Self-Reflection As You Begin A New Year
January 4th, 2023
The act of self-reflection involves taking a look at one’s actions, successes, and mistakes as well as the emotions associated with these areas. Although self-reflection focuses on past actions, it’s a powerful tool to help leaders behave differently and improve performance in the future. The beginning of the calendar year, often the halfway point for the school year, offers an excellent opportunity for K-12 leaders to reflect on what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what can be improved upon moving forward.
Why is Self-Reflection Important?
Research has shown that self-reflection can help leaders reach their true potential. Not only does it allow us to consider how we might act differently in the future, but it also increases confidence, self-awareness, empowerment, and other positive emotions (Bailey & Rehman, 2022).
A study conducted by Jennings et al. (2021) assessed the impact of self-reflection on 80 working professionals enrolled in MBA programs. One group received morning prompts encouraging them to visualize their best leadership self and the strategies, skills, and other tools that could be used to attain this goal. As a control, another group responded to prompts about inanimate objects.
The results of the study showed that participants in the self-reflection group received a boost of positive emotions from their self-reflection prompts that led to more involvement in long-term visioning and leadership responsibilities within their workplaces.
Self-Reflection Tips & Best Practices
Keep a Journal
Journaling can help you organize thoughts as well as look back and see how far you’ve come. Start out your self-reflection journal by focusing on situations that evoked strong emotions in you throughout the previous year — both positive and negative. What were the situations? Why did these emotions come up? What do you feel went well? What could have been done better?
It’s also helpful to focus on instances that did not go as planned, mistakes, successes, and other events that impacted you as a professional and a leader. Taking a critical look at your performance might seem intimidating, but it’s important to remember that it’s a crucial step for all great leaders and will allow you to create more impact moving forward.
As a busy school leader, it can be tempting to put self-reflection on the back burner. However, it’s important to dedicate time to allow for proper reflection and self-examination. Rushing self-reflection exercises will do little more than have you running through the motions while skirting the benefits. Schedule a block of time in your calendar and treat that time with the same importance as any other meeting.
Explore Different Frameworks
Although you can, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to self-reflection. Using one of the many existing frameworks can help you jump right in and see yourself through new lenses and perspectives.
- The Gibbs Reflective Cycle encourages you to explore experiences through six phases: Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusions, and Action Plan.
- The 5R Framework includes five stages for reflection: Reporting, Responding, Relating, Reasoning, and Reconstructing.
- The CARL Model helps you gain insights into experiences by assessing Context, Action, Results, and Learning.
- Driscoll’s What Model encourages individuals to ask three questions: What?, So What?, and Now What? in order to learn from experiences.
- The Four F’s Model focuses on Facts, Feelings, Findings, and Future.
These frameworks and models should provide a good starting point for your self-reflection practice. If none stand out, research further to find one that works for you.
Expand Your Focus
When it comes to self-reflection, the more comprehensive the better. Below are a few questions to get you started (Neale, 2019). Focus on the ones that work for you and leave the rest – the most effective self-reflection practice is the one that gets you thinking and motivated.
- What are your personal goals, ambitions, and passions?
- What kind of leader do you strive to be moving forward?
- What kind of leader are you now?
- What are your personal values and how do they compare to the overarching values of your school or district?
- What is your personality type?
- What are your strengths?
The power of self-reflection cannot be overstated. In order for K-12 leaders to sharpen their skills and drive change, reflection is just as important as action. Reflecting on the previous year will prepare you to be a better leader to students, teachers, and staff in your school or district while inspiring other leaders to do the same.
Self-Reflection is a Key Component of SuperEval
When it comes to conducting your annual evaluation, self-reflection is critical to growth and achievement. SuperEval has a library of rubrics, including The Framework for Reflection & Growth, which promotes self-reflection best practices for school leaders. To find out more, contact our team.
Bailey, J.R. & Rehman, S. (2022). Don’t Underestimate the Power of Self-Reflection. Harvard
Business Review – Ascend. https://hbr.org/2022/03/dont-underestimate-the-power-of-self-reflection
Jennings, R.E., Lanaj, K., Koopman, J., & McNamara, G. (2021). Reflecting on one’s best
possible self as leader: Implications for professional employees at work. Personnel Psychology, 75(1), 69-90. Doi: 10.1111/peps.12447
Neale, P. (2019). Self-reflection in leadership – Part 1: Ambitions, Values and Personality.