Reflective Professional Writing

by Jean Tower

I like to start professional development workshops and seminars with activities designed to “Prime the Pump.” In the past, I have done workshops teaching people how to use video to jump start reflection and discussions. I’ve used “Broken Escalator” for people to have a humorous entry into the topic of unlearning helplessness, and the clip of Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates into their mouths because the factory belt went too fast was a great conversation starter about management, leadership, paying attention, and common sense. In this post, I’d like to recommend the use of still images as catalysts for reflective professional writing.

For example, at the outset of a workshop on adopting the Common Core, I might start with two different images – handcuffs and the play structure.

And I would give the following instructions:
Choose one of these two images to spur your reflection and writing. When you look at the image, think about how it relates to your profession, your practice, your environment, or the Common Core. Spend a moment before you begin writing, to reflect and engage your mind with the image.

I keep these exercises brief, allotting 5 minutes for writing and then 5 minutes to allow for sharing. What I find is that beginning with an exercise like this improves the quality of the reflection and sharing throughout the workshop.

In the slide deck below are several images that would be suitable for reflective writing prompts. As you browse through the slides, think about which images you might select for specific professional development topics.

Sometimes, I might select a single image – kids learning to ride a bike at the beginning of the workshop in which educators will learn how to use Google apps – and for other workshops, I used to images and let people select – a full cornucopia and a desk overflowing with paper, if I want people to struggle with how they think about a “full plate.”

What would you do? What do you think might be a more effective practice for you? One image or more? When you try this out at your next professional development activity please come back here and comment about the experience. Did you use the activity to begin a workshop or is a break in the middle of an event? Were people receptive? Did you achieve the desired results? If you have other images that you use and you find are effective, I welcome you to leave a comment and share so that others may benefit from your experience.

I leave you with an image and ask you to think about how it reflects or doesn’t reflect your attitude toward blogging.

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