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CATESOL Book Review: Creating a Culture of Reflective Practice, Capacity-Building for Schoolwide Success

Christie Sosa

By Kara Mac Donald and Hanan Khaled

The book is divided into three sections, Part I: The Game, Part II: The Players and the Playing Field and Part III: The Playbook, with four to five chapters in each part. From the get-go, the tone is so accessible and friendly as if the authors were chatting with you in a lecture hall, across a table in a faculty meeting or in the campus or school cafeteria. This is one essential component of the whole text.

Part I: The Game
A metaphor of athletic sports is used to frame the first section, based on the dynamic intricacy of numerous factors and their relationships in the field of education, as is the case with athletic games.
In chapter one, Demystifying the Surest Path to Student Learning, lays outs factors that need to exist for success student achievement a cadres of quality training faculty, as this directly impact quality of instruction and in turn learning. As such, professional training and development has to be relevant, making it meaningful to distinct contexts, and teachers need ownership. The message is it is not what we do that is significant, but how we do it and implement it.

In chapter two, Reflections on Self-Reflection and the Reflective Cycle, of course in part defines what self-reflection is or is not, and describes that know-how is developed with systematic and defined processes over time. It is not coincidental. And the chapter closes with suggestions on identifying how teachers in each context reflect, how to they receive, or not, support for reflective practice and related issues.
The Continuum of Self-Reflection, chapter three, is described, from the lack of awareness stage to final stage of establishing new practice through conscious awareness and deliberate action. However, teachers need support and guidance from administrators and/or supervisors, and there is no one approach. There are many to do so and chapter addresses these.

A Culture of Reflective Practice, chapter four, begins by posing multiple questions about how to go about generating one, and the subsequent discussions outline these by defining Fundamentals that are needed to so.

Part II: The Players and the Playing Field
Based on the previous discussions that effective ongoing professional development if the key to competent and trained teachers, which influence student achievement, then the focus should in large part is directed towards engaging instructors in continuously and dynamic self-reflection. In doing so, this section addresses the Fundamentals outlined in chapter four.

Fundamental 1: Relationships, Roles, and Responsibilities, chapter five, the metaphor of sports emerges explicitly again and the dynamics, or nexus, of stakeholders in the schoolhouse are addressed to support reflective practice.

Fundamental 2: Expectations and Communication, chapter 6, again explicitly draws on the metaphor of athletics to highlight the importance of communication at a mirco- and macro- level, defining expectations and avenues of identifying as a unit.

Fundamental 3: Celebration and Calibration, chapter 7, essentially further outlines the process of the reflective cycle previously discussed, and what that entails.

Fundamental 4: Goal Setting and Follow-Through, chapter 8, with continuation of the sports metaphor, goes back to an opening discussion in chapter one about the need for 100% as a goal and further ties that back to education and follow up. The SMART objective model is discussed,  as the SMART-R model. Guess what the ‘R’ stands for?

Part III: The Playbook
Part three strategizes a play tactic for creating a successful reflective practice, when all the players in school come around to support teacher’s self-reflection growth.

Strategic Professional Learning Community and Teacher-Leadership Support, chapter 9, describes Fundamentals five, six and seven for building teachers’ reflective capacity.

Fundamental 5: Strategic PLC and Teacher-Leadership Support, togetherness in PLC is detailed to define the role of school leadership in developing teachers’ reflective capacity. Having a sheltering, transparent and honest environment that is conducive to reflective practices is underscored, where collectively administrators, coaches and teacher-leaders scaffold teacher self-reflection to move along the continuum of the unaware, conscious, action and refinement stages. 

Fundamental 6: Transformational Feedback, back to the sport metaphor, the role of feedback is compared to the first kick in a score game or a serve in volleyball game as it initiates a conversation to engage teachers in an ongoing dialogue. In a highly organized tabulated format, the capacity builders—administrators, coaches, and teacher-leaders—are provided with practical feedback prompts to master the conversations with teachers in different self-reflective stages.

Fundamental 7: Differentiated Coaching outlines an exhaustive list of specific and action-oriented coaching strategies considering teachers’ diverse reflective needs and unique skills in different stages of self-reflection in order to advance along the continuum of self-reflection.

The last four chapters, Chapters 10, 11, 12 and 13, offer thorough description of the reflective tendencies of teachers in the four self-reflection stages and outlines the specific support that school leaders, coaches and teacher-leaders provide teachers.    

Chapter 10, Supporting Teachers in the Unaware Stage, guides school leaders’ understanding of the reflective tendencies of teachers in the unaware stage. The question of how to assess teachers’ awareness of their instructional realities to include students, content and pedagogy are answered via vignettes describing the behavior of three teachers in the unaware stage. The role of the administrator as a director of teacher’s action, the coach as the unconditional partner are deliberately explained.

Chapter 11, Supporting Teachers in the Conscious Stage, digs deep into the self-reflection tendencies of teachers, pinpointing the necessity for teachers to deliberately take actions. Next, in a passionate quest, authors demystify the role of school leaders and coaches and unravel various strategies for differentiating coaching and feedback while leading teachers to a new capacity of self-reflection.

In Chapter 12, Supporting Teacher in Action Stage, a metaphor of Leonardo da Vince sets the prospect in this chapter, based on the dissatisfaction of the status quo of teachers in the action stage, as is the relentless mind of Leonardo da Vince’s for exploring the possibilities being ahead of his time. Authors are on a mission to demystify the mystery of the self-reflection tendencies of teachers in the action stage and explain the supportive practices of school leaders and coaches.

Chapter 13, Supporting Teachers in Refinement Stage, admired the level of self-reflection of the teachers in the refinement stage and explained their mastery in adjusting their actions on the fly through three real-life vignettes for classroom teachers. As such, school leaders and coaches strategically partner with teachers to empower them and build a professional learning community.

The book is very practical and accessible to all levels of educators among both platform classroom teachers, school administrators and faculty development trainers. The fundamental premise that the books begins with, effective teachers are required for success student learning, but the authors take the base principle and describe how teachers can become self-reflective practitioners whose thoughtful engagement results into tangible student achievement