End-of-Year Teacher Reflection: A Timeframe for Reflection-on-Action
by Mary Beth Miller

For many elementary physical education teachers in the United States, the end of the school year arrives during the late spring/early summer season, typically in the month of June. Individuals teaching in a year-round school model may experience their end-of-school year during the fall or winter seasons. Regardless of when a school year ends, the fact that it ends provides teachers with options for continued professional development through graduate education and/or accruing continuing education credits to maintain the teaching certificate, as well as time for rest and recreation.

I would like to add one more R to the end-of-year picture: Reflection upon the school year.

The end of the school year is a great time to look back and think about what went well, and what needs to be improved. The practice of reflection may be viewed as a reflective action addressing a cycle of professional action (teaching), coupled with reflection upon the action leading to modified action and refinement. The metacognitive practice of teachers thinking about their thinking (about teaching) develops a mental habit of reflection, therefore licensing teachers to become active monitors of their own learning to facilitate their performance in action (reflecting while teaching) and on action (looking back upon action some time after it has taken place (Schon, 1987). While many teachers exercise both reflective practices, the focus of this article is to address the reflection-on-action that may occur during the timeframe following the end of the school year and prior to the next.

What is the particular focus point of any reflection?

The type of reflective practice may be explained by the theoretical framework for reflection. For example, some teachers may technically reflect because their concern rests upon the efficiency and effectiveness of accomplishing a means to certain ends. Many beginning teachers, or preservice teacher candidates learning to teach, are more heavily engaged with technical reflection to improve teacher competence, thinking that means are absolute. Other teachers may use a form of practical reflection, examining the interconnectedness of means, goals, and outcomes. Here, means are not considered absolute. Yet other teachers may engage in critical reflection, adding to the technical and practical reflective aspects in the consideration of involving moral and ethical criteria. Findings from a Gore & Ziecher study, as well as an Alder study (as cited in Hatton & Smith, 1995), indicate that with critical reflection, teachers are concerned with questions of equity and justice, judging if one professional activity is equitable, just, and respectful of persons or not.

The Guiding Question(s)
While a theoretical framework is important to the physical education teacher's reflective process, so too is the ability to focus the reflection using a guiding question. The guiding question formed depends upon which type of reflection (technical, practical, or critical) one engages in. Regardless of reflection type, the guiding question can address: 1) a physical educator's need, 2) a focus on student achievement, 3) whether set goals are evidence based and show areas of need for the students, and 4) what kinds of problem solving products most promote learning in this area of need. Here is a sampling of some guiding questions:

  • How can I help students feel comfortable working with diverse groups of classmates and overcome the desire to always be with their friends?
  • How can I more effectively facilitate less teacher dependency/increase cooperative learning/utilize greater problem solving to promote higher order thinking in my class?
  • What kinds of assessments best help me to understand and teach my students?
  • What types of teaching best impacts my students' learning?
  • Do I, and how do I, help students understand the importance of the "why" of certain movement challenges presented and not just the "what" of the challenge?
  • What changes in my teaching styles are needed to make my students succeed?
  • What changes in my teaching styles are needed to support equity, justice, and respect to all learners in my class?
  • How do I measure success and report it?
  • What classroom strategies are effective in developing student self-evaluation of their learning?
  • How may I better motivate my students to engage in meaningful movement both in my class and extended to out-of-school contexts?

Teachers who are concerned about high-quality physical education continually transform their teaching practice to promote better learning. That said, a teacher's performance goals may surround the following 3 constructs: 1) curriculum, instruction and assessment, 2) communication and classroom management, and 3) professional standards. Taken together, the physical education teacher engaging in reflection-on-action whether technical, practical or critical may, in addition, use professional literature constructed in more recent years by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) to further facilitate their thought process and form meaningful guided questions.

Tools to navigate a teacher's reflective process may include the NASPE guidelines for high-quality physical education programs centered upon the components of: opportunity to learn, meaningful content, and appropriate instruction. In particular, the guiding light to help teachers focus their reflection upon working in a high-quality physical education program center upon the 6 national content standards. These standards frame what students should know, and be able to know and to do, as a result of a quality physical education program (NASPE 2004).

Standards-Based Reflection Approach
The second edition of the NASPE National Content Standards (2004) may serve as practical framework for formulating a guiding question or questions that require an analysis of curricular content, context, best practices, and student achievement. Surrounding the 6 content standards, physical education teachers may connect the triad of meaningful content with appropriate practices and student achievement to reflect upon their professional practice that impacts student learning and to set goals along the path of further developing a high-quality developmentally appropriate program.

Meaningful Content
Elementary physical educators reflecting upon their curricular content may wonder how closely aligned and meaningful their curriculum content is to promoting learning in the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains. Related NASPE documents that may guide teacher's reflection include Moving into the Future: National Standards for Physical Education, 2nd edition (2004), Concepts and Principles of Physical Education: What Every Student Needs to Know (2003), and Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines for Children Ages 5-12 (2004). Helpful to teachers beginning their career and still formulating developmentally appropriate design-down units and lessons, the Sample Performance Indicators for Selected Themes developed by Christine Hopple, published as Appendix A in her book Elementary Physical Education Teaching & Assessment (2005), as well as the NASPE Performance Indicators published in her book as Appendix B, may help a teacher identify what students are to accomplish in physical education by the end of specific grade levels and grade ranges.

