We don’t often aim for easy.
Easy workouts won’t make you stronger, and easy books won’t make you smarter. Then why aim to make reflection easy?
While it’s true that work must get harder if we’re going to get better, the first step is making sure the work happens on a regular basis. In other words, before you raise the intensity, you need to have consistency.
This is why reflection must be easy – at first. So it can become a routine.
Floss one tooth
Dr. BJ Fogg, Stanford psychology researcher, uses the phrase “floss one tooth” to explain how to make a habit stick. The secret is to make it easy, laughably so.
Don’t try to build the habit of flossing all of your teeth, he says. Instead, commit to the tiny habit of flossing one tooth.
When your goal is so small the brain can’t say no, you build momentum, and eventually a habit that’s part of your routine.
The reflection habit
Over the past few months, we’ve been working on tools that help teachers build the foundational habit for professional growth: a reflection routine.
While we’re still early, we’re iterating fast and noticing a few factors that make reflection easier for teachers, and therefore encourage them to do it.
We’re gradually tuning our approach to make reflection attractive for teachers. We’ve also cut away things that might get in the way of making reflection a habit.
Through our decade-plus working with schools on video PD projects, we learned that the power of video comes with some complexity, too. There’s hardware to set up, self-consciousness to overcome, and files to manage.
Our belief in video is still strong. But now we’re simplifying the process, so reflection happens much more often.
We believe that reflection should follow a consistent format, and within some reasonable variance, a consistent schedule. The fewer decisions that need to be made about the work, the more energy there is to focus on the work.
A consistent reflection practice makes it easier to see progress and identify the need for adjustments.
A teacher walks into school, enters their classroom, and often works without any other adults. On busy days, a teacher may only exchange passing words with colleagues.
However, teachers crave and need meaningful professional collaboration. Part of the approach to reflection we’re developing is aimed at breaking down silos and helping to facilitate this kind of collaboration.
A hopeful data point we’ve seen is that teachers are eager to respond to reflection prompts we share on social media. When talking with or getting feedback from like-minded educators, teachers are eager to do the intellectual work of reflection in a connected environment.
We’re continuing to build ways to make reflection connected into Sessions, part of Teams by Swivl.
To start, make it Positive
Most recently, we’ve stumbled on a small intermediate step towards making reflection a habit. That step is make it Positive, i.e. share a win.
Both in Sessions and our public reflection conversations happening through #reflectED, teachers prefer to first engage by sharing a recent positive event. This makes sense because sharing a reflection of this kind is safer.
After a positive experience is shared and respectfully received, both parties gain a bit of trust in each other that can be built upon for deeper reflection and growth.
What if we make professional growth inevitable?
If you never go beyond flossing one tooth, eventually you’ll get cavities. If you never go beyond sharing recent teaching wins, you’ll leave most of your growth on the table.
But in both cases, the same principle holds true. After you build a habit, making progress gets easier.
When reflection becomes a habit, professional growth becomes inevitable.