from http://goo.gl/kOz2NO

Rain Reflection Photography from http://goo.gl/kOz2NO

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” ~ Peter Drucker

The culminating event is over. The project presentations have been presented. Groups and peers have been assessed. Student reflection journals are in. Now what?

Well, it’s time to debrief–because PBL teachers need to reflect too.

Even though I have been teaching a long time, I always take time to reflect. All of my unit plans have a reflection component. When the unit is over, I add my reflective notes–the good (what stays), the bad (what goes), and the ugly (it isn’t pretty yet but it could be). Before I teach the unit again I read over the notes, then I “tweak” what needs tweaking. And go from there …

Thanks to Google forms though, surveying students for their feedback has gotten a lot easier. This application shares the survey with the students and imports their replies into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet can be printed if you like. I prefer to read through the collected data and take summary notes. Like the end of the unit reflection process I record the good, the bad, and the ugly. Where possible I like to share these summary notes with the students so they know that I take their input seriously. They can read my notes as well. The fact that PBL educators encourage a similar process makes total sense to me. Which means … when my first PBL project (and the next of course) ends this is where the formal reflection process begins. I will survey my students, asking them for feedback on the project (this process encourages them to reflect on the project as well), then I will read the results and create summary notes. Afterwards, I will share these notes with my students. This way we can debrief together!

[Aside: I just found a blog entry on 20 end of the year reflection questions and one of my favorites is this one: What is something we did this year that you think you will remember for the rest of your life? I would love to add my version of this question to the PBL student reflection survey. P.S. Bianca Hewes already took these questions and adapted them for her PBL project. To learn more, please read her blog post on PBL reflection questions.]

Although student input is very important, reflection should also involve my peers–especially those who were part of the project. Because the Heroes Rise PBL Project involves librarians and other teachers, I would like to meet with them next and discuss what worked and what didn’t. This way we could improve the project and use it again the following term (or year). When I was a teacher-librarian I always appreciated it when the teachers I worked with involved me in their reflection process. It made me feel like I am an important part of the team. Besides, having an extra set of eyes is always beneficial–mostly because these eyes will see something you didn’t or they will see something negative in a positive way! And that’s a good thing!

Another group I would involve in the reflection process would be the ELA department at my school. I am very fortunate to have fantastic colleagues. We often bounce ideas off one another, so I would feel very comfortable reviewing the project with them. Chances are I would have involved them from the get go anyway. That’s how our department operates. We share resources, lessons, and projects all the time. We also seek advice and encourage feedback. You can see this process at work in the Gender Project debriefing video. To help them improve their project, the teachers eagerly shared their successes and “good mistakes” (BIE, 2005) with one another. (P.S. I love the good mistakes phrase. Don’t you?This expression definitely shows that reflection is a healthy but necessary process.)

As you can see, reflection isn’t a one-time tool for me. I feel comfortable reflecting on my teaching and learning experiences. I don’t see how you can improve or “grow” without reflection. Reflection should be healthy though. Sometimes we focus on the bad and ignore the good, and the ugly. Modelling reflection practices shows our colleagues and students that good mistakes are the best teachers!

“The goal is concrete, the intention has been set but if I don’t stop and reflect, there’s no point to it all! Teaching is reflective practice.” ~ Nicole Arndt


Boss, S. (2012, November 28). PBL teachers need time to reflect, too. Edutopia [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/project-learning-teacher-reflection-suzie-boss

Buck Institute for Education. (2005). The gender project: The project debrief [Video file]. Retrieved from http://bie.org/object/video/the_gender_project_the_project_debrief

Webneel. (n.d.). Rain reflection photography [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://webneel.com/reflection-photography-inspiration-tips