Monday, July 19, 2010

The IB Learner Profile – Reflective

The response to my last blog post about the IB Learner Profile attribute “caring” caused me to think in much greater depth about our roles as teachers. As I thought back on my experience in IB World Schools over the past 22 years, I realized I was exhibiting another attribute of the Learner Profile – being reflective.

While I’ve often heard the phrase “learning from experience” it’s clear to me that you don’t often learn from experience alone – the only way you really learn is to reflect on that experience in order to change or develop something. When you have a negative experience you may actually learn nothing at all from it except not to do it again. Because this year we have had serious problems with the technology actually working in our school, many teachers have not had a great experience when they decided to use technology in their classrooms. For example, one teacher decided to do photography with the students as part of the How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry. She planned the lesson well and made a Powerpoint using examples of images from a friend of hers who is a photographer. The students were encouraged to think about composition, colour, texture and light when taking their photographs around the school and they went out and took amazing photos following this lesson. So far so good.

The problem came with transferring these photos from the cameras to the computers. The first experience of this was a total disaster. Heidi had booked a set of MacBooks and planned to do the activity in iPhoto so that the students could edit and frame their photos before saving and printing. She already knew she couldn’t get a wireless connection in her classroom, so had arranged to use the dining room. The first problem she encountered was that it was not possible to log onto iPhoto as a class. Once she had sorted out this problem she was faced with an extremely long transfer time for the students actually getting the photos onto the network. At this point Heidi may well have given up and decided to do a different activity, but through reflecting on what had not worked we were able to try different ways around this, such as using the wired lab, rather than doing the activity on wireless laptops, and transferring the photos onto the computers using the cables. Although we still had problems (different versions of iPhoto on the labs and laptops), we were able to manage them. At the end of the unit, when we finally reflected on what the students had learned – and what we had learned about the technology – we decided that we would still like to use photography again as it was a great experience for the students and the final images they printed out and saved for their portfolios showed they had understood the different photographic techniques Heidi had shown them, but we also realized that we would have to make several changes to the way we used the technology in order to be successful.

Teacher are often accused of having just one year of teaching experience and repeating it many times. We all know of teachers who regularly recycle their lesson plans from one year to the next and who use the same old, tired resources year after year. To break out of this cycle it is important to be reflective, to think carefully about what worked and what didn’t and why, and if we then decide to do a similar activity in the future we will be doing it in a different way in order for it to be more successful.

Photo Credit:  RefleXive Alice by Cambiodefractal

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more! Reflection is such an important part of the learning process. Without it we end up ditching a lesson that didn't work the way we expected all together, or we repeat the lesson that worked over and over again. Reflection allows us to consider what is good in a lesson and apply it differently, constantly improving our craft. This is why blogging has become so important to me, it is a way for me to reflect and a way for me to learn from other teachers reflections. We are never "there" yet!