How Do You Reflect on Your Instruction?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Most physical educators are observed and evaluated by their administrators each year. During this process, administrators love to ask, “What could you have done better/different during the observed lesson?” This question has been a part of almost every evaluation I have ever completed.

Most of the time, educators look down at the evaluation process. In fact, a lot of educators see the process as a pathway to stress. I try my best to see the evaluation process in a different light and look at it as an opportunity for growth.

Teaching quality physical education is a craft which necessitates a unique skill set. I firmly believe that one of those necessary skills is self-reflection, meaning to frequently reflect on your own instructional practices. After all, the only way to improve is to ask yourself on a regular basis, “What could I have done different during that lesson?”

I find myself reflecting on my instruction all of the time. In fact, there are several phases of reflective practices that I engage in. There is the Pre-Instruction Reflection, the Mid-Instruction Reflection, the Post-Instruction Reflection, and the Video Self-Reflection.

I previously posted an article (Click Here) about how I plan my units of instruction and write Skill Progression Sheets (SPS) for each unit I teach. That process determines what will be taught during the lesson. The reflective practices I am focusing on today zero in on how the lesson will be taught, is being taught, and was taught.

Video Self-Reflection: One of the most eye-opening ways to reflect on your instruction is to videotape a complete lesson. This type of reflection is an in-depth process that is essentially an audit of one’s instructional practices. This process takes some time to complete; however, it can be very insightful.

To accomplish this task you simply set up a video camera in your gymnasium and record an entire lesson. In my district, videotaping a class is permissible as long as it is used for internal purposes. That is, I cannot post it online or share it with others outside of the district.

I first completed this task when I was student teaching. I now require each of my student teachers to accomplish this task. Additionally, I try to do this myself every few years.

Recently, I organized a group of colleagues in my district to work through this process. I approached the professional development department of my district and coordinated with them so each participant would receive professional development credit!

With that being said, I hereby issue you a challenge to videotape a lesson in the near future. If you don’t have a camera, you may check with your media specialist, district, or even use the camera on a laptop.

Video Self-Reflection Process:
1. Video a full-length lesson.
2. After recording a full-length lesson, come back to this article and download the  Self-Reflection PE Observation Form. (NOTE: The value of the task will be diminished if you read the form first. That is, you will unintentionally tweak your lesson ahead of time.)
3. Watch your video and complete section one. I encourage you to use a stopwatch to help see how the time was distributed during the lesson.
4. Re-watch your video and complete section two.
5. Complete section three.
6. Review any insights gained through this process and develop a plan to make any improvements that are needed to your instructional practices.
7. This may seem like a lot of work; however, there is true value in this task!
8. Extra Credit: Review the SHAPE America Appropriate Instructional Practice Guidelines.  (NOTE: I have my student teachers use a similar version of the Self-Reflection PE Observation Form to evaluate me!)

**Spoiler Alert!** If you intend to complete the above challenge, PLEASE stop reading as the remainder of this article may influence your instruction and provide skewed results during your audit! If you do not have the capability to record a lesson then you may continue reading! If you do want to complete the challenge, I urge you to please come back once you have completed the task and finish reading the article!

Pre-Instruction Reflection: This type of refection occurs in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the students entering the gym. It calls on you to envision the lesson in your head, meaning to complete a mental walk-through of the lesson. Some of the key questions to consider include:
• What needs to be prepared prior to the students arriving (i.e., equipment, floor markings, etc.)?
• What equipment will be needed?
• Where should it be placed?
• Will each student have their own piece of equipment?
• How will the students be organized during the instruction, demonstration, and/or activities?
• If lines are used, how many students will there be per line or area?
• How will the transitions be managed?
• What technology will be used to enhance the lesson?
• Will any type of assessment occur?
• How will feedback be communicated?
• What type of instructional strategy will be used (i.e., lecture, demonstration, centers/stations, group practice, individual practice, etc.)?
• What type of questions will be asked to extend the learning?

Answering these questions prior to the start of the lesson will help you be more prepared and organized. I usually make notes in the margins of my SPS’s as a part of this pre-instruction process.

Mid-Instruction Reflection: This type of reflection occurs as the lesson is unfolding. It calls on you to continuously monitor the lesson as it is happening. Some of the key questions to consider include:
• Is the lesson going as planned?
• Is there anything that needs to be tweaked?
• Are the students getting it? If so, continue to move forward with the lesson. If not, you may need to stop and reteach.

Answering these questions throughout the lesson will help you ensure the objectives of the lesson are being accomplished.

Post-Instruction Reflection: This type of reflection occurs once the lesson has concluded. It occurs in the minutes, hours, and days following the lesson. It calls on you to reflect on the overall effectiveness of the lesson. Some of the key questions to consider include:
• What parts of the lesson went well?
• What parts of the lesson need to be tweaked or reorganized?
• What could have been done differently?

Answering these questions after the lesson has concluded will help you make improvements for future lessons. Similar to the Pre-Instruction Reflection, I make notes in the margins and then go back and update the plans in the computer.

At first, all of these questions may seem overwhelming. Do I sit down with a piece of paper and spend hours reflecting on every lesson? No, I do this so frequently that it has become a natural process in the way I think and prepare for each lesson. It is has become as automatic as getting in my car, putting down my phone, buckling my seat belt, checking my mirrors, and then starting the car.

With frequent practice these methods can also become a part of your daily practice!

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