accordingly, and you will earn their appreciation and respect. They will work harder for you as you become a more effective teacher!
Incorporate technology into the idea of reflection. Your students may be already spending time in cyberspace, so take advantage of their interests and skills by asking them to blog about their mathematical ideas. One idea is to have them post an initial response to a discussion question and require them to also reflect on two other students' posts.