Reflection as a Tool (One Worksheet)

If you follow this blog, you may know about my passion and commitment to facilitate (most of the ) monthly Reflective Group Meetings my native city. Check this page is you are (planning to be) in Dnipro, Ukraine.

In one of the earlier posts this year I shared a list of possible topics to discuss during these meetings. One of the topics that came up was ‘One Worksheet‘.

About a month later I read  Lina’s post on her blog where she shared her very first experience of attending a Reflective Group Meeting in Tokyo, Japan. In this post she wrote about the structure of the meeting, and some insights from the conversations and activities there. I was especially curious to learn that the meeting facilitator was using one reflective worksheet inviting to discuss how teachers can reflect. I was excited, because the worksheet was created by me earlier in 2017, and I was happy to see that it is being used and reflected on!

[Note: as a new RP Group facilitator I am always curious how the others are running similar meetings, and have occasional blogging/Twitter/Facebook chats with other group leaders around the globe.]

The post below has a simple goal to share the ‘adventures’ of this session and the worksheet itself (after the post) and to reflect, or think aloud, about it.

Explaining what to do with the worksheet

Something unusual I did this year was re-using the same presentation topic and even materials in my interactive sessions for teachers. I used it in February for SOVa Teacher Training Day event in Kiev, then in April for International House Poltava workshop for teachers, then for my consultancy visit to ILTC in Chisinau, Moldova. Finally, the Reflective Practice Group meeting used it as a discussion springboard in May.

The original title for the session was ‘Reflection as a Tool to Fight Burnout‘, and it transformed itself into ‘Reflection as a Professional Development Tool‘.

This was the original abstract for the session:

It is hard to be teaching full-time (and sometimes in more than one place!) and not to feel tired, or burnt out at times. This session will (re-)consider possible reflective tools you can use to re-charge and re-energize your teaching, so that you were eager to step into a classroom day by day.

In the session, I started out by defining burnout and reflection in simple ways

Burnout is …

  • … physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress (via Oxford Dictionary)
  • … exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration (via Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Reflection is…

  • … serious thought or consideration (via Oxford Dictionary)
  • … consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose (via Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  • … conscious thinking about what we are doing and why we are doing it (Thomas S.C. Farrell)

The main questions of the session were

  • How do you reflect on your teaching?
  • How can reflective thinking prevent from burning out, or help you/your colleagues fight it?

We then looked at the worksheet and did the task at the top (evaluating how often these ideas had already been used by the audience). After taking notes individually, the session participants had some time in pairs or small groups to ask each other about the points that interested them, to clarify some items that were vague, and to find out similarities and differences in the responses.

  • If your colleagues use some ideas that you never do, ask about the benefits these activities have.
  • Think which question(s) you would like to discuss with Zhenya.

Zhenya’s Comment: the questions asked were mostly about the meaning of some of the ideas in the list. The ones that surprised the participants the most were ‘draw your student’, for example, or ‘write a letter to your student’.

To wrap up the worksheet discussion, I asked some questions (followed by my brief comments below):

How long do you think each reflective suggestion in the list might take? Hint: 5 minutes 20 minutes 1 hour 1,5 h and more

Zhenya’s Comment: The ‘trick’ of the worksheet is that the upper row describes 5-minute ideas, and the lower row contains 20-minute ideas. The each, however, could be expanded, if there is time available. The most important idea for me was to show that ‘reflection’ does not need to take another hour of teacher’s busy life.

How else can you categorize the reflective ideas?

Zhenya’s Comment: Another ‘trick’ of the worksheet is about the columns, each of which (from left to right) offers reflective ideas for teachers to do on their own (1), with a colleague (2) and about their students (3). Of course they can be combined (which was another follow-up question actually!), for example, teachers can reflect with a colleague about their student (2)+(3), etc.

Can you add an idea or two into each part of the list?

Zhenya’s Comment: One teacher mentioned that sometimes the best way to fight burnout is not to reflect but instead to do something unrelated to teaching, something fun, etc. I agree. The scope of this session was only focusing on what reflection can do, and what reflective ways or tools we can choose from. Reflection, however, is not panacea.

Question to readers: what would YOU add to the list?

Table tennis is an “IT-field’ activity in Ukraine. Do teachers have ‘their’ kind of sport?

Finally, the session participants had to decide on 1-3 new reflective idea(s) to try out in the future, and some were shared in the ‘open class’ format.

My Reflections and Insights

  1. ‘Numbering’ as a way to evaluate the frequency was a good visual way to check which areas are less used, and it was easy to compare the responses (Share the ‘3’-s, or the ‘1’-s, etc.)
  2. ‘Numbering’ could look a bit distracting, as some participants started to sum up the results in the columns (and there was no hidden ‘test result’ in the plan!) On the other hand, this was an additional opportunity for ‘reflecting in action’ for me.
  3. Several people reported how useful and meaningful the quiet time to complete the worksheet and make notes was. This could serve me as a reminder that an interactive session could have some silent moments (just as a language lesson could!) and that sometimes it is the silence that brings the depth of thought. I know it may sound obvious…
  4. I briefly told the audience of the first session about the Experiential Learning Cycle (the participants were from different backgrounds, some being more aware about Reflective Practices, and some having less experience with it. I need to think how to incorporate it in more depth, and/or perhaps to skip this step completely. It will largely depend on the length of the session and how prepared (or interested!) the audience is.

Some final thoughts

I enjoyed the process of creating and ‘interacting’ with this worksheet, and writing this post seems to be a good ending of its journey. Or… it could be its new departing point, especially if some of the readers would like to use it with colleagues in their context(s) and then share the learning, the insights, the challenges and suggestions for improvement.

Bon voyage, and thank you for reading! 🙂


Reflection as a Tool Worksheet in MS Word and in PDF.

References and Further Reading

Reflective Teaching by Thomas S.C. Farrell (2013), TESOL International Association

Practicing What We Preach: Teacher Reflection Groups on Cooperative Learning by Thomas S.C. Farrell and George M Jacobs, February 2016 – Volume 19, Number 4

Defining reflection: Another look at John Dewey and reflective thinking, by Carol C. Rodgers (2002) Teachers College Record. Vol. 4, Number 4, pp. 842-866

Staying Healthy and Motivated (a series of blog posts on iTDI, International Teacher Development Institute)

Getting Feedback on Your Teaching by Geoffrey Jordan

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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