Reflection + Evaluation = Growth

In today’s world where we rush about at a frenetic pace, taking time to think and reflect may seem like a luxury we can’t afford. Yet reflection is a critical component of how we learn. The American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” In the Lower School, we are mindful of integrating opportunities for reflection into the students’ learning experiences. Reflecting is also an essential component of our practice as teachers. By critically assessing lessons we deliver on any given day, a unit a class has just completed, or our interactions with students, we grow in our ability to positively impact our students’ learning and growth.
While individual reflection happens informally every day in spaces throughout the Lower School, conducting a formal curricular review is another resource in our reflection toolbox. A formal review engages all three divisions and clarifies our understanding of how students develop in a particular discipline as they move from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. After recently completing a curricular review of our literacy program, we are about to embark on a review of our math curriculum. In these early days, we spend time thinking about the questions we will explore and identifying our goals for the review. 

As a starting place, we ask questions: What does a capable math student look like by the end of fourth grade? What knowledge, skills, and attitudes does a student possess when she leaves the Lower School that will prepare her to continue to develop as a competent, enthusiastic mathematician? As we work through the process, we examine what we are teaching now and the sequence in which we teach it. We look at our current curricular tools and instructional practices and appraise their efficacy. We look for trends or patterns in our students’ progress and consider their needs and abilities. We look to research and innovators in the field of mathematics to inform our thinking.

An additional consideration in a math curricular review that is especially important to us as an all-girls school is our approach to inspiring a sense of wonder and excitement about math in order to combat gender stereotypes that have negatively impacted girls. As a result of these stereotypes, girls are more likely than boys to have a negative attitude toward math and demonstrate a lack of confidence in their abilities. It is important in these early years that there are plentiful opportunities to explore the world of numbers in a way that cultivates a positive attitude. By incorporating games, crafts, movement, and music into our instruction, students play with numbers and mathematical concepts in a fun and engaging way. Of equal importance is to teach a growth mindset in regards to math learning. By emphasizing practice and perseverance, we show students that mathematical thinking is not a fixed ability that we are born with but something we strengthen over time with effort.  

At the heart of the curricular review, or any reflection, is an acknowledgment that there is more to learn and room for improvement. This can be a challenging space to stand in when we often are acting as the experts, but a necessary one for becoming the teachers our students deserve.