10 Reflection Questions to Ask Every Teacher by @TeacherToolkit

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shutterstock Intelligent group of young school children all raising their hands in the air to answer a question posed by the female teacher, view from behind


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How could you improve and refine your own classroom practice before the academic year draws to a close?

This is a blog for every teacher to use in the coming weeks to help refine their own practice and pedagogy.

With another exam season almost over and the academic calendar nearing the end of yet another year, if you are lucky enough to work in a school that offers teachers a little bit of ‘gain time’ – remember this? – from revision classes and end of examination groups, teachers will suddenly exhale a ‘sigh of relief’ and suddenly realise that they have some time for planning, marking, peer-observations; perhaps even refining some schemes of work …

During this term, I share the following questions at a time when teachers are given that small amount of breathing space for planning and reflection. Before the summer holidays commence, I write to all main-scale teachers so that you can consider the following for personal reflection;

Pedagogy Reflection:

  1. What makes you a good teacher?
  2. How do you know?
  3. How do you evidence this?
  4. Do you want to be a better teacher? Yes, but how can you do this?
  5. What would your colleagues say about you?
  6. What would your students say about you?
  7. Are your students inspired by your lessons? What would Grumpy Student say?
  8. Do you consistently have high expectations for all students?
  9. Do you take every opportunity to develop literacy; numeracy and cross-curricular links? How? Show me …
  10. Are you up to date with current practice and expertise in your subject field? When last did you hear experts in your field?

shutterstock Teacher Helping Pupils Studying At Desks In Classroom

Image: Shutterstock

Curriculum Reflection:

  1. What resources could you create; adapt and refine?
  2. What schemes of work do you need to review? What makes a great scheme of work? What features?
  3. What displays could you update? Could students help you select work for the following year group to view?
  4. Is it time for a classroom summer-clean? What should be binned?
  5. Are there any colleagues you would like to observe? Get out there and organise it now …
  6. Could you use ‘gain-time’ to invite colleagues in to observe you? Do you have an open door? Take a risk?
  7. How could you improve your marking for the schemes you deliver next year?
  8. Could you use the opportunity to plan for smarter marking and reduce time spent giving meaningless feedback?
  9. Why should you review your own staff development needs? What will improve your practice in the classroom? How will you do this?
  10. What would be your next career step? Have you taken the time out to reflect on this yourself? With a colleague? With a critical friend?

I hope you find time to breathe this half-term and have the time to tweak your own classroom practice.

Happy reflections …


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5 thoughts on “10 Reflection Questions to Ask Every Teacher by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Whilst in an ideal world I would wholeheartedly applaud the sentiments expressed in your post In the world in which we really live feel I must take issue with them. These were exactly the sort of statements that sent me into the blackest depression back in the day when I was a permanent science teacher. (I now do supply teaching largely because I could no longer take the workload stress)

    I will concentrate on your curriculum reflection questions – everyone of which, again in an ideal world, is an excellent question. I do need to qualify that everything I write is written from the point of view of a Chemistry teacher – I do appreciate that the responses I give will not necessarily hold true in every subject area.

    (1) In spite of what you said about ‘gain time’ the reality is that in many of the science departments I have visited recently the department is hanging on by a shoe string, usually with at least 1 long term absentee and any ‘gain time’ is simply spent coping and recovering physically and emotionally from the previous weeks. There simply is still not the time to create, adapt and refine resources! To be told to do so simply reinforces despair. Do you not think that we all know that there are serious weaknesses with the majority of our resources? Do you not think that most science teachers would give their right arm for the time and necessary CPD to create, adapt and refine resources ?! For lack of time the majority of many science departments resources will be material published by the major publishers. In my opinion (and that of a great many of my colleagues) the majority of this particularly text books and particularly at ks3 is poor at best and downright appalling at worst. Personally I would certainly rather create my own resources- they would certainly be better than those on offer but we do not have the time!

    (2) Reviewing schemes of work – this of course is intimately connected with (1) above. In science the whole curriculum from yr 1 to yr 13 has been undergoing a vast amount of change- (yes I know that this is true for many other subject areas) but the changes to secondary science are huge, particularly in relation to practical work. exam boards have not released their GCSE specs yet, A level and ks3 info was changed before GCSE!!

    (3) Displays – whilst I disagree with a lot that Michaela does their approach to displays does seem to be sensible i.e. dont do them!

    (4) In many of the schools I have worked in recently the whole science departments need to be raised to the ground and rebuilt! never mind binning things! Some science teachers and students have to work in the most appalling conditions – to be told to summer clean will just rub salt into the wound –

    (5) (6) – refer to above in (1) about science departments hanging on by a shoe string and with absenteeism

    (7) (8) Connected with (2) above

    (9) I have not had time yet to read the report that came out yesterday from the teacher development trust(I will) so I don’t know how much of what I will say is highlighted there. I have engaged in a vast amount of CPD during the whole of my career – most of it self funded and on many occasions gone to where I have had to take a day without pay in order to attend!! It is something I know a lot about! As a result of all the CPD I have undertaken (including a masters in sci ed which again was self funded) I know a huge amount, all evidence based, about how science, and particularly chemistry, education could be changed for the better. However very little of what I know can I actually use in the classroom to improve my teaching because of constraints imposed on me by the curriculum, SLT, budget restraints, available resources, Ofsted, etc etc – the list is endless. Staff development is only going to be of limited use until it is more intricately linked to whole department, whole school and in many cases education policy change!!! Let me try and explain what I mean with a detailed example. Some of my own CPD recently has shown me a lot of research evidence to say that chemistry education would be vastly improved by developing a curriculum based on a conceptual progression from the chemists understanding of the nature of substance and focusing particularly on the importance of the use of models in chemistry. Now as an ordinary classroom teacher constrained by the published course a department has invested in and the constraints imposed by the structure of the national curriculum and GCSE specs there is very little that I can do. i.e. my own CPD is not able to help!!

    On the matter of CPD a few questions as you are a deputy head – (1) Do you know how many of your science staff are members of the ASE ? (2) Would you support them all going to the ASE’s annual conference every Jan where they will get the very best value for money science CPD there is ?

    My apologies for writing such a long comment!!

  2. Reblogged this on SBHS Teaching & Learning Take Away and commented:

    This made me think. As we approach the end of this year we have a bit more time, however small, to stop and take stock. In this post @TeacherToolkit (aka Ross Morrison McGill) provides 10 questions to support personal reflection and steer our future professional development.

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