The feedback that I received yesterday and the reflection I’ve been doing in response to that have inspired the following question: we spend so much time planning as educators, but how often do we attend to reflective practice and how often do we formally assess our own work? There has been so much talk about formative assessment lately that I guess it’s only natural for me to wonder how often any of us ask our colleagues to help us formatively assess our own practice. I learned so much from yesterday’s peer review, and I’m convinced that asking for this sort of feedback consistently will help me improve my work….substantially.

What would happen if every person in our field were to make this sort of work a priority? What if preservice teachers and staff developers were trained to understand that peer review and self-evaluation were just as necessary to solid planning asĀ that checkĀ for understanding we’re always so careful to include?

What would happen if I invited my colleagues to position themselves as critical friends while I’m doing the work that I do…regularly? What if I asked them to observe my demo lessons, attend coaching sessions, or participate in a training that I was leading? What new learning could be realized? How might it help me serve other people better?

What if administrators invited their colleagues to do the same?

What if teachers did?

What if everyone from students to superintendents asked others to coach them and engage in peer review with them?

What if planning for these opportunities became as important as planning our anticipatory set, our guided practice or our think aloud?

What if discussing our struggles and asking others to help us identify flawed practices became as comfortable as sharing what we’re good at? What if conversations like these happened with such regularity that people no longer felt threatened by them?

What would happen then?

I woke up this morning with this on my mind, and it’s evening now, but I’m still finding it all worth thinking about.



  1. I completely agree! I ask for feedback from my participants when I am leading a training session. I read my evaluations, reflect on what they say and then respond to that feedback. I want to learn from them as much as they are learning form me.

    I get things in my head like that too and can’t put them away. Your blog is definitely helping me reflect. Thanks Ang!

  2. Just thinking more and more about what formative assessment looks like for folks like us. We speak a lot about how teachers can use it to help serve kids better. I’m thinking all of us could probably benefit from using it to help anyone we serve better.

  3. OK – so unplugging this weekend made me late to the peer review and the comments were awesome so I am not going to add anything there. As Jenn said – putting your work out there in a very public and visible peer review is a great demonstration of the dispositions – especially courage and initiative!

    You raise an interesting notion in this post – are we formatively assessing our own practice? It is a challenge that I put forth to my team this year and one that I have taken on myself. As I purposefully craft those moments and begin to really record and reflect on the results, I have begun to really change what I do. I actually have less formally prepared and give over more to the participants because the learning might not follow my agenda.

    I would love more of a chance for the type of feedback that you received on a regular basis – and I do seize those opportunities via Skype with Jenn or Julie when I can. But outside of Fellows, not many of my colleagues seem ready to do so. Despite my challenge to my team, I haven’t seen much of a change in practice or thinking around this. I have been journaling and reflecting on the steps I have taken to make them more comfortable with this notion – perhaps I’ll bring it to the next C4L meeting!

    Great and thoughtful posts – thanks Angela!

  4. “But outside of Fellows, not many of my colleagues seem ready to do so.”

    I think a lot of us, including me, are sitting squarely in this place…..eager ourselves, but hesitant to do so because finding those to collaborate with is difficult. Have to have equal give and take and equal willingness to share in order to feel “safe.” That’s why I’ve so loved getting to know people like you and Jenn and Mike and Liz and Kate and now some of the folks at Depew too. You get it, and that’s awesome.

    Thanks, T!

  5. It is amazing how ideas take on a life of their own. I am always open to opportunities to improve, but I cannot say the same for my peers, colleagues and friends. It is a place we need to be!

    All of the “what ifs” become questions to ponder and discuss. We open ourselves using blogs to people we know but never met, and these discussions are transformative.

    I for one cannot sleep at night, as my mind reels with these thoughts. I am sure this is only the beginning of something great.

  6. So, I struggled to find something powerful to say to the first post on the lesson but the comments of others left me with nothing really profound to add. All comments were right on and powerful enough on their own without my two cents. I must respond to Jenn’s comment, however, about putting yourself and your lesson out there and the need for us to engage in the practice more often. When I was teaching and working on my admin degree, reflection was stressed (and required) so often that I made a lesson plan template that provided space for me to reflect weekly on my classroom practice although I was also required to reflect weekly on my admin internship as well. I still do this with my NU lessons and solicit feedback from my students, but I haven’t really taken the time to reflect on my new position. I’m hoping my blog will provide me with the reflection and soul searching practice that I need to engage in. I have, however, solicited responses from teacher participants of my PD presentations and I am realizing that the “survey” type document I’m using must be ammended. Some simply fill it out because they have to and very few are giving meaningful feedback. Is that because they view me as a boss? I hope not. We all need to grow and keep growing. I also realize that I need to ammend the district’s Professional Growth Plan document as well to make this part of a teacher’s job more meaningful for them. Let’s face it; most teachers reflect in the car to and from work, but VERY few do it on paper (or on internet) and fewer still engage in the type of practice your first post on this lesson provided. Hooray for you, Angela, and hooray for us who know you and get to take part in such an important task.

  7. I’ve been reading the work of Mezirow (Transformative Learning) and Schon (reflection). According to Mezirow, we need a “disorienting dilemma” before we can change our beliefs and/or practices,and it is the reflection that guides us through stages/phases of change (not necessarily a linear progression). Sometimes we get “stuck” and never complete the transformation of our thinking and learning–but once transformation occurs, you never go back. I’ve come to believe that the “just-in-time” on-going support of a coach (or peer!) can make the difference between transforming and stagnating. Your thinking and blogging (as well as the thinkers and bloggers who post here and on Twitter) have been a huge help to me, and I’m re-tooling my dissertation study to focus on reflection through coaching. Even as you seek to inform and improve your own practice, you are coaching and modeling for others the power of this practice. You are awesome!

  8. Linda–how ironic. It was a “disorienting dilemma” that led me to begin shifting my blogging practice a bit as well. Didn’t intend to go in this direction. I always reflected on paper, and it is very uncomfortable doing that here–all of the teachers and admins I work with have been invited to visit this space—but the rewards outweigh the discomfort. It feels honest and real and messy and precisely like what I need. Thank you for being here.

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