You talkin’ to me? Leveraging reflective practice in P-12 using guided conversations

By Morgan P. Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

The use of reflective teaching as a means to address the increasingly complex cognitive and affective needs of P-12 pupils is nothing new in education. One wonders what sort of conversations took place between Plato and Aristotle — ‘no, naming the Academy after yourself isn’t arrogant, after all, it is your academy…you own it. Yeah, I’m all about allegories…’

As the specter of Common Core State Standards looms large on the horizon, interest in creativity; cross-curricular depth and complexity; and flexible grouping has experienced a resurgence of sorts and introspective practice has become de rigueur among teachers in the United States. As sponsors for the California clear credential, the Education Department has been fortunate to collaborate with a number of forward-thinking institutions as they seek out contextually embedded programming for teachers and pupils alike. As our faculty works at crafting differentiated solutions for each, it occurred to us that the Department was surrounded by meaningful reflective practice and inspired conversations about creativity, engagement and commitment within school communities. It also occurred to us that these conversations, practices and the artifacts that emerged were at risk of being lost to the proverbial aether, lest we take action to preserve them in a systematic way. In other words, brilliant epiphanies were destined for burial in some report or other, or consigned to an e-portfolio archived by a happy candidate upon completion of the program.

The Education Department is currently partnering with a diverse group of charter schools with unique driving foci and modi operandi in their approaches to embedded longitudinal projects in the clear credential and reading instruction programs. We are working with these programs in a somewhat avuncular way, providing supplemental trainings (such as work in the neuroscience of learning and understanding the practical impacts of the affective domain) or opportunities to undertake specific types of action research to build capacity within and across schools. We believe there is benefit to be had in sharing these experiences and providing a dedicated virtual forum for partner institutions to discuss and deliberate around common issues and challenges, and to warehouse practical solutions and best practices in a way that enables broader access. After all, the one thing that we do know for sure in this business is that educators really never have occasion to talk — to really talk — about teaching and learning in a continuous way and in one that transcends mere grade-level conversations around the latest trends in professional development. There is power in these sorts of discussions, and the Department is eagerly pursuing the technologies to empower its partners to do so.

We anticipate creating the appropriate frameworks and structures within the academic year and are excited to invite our partners from across the state, the nation and the globe to join us in this exciting venture. Neuroscience dictates that the brain is innately social and craves data from diverse and varied sources to solve problems. The Education Department aspires to the same type of sensemaking on an institutional level. Stay tuned for developments as they arise!

For more information about this collaborative project, please contact Morgan Appel, director, Education Department at

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