The Reflective Principal: A Taxonomy of Reflection (Part 4)

Reflection can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not something that’s fostered in school – typically someone else tells you how you’re doing! Principals (and instructional leaders) are often so caught up in the meeting the demands of the day, that they rarely have the luxury to muse on how things went. Self-assessment is clouded by the need to meet  competing demands from multiple stakeholders.

In an effort to help schools become more reflective learning environments, I’ve developed this “Taxonomy of Reflection” – modeled on Bloom’s approach.  It’s posted in four installments:
1.  A Taxonomy of  Reflection
2. The Reflective Student
3. The Reflective Teacher
4. The Reflective Principal 

See my Prezi tour of the Taxonomy

It’s very much a work in progress, and I invite your comments and suggestions. I’m especially interested in whether you think the parallel construction to Bloom holds up through each of the three examples – student, teacher, and principal. I think we have something to learn from each perspective. I think each can contribute to realization of the new Common Core standards.

4. The Reflective Principal

Each level of reflection is structured to parallel Bloom’s taxonomy. (See installment 1 for more on the model) Assume that a principal (or instructional leader) looked back on an initiative (or program, decision, project, etc) they have just implemented. What sample questions might they ask themselves as they move from lower to higher order reflection? (Note: I’m not suggesting that all questions are asked after every initiative – feel free to pick a few that work for you.)

taxonomy of reflection
taxonomy of reflection

Bloom’s Remembering: What did I do?
Principal Reflection: What role did I play in implementing this program? What role did others play? What steps did I take? Is the program now operational and being implemented? Was it completed on time? Are assessment measures in place?

Bloom’s Understanding: What was important about what I did? Did I meet my goals?
Principal Reflection: What are the the major components of the program?  How do they connect with building / district goals? Is the program in compliance with federal / state / local mandates? Will it satisfy relevant contracts? Is it within budget? Is the program meeting it’s stated goals?

Bloom’s Application: When did I do this before? Where could I use this again?
Principal Reflection: Did I utilize lessons learned earlier in my career? Did I build on the approaches used in previous initiatives? Will the same organizational framework or plan for implementation meet the needs of another program or project? How could my interaction with one stakeholder group be modified for use with others?

Bloom’s Analysis: Do I see any patterns or relationships in what I did?
Principal Reflection: Were the implementation strategies I used effective for this situation? Do I see any patterns in how I approached the initiative – such as timetable, communications, input from stakeholders? Do I see patterns in my leadership style – for example do I over-promise, stall when I need to make a tough decision? What were the results of the approach I used – was it effective, or could I have eliminated or reorganized steps?

Bloom’s Evaluation: How well did I do? What worked? What do I need to improve?
Principal Reflection: What are we doing and is it important?  Does the data show that some aspects of the program are more effective than others? What corrective measures might we take? Were the needs of all stakeholders met? In a larger context, is the organization improving its capacity for improvement? Were some aspects of my leadership approach more effective than others? What have I learned about my strengths and my areas in need of improvement?  How am I progressing as a leader?

Bloom’s Creation: What should I do next? What’s my plan / design?
Principal Reflection: What did I learn from this initiative and how would I incorporate the best aspects of my experience in the future? What changes would I make to correct areas in need of improvement? Given our experience with this project, how would I address our next challenge? Have I effectively helped our school forge a shared vision of teaching and learning? And has it served as the foundation of this plan? If this project will hold teachers more accountable for student performance,  how am I meeting my responsibilities to provide the inputs they need for success? How can I best use my strengths to improve? What steps should I take or resources should I use to meet my challenges? Is there training or networking that would help me meet my professional goals? What suggestions do I have for my stakeholders, supervisors or peers to foster greater collaboration?

5 Replies to “The Reflective Principal: A Taxonomy of Reflection (Part 4)”

  1. Peter,

    I love this model, particularly the parallels to Bloom, and more so, the parallels between the three groups of stakeholders – students, teachers and administrators. As a student teacher a few years back, I had to journal every day about my experience in the classroom, and this model would have been extremely helpful guidance, as many days, especially on the most mentally and physically exhausting, I never knew where to begin. Now, as an administrator coming off of two weeks of parent conferences where we try to put our middle school students at the center of the conversation to varying degrees of success, I wish I had seen this a month ago so that we could have test driven some of the questions with our students as they prepared for the conversation. I will be sharing this with my colleagues. THANK YOU!


  2. Sara,
    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. A reflection, of sorts, on your own progress from student, to teacher, to leader. Hope you find the model useful in the future. Cheers

  3. Have just completed Instructional Rounds with two networks of schools. This is a thoughtful summation for all involved. These comments have come along just at the right time.

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