Do you take time for reflection? With the new year upon us, many times we set goals for the new year. These goals might include how we want to better ourselves personally or professionally. In the midst of looking forward, I encourage you to look back and reflect.
Tannebaum, Hall, and Deaton (2013) defined reflection as, "an unending investigation whereby a practitioner uses both reflection and problem-solving to continually adjust their practice in a continual quest for perfection" (p. 255). It is vital we intentionally set aside time for reflection in order to refine our practice. We need to look back and consider our work; then, look forward and apply lessons learned through reflection.
Do you encourage your staff and students to take time for reflection? Do you provide time to reflect at meetings? The temptation is to move on to the next thing immediately after an event, class, week, semester...before you know it, it’s a new year! Practically speaking, in staff meetings you could conduct a quick SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis or work through a similar exercise. Celebrate the victories from a long week or semester and also plan necessary changes for the not-so-great aspects.
As the semester draws to a close, ask your student leaders to reflect on their time in leadership. Provide prompts to guide them as they reflect:
What went well?
What caught you by surprise?
What is one thing you would do differently if you were just beginning your role?
What do you wish you knew prior to the start of your leadership responsibility?
How will you apply what you learned and experienced this semester in future semesters and beyond college?
What is one piece of advice you want to give your successor?
In each of my courses, I include a reflection assignment during the last week of class. Writing challenges students to truly consider what they learned over the course of the semester. Example prompts include the following:
How has your understanding of the topic changed as a result of this course?
What "ah, ha" moments did you have?
Which activities were most helpful in learning and retaining information from the course?
Please share examples or evidence of how you applied your learning.
What do you do with assessment data? Do you reflect on the results and create a plan of action? Or, do you put the information in a report and “file” it away? I encourage you to take time to truly evaluate data you have access to and find ways to make the numbers "work" for you. Here again, celebrate the positive results and implement necessary changes to address negative feedback.
I encourage you to make reflection a priority this year. There are many ways you can incorporate reflection in your practice. As an administrator, include time for reflection in your staff meetings. As a faculty member, include a reflection assignment at the end of class each semester. As an advisor, ask outgoing officers to reflect on their experience as an officer. Regardless of your position, reflection should be part of your routine. If you do not plan for it, it will not happen. Continue to ring in 2019 by reflecting on 2018!
In case you want more ideas on how to reflect intentionally, here is a link to a great video that discusses reflective writing: