This week, I’ve been telling some of the stories that are emerging from my work with the WNY Young Writers’ Studio. Specifically, I’m telling stories that suggest that children might be the best force for change within the field of education because in my experience, teachers tend to listen when kids make respectful requests of them.

I’m also finding that empowering kids to advocate for themselves in this way begins with reflection, so I’ve spent some time investigating reflective practice and approaching it in my work with them over the last several years. Yesterday, I referenced a number of thinkers whose expertise in this field has influenced my own.

The strategies that I’ll be sharing over the next several days were also influenced by Donald Schon, Graham Gibbs, and Christopher Johns, whose research has prompted me to help the writers and teachers that I work with reflect at different points in their learning and process in order to:

  • Learn From Struggles, Uncertainties, Dilemmas, and Breakthroughs
  • Determine How We Can Use What They’ve Learned to Serve Others
  • Define Their Needs and Determine Next Steps

Donald Schon’s contributions to our understanding of reflective practice were framed explicitly around reflection-in-action (during learning or mid-process) and reflection-on-action (after learning or at the end of the process). Reflection-in-action enables us to explore prior experiences in ways that inform our current experiences, connect with our feelings, and test our theories in use. Reflection-on-action involves revisiting what we did, considering why we did it, and ultimately, uncovering new questions and realizations about our learning, work, and behavior.

So what does all that mean for Studio writers and teachers? Often, it means that as we’re writing, we often stop to think about and then share our responses to questions like these:

  • Before you begin writing today, predict where you might encounter a struggle, an uncertainty, a dilemma, or a breakthrough.
  • As you write, pay attention to the voice in your head that remains aware of your thoughts and your feelings. When you encounter a struggle (uncertainty/dilemma/breakthrough), define it in the margin of your text or in your journal. Did you expect this to happen? Why or why not?
  • Before you proceed consider your previous experiences, thoughts, and responses when faced with similar encounters. Is your previous knowledge or past experience helpful to you now? Why or why not? How are you feeling? Are these feelings helpful to you? Will it be helpful if you act on your feelings?
  • Use these reflections to determine how you will move forward.
  • Afterward, share your experiences with a fellow writer or teacher. What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What did you learn about reflection? How are these discoveries guiding you now?
  • What do you need in order to feel more certain about your work? In order to resolve your dilemmas? In order to act on your breakthroughs? Who can help you? What can you request of them?

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