Reflect, Adjust, Improve

"At regular intervals, teams reflect on how to become more effective, then tune and adjust their behavior accordingly."

Teaching is by its very nature a deeply reflective practice. But most of that reflecting happens in solitude. Certainly, some individual reflection is necessary. But reflection as a team—especially as a self-organizing team—brings the collective power of the group to our self-assessment.

At regular intervals, certainly no less than once a month, our teams should form and we should ask and answer questions like these:

  • What did we do well?
  • What could we have done better?
  • What came up that was unexpected?
  • What will we avoid doing in the future?
  • What lessons have we learned?

it's not the questions that make the difference here but that we ask and answer them as a team—and that we leave the process with a clear sense that we have learned something useful for the next iteration.

Every teacher is familiar with these questions. But how about every student? Or every parent? There are many layers to reflective practice; each has value.

In a way, reflection in a group is freeing; it allows us to unburden ourselves. The challenge, then, is in the adjustments we make based on what we have learned.

We may learn things that are difficult to improve. But we don't have to improve them all at once. And isn't it better to have these things out in the open than kept inside? Chances are, within a group of 4-6 people, someone else feels exactly the same way.

This is another advantage of reflecting as a team: we discover that we are not alone in our experiences; we find empathy and support.

Conscious adjustment of future practice based on our perceptions of past practice is the only way to make systematic improvement. Without explicit reflection, our adjustments are likely to be random. This means that one person's positive change could easily be counteracted—unknowingly—by another person's negative change. Here again, we see the value of reflecting as a group. By doing so, we can coordinate our efforts as we plot the way forward.


Add your feedback below. To keep track of who is saying what, use an H1 tag (a plus sign "+" in the edit window) to identify yourself. For example:

Steve Peha

I have never seen a group of teachers participate in this kind of group reflection. I've attended more than 100 PLC and other group activities, but I have never seen a group of teachers take themselves through a disciplined practice of reflection and adjustment for the purpose of achieving systematic improvement.

I'm not saying this doesn't happen, only that I have never seen it.

What I have seen and done a lot of is group reflection with students. It's extremely effective and sometimes downright shocking. Sometimes, particularly when a class isn't going well, students have a clearer picture of the problem, and a better sense of the solution, than the teacher does.

We don't often include students in the process of their own education. But we should. I think we'd learn a lot. And I think they'd learn a lot, too. I also think they would find school more meaningful and take more ownership of their results—both academic and behavioral.

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