This can be particularly helpful for teachers to use when reflecting upon program design, goal setting, and assessment strategies. Furthermore, teachers wondering how their program aligns to the NASPE National Content Standards (2004) may reflect upon the notion of having a program examination conducted using the 2006 Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT). According to elementary physical educators consulted about this article's topic, time is spent over the summer searching for relevant resources. Remaining current in professional organizations at the state and national levels is one way of keeping informed to assist one's thinking about thinking relevant to their professional practice, including a meaningful curriculum that they have control of.

Student Achievement
Of all the areas in physical education, regardless of developmental level, assessment to identify student achievement has made the most recent significant impact upon teacher reflection. Evidence of this exists with the plethora of recent publications in the profession of physical education central to assessing to standards. Across the United States, some school districts provide their teachers time and resources to develop their ability to align curriculum to state learning standards (extending the NASPE National Content Standards, 2004), then develop an assessment plan to identify the impact teaching has upon student learning by producing measurable outcomes, all aligned to standards.

As previously mentioned, the Sample Performance Indicators by Selected Theme may provide a physical education teacher, especially those just launching their careers, to identify specific skills and knowledge that is recommended to be developed by the end of grade K, 2, 4, and 6. Having this information may help teachers think ahead of a plan for assessing performance outcomes according to these performance indicators. Further, elementary physical educators may turn to the NASPE Performance Indicators as a guideline to identify specific content to address for assessing performance outcomes within various grade ranges, all aligned to the NASPE National Content Standards (2004).

Relevant related resources published by NASPE found within their assessment series that may be useful to the elementary physical educator include: Assessment in Outdoor Adventure Physical Education (2003), Portfolio Assessment for K-12 Physical Education (2000), Elementary Heart Health: Lessons and Assessment (2001), Standards-Based Assessment of Student Learning: A Comprehensive Approach (1999), Assessing Motor Skills in Elementary Physical Education (1999), Assessing and Improving Fitness in Elementary Physical Education (1999), Creating Rubrics for Physical Education (1999).

Beginner Teacher Reflection: A Standards-Based Approach
Used widely throughout physical education teacher education professional preparation programs, the National Standards for Beginning Physical Education Teachers, 2nd ed. (NASPE 2003) not only provide a focus for beginning physical education teachers to positively influence the teaching-learning process as a pre-service teacher candidate, but may also be a useful tool to guide professional practice and reflecting upon such practice during the first 3 years of teaching while working toward tenure. Beginning teachers may use these 10 standards as a framework to focus their reflective practice similar to the process of applying the 6 national content standards as a reflection framework.

Either standards framework is appropriate for the beginner teacher; however, the 10 beginning teacher standards are specifically developed for pre-professionals and professionals at the initial career stage. Reflection-on-action by the beginning teacher may revolve around a particular standard outcome or outcomes depending upon what the teacher's guiding question may be. I shall provide a random sample of examples for some of the 10 standards. For example Standard 1, Content Knowledge, has 3 outcomes each having 2 levels of performance: acceptable and target. A beginning teacher reflecting upon improvement in this standard may develop a guiding question on strategies to improve the use of developmentally appropriate and accurate critical elements and skill cues to facilitate basic motor skill acquisition, a standard commonly difficult at the initial stages of teaching development.

Teachers wishing to improve upon teaching to diverse learners may reflect upon Standard 3 Diverse Learners and narrow the reflection upon their particular focus for improvement, either appropriate instruction or appropriate strategies, services and resources. A guiding reflection question for a beginning teacher to focus upon for their reflection may surround their desire to learn more about designing learning environments from a multisensory approach (VARK: visual, auditory, read-write, kinesthetic) to designing less teacher-centered and more student-centered styles of teaching. Teachers wishing to develop an assessment plan for their program, Standard 7 Student Assessment, may focus on the location of resources of developmentally appropriate authentic assessments and develop a starting level assessment action plan using quality resources such as those published by Hopple (2005) and Schiemer (2000). In short, these 10 beginning standards may be considered a useful tool to frame in a beginning physical education teacher’s ability to form reflective questions.

Factors that Influence Reflection
An elementary physical education teacher's incentive to reflect-on-action rests upon various reasons such as: using reflection to set professional goals that are expected by teachers of their administration; intrinsic motivation to further develop a high-quality developmentally appropriate program; a true caring of delivering meaningful and enjoyable content in a manner that students recognize and know the value of why they are doing what is being asked of them; constantly striving for new motivational techniques; learning from other teachers by observing others teach, then reflect; attending professional conferences and reflecting; engaging in professional development programs; and reflecting alone and with others.

Regardless of factors that influence teachers to reflect, the ultimate influencing factor is the professional commitment to uphold high-quality physical education programs through best practices teaching. The process of teacher development and teacher refinement grounds itself with the practice of thinking about thinking upon ones professional practice. Reflection is that practice of on-going self-reflection and assessment in order to improve teaching and affect student learning. Continual teacher growth is met through life-long learning and reflection. Develop the habit-of mind to regularly think about your thinking upon professional preparation and practice. Time is essential for this, and the end of the school year is open season for reflective practice.



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