The Annual Reflection on Professional Learning (ARPL) is, I believe, a colossal waste of effort, but not for the reasons you may think...
Schools are filled with very creative and insightful professionals who, every year, craft statements or artifacts that reflect on, and make sense of key learning and experiences in their professional lives. The reflections exemplify key components of instructional leadership, namely reflective practice and a focus on learning for both students and educators alike. As a form of knowledge building, these documents offer valuable insight into the ongoing development of educators at every point in the profession from first-year through to retirement.
And what happens to all this knowledge?
It sits in a central office filing cabinet somewhere never to be seen again.
As a policy tool, the ARPL successfully engages educators in reflective practice but misses the mark when it comes to Public Practice. Instructional leadership requires communication and translation of knowledge from the knowledge creator to the knowledge consumer. Without knowledge translation, the ARPL is little more than an exercise in compliance.
So, do we give up on the ARPL?
Absolutely not - but we do need to approach it differently.
The Profession is the Audience
What if the ARPL was approached as a knowledge building activity - still reflective and still personal, but it would be understood that they would be made public. The audience for these reflections would not be simply the central office or school administrator, but The Profession. We reflect and record our experiences making that learning accessible as a contribution to the betterment of teachers everywhere.
Writing the ARPL in this context connects us as professionals. We become part of a larger community of contributors to the profession, not just practitioners. In submitting their reflections, educators would supply a list of key-words and themes so they can be tagged for easy retrieval. They can also specify whether or not they want their names attached to the published content after they have been reviewed by administrators. The ARPL maintains its policy objective of encouraging reflective practice while gaining tremendous value as a knowledge building and translation tool.
What do you think? Would you approach the ARPL differently if it was going to be shared? Would you be interested in reading others' reflections? Do you think there is value in sharing our professional learning?