Reflection for Change

As we move towards the end of our academic year, I am in the process of collating data, writing reports and reflecting on the progress of the learners in our class. It is also an opportunity to reflect on my practice as a teacher. A year ago, I was doing the same thing and my reflection left me feeling vulnerable. Though I was working hard, I felt I could be more effective. By admitting to myself that change would benefit my learners, I had taken the first step towards becoming both a better learner and educator.

The first thing I did was to really look at the data. If I could identify my learners areas of strength and growth, it might be a reflection on my own strengths and areas for development.  The two areas for development that I chose to focus on were writing and the development of number sense.

And then, I needed to dig deeper. I needed to understand why the learners in my class were not confident writers, nor did they show confidence when working with number. I realized, that though I had taught it, I had not ignited a passion for writing or playing with number. I needed give learners that sense of ownership over learning, so that they felt passionate about learning.

The next steps… the how?

Professional Development

Education is changing. As educators we need to be learners for two reasons. Firstly, as role models for the learners in our care and secondly, to give them the best education we possibly can. So when I felt like I needed to learn more about developing number sense, I looked for online courses and did something about it. I highly recommend Christina Tondevold’s  (@BuildMathMinds) number sense courses.

Getting Connected

Education is changing. The best ways to find out and be a part of these changes, is by being connected. Initially, I used educational groups on Facebook to keep me in the loop. Now, I am more of a Twitter fan. I find it is incredibly diverse and generally very positive. I share ideas and I get to see what other people are sharing. Reading the blogs of other teachers around the world, inspired me to start this one. Recently, I read a blog post by Adam Hill (@AhillAdam) ctitled ‘Sins to Avoid as Teacher Tweeters,’ that shares great advice about how you can use Twitter to build your Professional Learning Network.


So far, the focus of changing my teaching practice, focused on things I could do myself. However, to truly make a difference, it wasn’t just me that needed to change my thinking, it needed to be a team effort.  I realized that collaboration was not just about attending planning meetings, sharing ideas and trying them out in our individual classes. It was about letting go of the culture of “my students in my class” and start taking responsibility collectively. The my learners became our learners. 

Through the collaboration within our grade team, we are able to harness our creativity to problem solve together. We take our ideas and build upon them, hopefully making them better. We are open-minded and willing to try new things. Not everything we have done as been successful and that is how we have learnt and evolved as teachers. Combining our knowledge and experience means we can do better for our learners.

Empowering Learners

The biggest change in my role as an educator has been the shift from my learners, to our learners to we are learners. Our focus this year has been building our learning community. At the center of this is our students, our learners. We need to listen to them and support them on their learning journey, not direct their learning. What does each individual learner want to learn? How can we help them get there? And if educators are there to support learners, then so are their families, thus adding to our learning community. How can we build family partnerships? 

By giving learners the ownership of their learning and by keeping their families involved, they have shown an enthusiasm and commitment towards learning that I have not seen before in all my years of teaching.

Sharing Experiences

Finally, if I am truly shifting thinking towards a collective responsibility, then I have a responsibility to share my experiences. I’ll be honest and say that tweeting, writing this blog and leading PD, pushes me well out of my comfort zone. For myself, I do so as a way to clarify my thinking and hopefully get feedback from my learning community. For other learners and educators, I share because I hope I can help others, as so many have helped me.

Link to quotefancy

Taking it further – Assessment for learning

Assessment for learning was the buzz word early in my teaching career.

Assessment Reform Group (UK 2002):

Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.

Our planning documents included our learning objectives and our success criteria. We would share our objectives and ‘construct’ the said success criteria with them. Differentiated copies would be stuck into books and referred to during lessons. We would give feedback during the lesson and students would peer and self assess their learning. At the end of lesson we used 2 stars and a wish to give more feedback, and the next day students would respond. Students also had targets and were expected to be able to share them and how to get there.

Upon reflection, I would redefine my early practice as ‘assessment for teaching,’ because I was doing the heavy lifting. The learning was still being directed by me. So how has my teaching and learning changed?

Well, to start with, my teaching partner Zoe Roles (also on Twitter @RolesZoe) and our collaborative team, have been on a journey to ‘let go’ of what does not work for our learners and focus on building a learning community.

At the beginning of the academic year we focused on building our community and ensuring our Kindergarten learners knew what a growth mindset is and why they needed to have one. We began to ask ‘What do you want to learn? What are your goals? What is the first step you will take? What do you need from us?’

We modeled giving feedback and then asked our learners ‘What did you do well? What do you need to work on?’ We listened and we learned together.

The changes we have made have been to shift the focus from teachers to learners. The result has been that our learners are motivated and constructing meaning for themselves.

For example, when our learners were ready, they constructed their own writing success criteria based on all the discussions we have had about their writing in the past. I supported them with the organization, and the knowledge cane from them. During a recent writing on demand writing assessment, they reminded me to have the checklist available. Some chose to use it, and others did not. They also began to help each other peer review their writing, without direction from me. Why? because they owned it!

This week, inspired by Zoe, I shared data with the students about their knowledge of phonics and sight words. They loved seeing how much progress they have made this year and set themselves targets.

Then, they shared these targets with their families via Seesaw. One learner said:

“Mummy, come home early, I want to learn these sight words.”

Returning back to to the earlier definition of assessment for learning, I am reminded that learners were put first. Let them take the lead in their learning.


Assessment Reform Group 2002, Assessment for Learning: 10 principles research-based principles to guide classroom practice, Assessment Reform Group, London, United Kingdom. Retrieved from:

Jean Piaget. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2018, from Web site: