Reflection as Planning

I just sat down to make the unit test that I plan to give my grade 6 science class next week. When setting a unit test, I always start with the test that I used the year before and then make any necessary edits or changes; however, when I went to retrieve the file for last year’s test, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had already revised the test for this year. Then I remembered: while I was marking the test last year, I was frustrated to find that students had understood some of the questions differently than I had intended and their results suffered as a consequence. So, as soon as I had finished marking the test, I immediately re-worked the problematic questions. Looking over the revised version of the test just now reminded me of the issues with the previous version and I’m quite certain that if I had left the revisions until this year, I would have totally forgotten about what I wanted to change.

This reminds me of some sage advice that I got in my first year of teaching: I distinctly remember a colleague telling me that the best planning happens as you reflect at the end of the unit, rather than before the unit. Her advice was part of what prompted me to make a habit of revising tasks for next year (even if I’m not sure I’ll be teaching the same course again). It has certainly proven to be a worthwhile reflective strategy and, in addition to the benefit of reflection, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of discovering that a job on your to-do list has already been done!

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