It’s May. Time to reflect back on a (hopefully) successful academic year. When things start to quiet down, it’s a great time to reflect on your assessment before getting wrapped up in the planning for the next year. We have to set aside time for it, or else we get sucked into putting out the fires and handling the immediate (which is not always the most important).
What does reflection look like? It’s really a process of dialoging with oneself (or with others) to gain additional perspectives, think about our values and beliefs, and put that in the larger context in which we operate. This gives us clarity to change (Jay & Johnson, 2002).
How do you start? One of the easiest “formulas” I have seen for reflection is the “What? So What? Now What?” process. The “What?” is a description of what happened, the “So What?” examines the significance of what happened in context, and the “Now What?” looks forward to what you will do differently.
Let’s look at a simple example.
What? You did a pre/during/post rubric with the executive officers in the organization you advise to gauge their leadership skills growth. Students used the rubric to self-evaluate, and you also completed a rubric on each student at the end of September, beginning of January, and April. The rubric represented several of the institution’s undergraduate learning outcomes. Most students indicated growth in the areas of communication, critical thinking, and personal responsibility (ethical leadership). Students did not grow in the area of working collaboratively (teamwork, considering different points of view, supporting a shared goal). Not only did the students not score highly on the rubric in April, you also observed their group conflict and lack of cohesion to fulfill the group’s mission.
So What? This is significant because students need to be able to work together now (in classes and co-curricular activities) and in the future when they have a career where they will work with others. The organization, its audience, and its members suffer when the executive officers are not on the same page and working together. Because this is also an expectation from the university, you know students should be developing this skill before they leave the university.
Now What? As you think about the new officers who have been elected for the fall, you know you might need to be a little more engaged with them at the beginning. Working with the president-elect, you plan a retreat that will focus on group development, understanding different viewpoints, and setting organizational goals. You will also continue to use the rubric to evaluate student performance and observation to evaluate organizational performance.
Block some time on your calendar to review the results of your formal and informal assessment(s) from the past year. Maybe make an appointment with a colleague to talk through your reflections. Set a timeline to implement potential changes in the new academic year. If you don’t do it, you will be doing everyone, including yourself, a disservice.
Jay, J. K., & Johnson, K. L. (2002). Capturing complexity: A typology of reflective practice for teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 73-85.