What is Reflecting on Practice?
How does the program work?
Reflecting on Practice (RoP™) is a professional learning program developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science for educators in informal learning environments such as zoos, aquariums, museums, and nature centers and is currently used in over 50 institutions across the U.S. and Canada. This program introduces educators to the latest research on learning, and how this knowledge can contribute to their teaching practice.
Reflecting on Practice is a Learning Partner with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), approved continuing education provider for the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), and a special partner with the Association of Science-Technology Centers.
Participants can earn elective or continuing education credit towards their NAI certifications or AZA’s Professional Development Certificate in Education and Interpretation.
What do the modular sessions look like?
We are seeking leaders and/or emerging leaders (mid-level manager, coordinators, or directors) from education or volunteer departments at zoos, aquariums, museums, and nature centers to attend a Coaching Workshop to become RoP Facilitators. In this Coaching Workshop, participants will:
• become familiar with the philosophy and design of Reflecting on Practice program
• learn about the models of teaching practice and activities from the program
• connect with other RoP Facilitators in the region.
As RoP Facilitators, they take the curriculum materials and implement the program with educators at your institution over a period of 6 to 12 months. The program consists of fourteen 2.5 hour sessions organized into modules that focus on topics relevant to learning and teaching science in informal environments (see below for more details). It is designed so that all educators (both veteran and beginning educators) at your institution can learn together and from one another.
Additionally, RoP Facilitators become part of a national community of learners advancing the informal science education field. There are currently over 50 institutions around the U.S. and Canada that have adopted the program, with more institutions and educators joining the community.
Benefits of participating in RoP
Reflecting on Practice is a modular learning program. The modules focus on topics about the nature of learning and science; how people learn; learning conversations; and teaching with objects. Modules consist of interactive small- and whole-group sessions, and reflective tasks.
Four key practice elements are intentionally designed into the program:
1. Model and build practice (e.g., Hands on activity). Facilitators lead interactive sessions in which they model evidence-based practice. Participants engage as active learners, as they discuss pedagogy and reflect on their own practice.
2. Relate research to practice (e.g., Research Discussions). To learn to implement research into their own teaching practice, as modeled by program facilitators, participants read and discuss key ideas from the literature. Research discussions provide participants with opportunity to talk with their colleagues about—and make sense of—ideas from research.
3. Talk about and experiment with practice (e.g., Let’s Talk Practice, Closing Thoughts). Participants are given time to think about pedagogical strategies they currently use and to generate approaches they would like to try. They are encouraged to experiment with their teaching practice, and to share their experiences with one another.
4. Observe and reflect on practice (e.g., Learning Journals, Video Reflections). Participants engage in activities designed for reflection both individually, by videotaping their teaching, and as a community, making their practice public by reviewing those tapes with colleagues in a supportive learning community. Facilitators encourage participants to examine their teaching preferences, as well as to consider the approach and philosophy of their team, department, and institution.
Here is what they are saying in their own words:
Past participants have cited four major outcomes of the program:
• developed a shared understanding and common language of high quality teaching and learning
• created changes in habits of thinking
• opportunities to gain professional skills and recognition
• cultivation of an internal community/ culture
“We now have a better way of talking to each other about what we do. We are building a language and way of sharing that we didn’t have in place before.” Jessica, 2016
“[When I consider how my educators work together I can see..] there is more thought given to why they are doing what they are doing, how it could be done differently, and why they would be considering these things because it comes up in conversations… people are tending to look at things with more of a critical eye than they might have before… Some of these things from RoP are there in the back of their head… They kind of have some new filters to look at things through."
“[The RoP program] was an opportunity to bring people together… Having that sense of sharing what we all do and our common goal of educating the public. Having those common… strategies that we are all using to achieve those goals. Having that sense of community…not you doing this and you doing this — but… that we all learned and are still learning to create and implement these products."
“Reflecting on Practice has opened my eyes to a world of research and information I was unaware of. It has been extremely beneficial to read and discuss with my co-workers/critical friends to help better understand the process of learning and effective teaching.” - Gallery Educator
“Until I began using video as a reflective tool, there were things I thought I was doing BUT in fact I was not. For example, I thought I was have engaging conversations with our guests at exhibits and during my presentations but I was doing more lecturing than facilitating conversations” - Volunteer Docent
"I use the lessons learned in Reflecting on Practice all the time - with new employees, as a refresher for myself, or as a reminder. It has shaped the way I think about how I learn and how our guests learn." - Birch Aquarium
"Since I am still a relatively new educator, there are still many moments of me being self-conscious etc. However, as long as I remind myself to focus on the learners, teaching becomes joyful. Many of the strategies I learned are very helpful along the way." - Esther, 2017
Regional Leaders around the country offer Reflecting on Practice Coaching Workshops.
Also, let us know if you are interested in hosting a workshop in your area. Our RoP Leaders will travel to you and host a 2 day workshop for educators in your area. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.