Reflection Vs Refraction

I read today, and was ultimately inspired by the thoughts of Barry Saide and Jasper Fox in their post “Reflect or Refract: Top 3 Tips for the Reflective Educator“. It’s another compelling piece of evidence that the best professional learning can be found from a small journey around Twitter. They sets up the binary between reflective and refractive educators. Primarily the difference being that reflectors are constantly looking at their own practice and refractors are always finding excuses.

Reflectors do not blame students for their inattentiveness or behavioral issues.

This is something I experience often, it is a challenge to dealing with students when deaning and when fingers are pointed it can be hard to discourage the conclusion that has been jumped to. A reflector will look at the actions that they can control, and determine what actions they can change or doing differently to affect more positive outcomes. I am really strong on this idea. One of my mantras is: “how could I have done this differently?” By considering alternatives – even when things go well – I believe it helps me to be more reflective and more critical of my practice.

When we ask refractive educators to reflect on things that occurred, their lens obscures how their involvement and approach were at fault.

This might be a bit over-simplistic, because I think refraction occurs on a spectrum. I’m sure, despite the fact I pride myself on being reflective, that many of my reactions to learning experiences might be seen as refractive. However, I do agree that there is a tendency of refractive educators to blame outside factors such as the students, their background, the school system, the government – whatever they can link to! It’s deficit thinking. Finding fault. No ownership.

The blogpost then asked: “How do we support our refractive peers in their growth toward reflection?” And suggested the following three actions:

  1. Embed Professional Development – had me dreaming for a world in which we could have one timetabled hour a week where we had a compulsory observation. My best PL always comes from seeing my colleagues in action.
  2. Write Regularly – There’s a shift to make between researching every way, which is a natural daily activity for any teacher, and “actively and openly reflect on those findings.” Writing regularly, blogging, can support that process.
  3. Engage in Community Conversation – participate in the online world, engage with other educators, get reading, get tweeting, get blogging.

A really great thought-provoking read here. My main take-aways: keep questioning, keep reflecting, keep ownership, continue to engage in online PL and write as often as I can.

Expertise in contemplation transcends content and passion, setting the stage for continuous improvement. Evaluating one’s practice allows educators of all levels to better serve students’ needs.


3 thoughts on “Reflection Vs Refraction

  1. Truly humbled by the thought you’ve put into this post. I am so glad that our writing inspired you as well as how you took it further and added your insights as well. Keep up the great work here on your blog, I look forward to reading more of what you are thinking about!

  2. The brave thing about writing and reflecting for many is not that teachers don’t want to reflect – it is the value placed around that reflection by time restraints and other demands tend to take precedence. Putting yourself out there and admitting it did not go well is new to teachers. Addressing the why is an even bigger step – teachers teach as themselves and observations can feel like personal measures of success as an individual.

    In amongst all this is the wavy line that determines what it is to be an educator – reflectors will educate the whole child (and this is where the line is blurry – where does education end and parenting begin for students whose parents are absent or incapable? Where does community involvement and whanau support ensure we are all working together? We can make a difference but for me those lines are blurring. For the first time in 15 years I have wanted to take a student home because I know that would make the difference. Refractive educators see the student in the subject and think very little about any other factors making it difficult for the all important relationship to be established. There is no doubt that without a relationship there is limited learning.

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