Reflection: An Essential Habit for Professional Development

Author: Dana Penick
January 15, 2015

Many believe the art of reflection is the only true path to growth, personally or professionally. Donald Schön suggested that the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning was one of the defining characteristics of an effective professional (1983).Pensive female 580611_1280

In order for us to engage in this type of reflection, we need to understand why and how we do it.


Reflecting on our experiences helps us learn more effectively and continuously. When we reflect on an experience, we are able to more clearly link what we learned back to that specific experience. Then we can decide what we might do differently when that experience occurs again.

Reflecting on a goal helps us define its specific description, expectations, and purposes. Instead of setting a goal in haste and choosing one that may not align with our mission or vision, we can take time to reflect on the goal and adjust it to truly fulfill our purpose on an individual, school, and district level.

Reflecting on ourselves regularly helps us be better able to model the practice for our staff and students. The more we practice reflection, the more beneficial it becomes, and we can start passing on what we learn as an example to other individuals in our school or district.

Reflecting on where we are now enables us identify where we want to be. If we don’t take time to reflect on where we are as educators in our schools or districts, how can we determine where we want to be and how we can get there? Effective reflection provides the opportunity for growth.


Effective Reflection Practices

  • Set aside time for regular reflection.
  • Establish an accountability partner with whom you can share your goals, growth, and successes.
  • Use a scoreboard that provides a visual and easy way to monitor your progress.
  • Write in a journal, as a part of your reflection, to allow thoughts to flow freely.
  • Embrace styles for sharing what you learn with others. (Write, tell, draw, or post online.)

The Leader in Me process has components within it that model the art, practice, opportunity, and benefits of reflection. The ability to practice reflection does not come easily or naturally to many people; however, it can be developed, like many other skills. Modeling reflection, giving opportunities for staff and students to practice the skill, and establishing a system for practicing and exploring methods of reflection can become a habit in your school—an effective habit.

Staff Reflection Activity

Here is one example of a reflection activity you can try with your staff in a teacher training session or with your students. This activity will help you acknowledge things you are excelling in and identify next steps for growth. I’d love to know what you learn from this activity. Let me know in the comment section below.

Plus/Delta Reflection – As a staff or class, complete a Plus/Delta Chart like the one shown here.

Plus – In this column, reflect on and write down things you can celebrate.

Delta – In this column, reflect on and write down things you would like to work on and grow.

Professional Development The Leader in Me
Here is an example of Plus/Delta reflection chart.

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