5 Reflection Protocols to Cement Learning and Iterate Innovations

In this post, we make the argument for building reflection into your end-of-year practices, especially after the major disruptions and changes we have encountered during COVID-19. Continued innovation and improvement needs this reinforcement to become sticky. Technology leaders can use the examples provided here for their own reflection to to guide the reflections at their schools. -- SD  [15-minute read]

Dewey on ReflectionAs we wrap up the school year drive-by graduation ceremonies and teleconferenced  awards celebrations, we need to take a deep breath and make time to reflect on the rapid changes and developments that have occurred in the past few weeks as schools responded to the global pandemic of COVID-19. 

The importance of reflection during times of great change has been well documented. Yet we know, if we are honest about things, it is often the first thing to go out the window when we are under a time crunch or generally exhausted from all we’ve been through. Jennifer Porter echoes this dilemma in her article for the Harvard Business Review, “Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It” (21 March 2017). If we don’t carve out time for reflection, all the best ideas that have evolved can become lost in the fog of memory. The tendency of culture to gravitate towards what feels safe and comfortable takes hold, and we end up taking several steps backwards -- or at best just holding steady.

After the recent innovations and changes occasioned by our unforeseen transition to online learning, we need to make time to think and reflect on what these new conditions have wrought. What has been gained and what has been lost from learning in online spaces? What works and what doesn’t, and for whom? How can we analyze and use feedback gathered from students, parents, and teachers to move forward?

To that end, this post hopes to provide some reflection protocols used previously for ATLIS programs, along with a couple of examples from members of the ATLIS community.  We would love to hear from you about what you are doing to integrate reflection into your end-of-school practice and planning for next year. What are you learning in the process?

3 Reflection Protocols from the ATLIS Reflection => Ideation Lab

In our post-conference reflection mico-course, the ATLIS Ideation => Reflection Lab, we have put together several ways to strategize through reflection. Below we have adapted these protocols, which were originally developed with the help of Dr. Beth Holland to address our current circumstances. By the way, if you attended the 2020 ATLIS Virtual Conference, you can still complete the online micro-course.

Note to Self

This thinking routine from Project Zero can be used for self-reflection or for sharing in a group. Use sticky notes to gather your ideas over time or collect and discuss ideas from colleagues.

  • Connect: How are the ideas, concepts, strategies, etc., that you learned over the past several weeks connected to what you already knew or believed?
  • Extend: What new ideas, concepts, strategies, etc, have pushed or extended your thinking?
  • Challenge: What is now challenging your thinking? What questions or puzzles do you now have?


Sometimes -- and the current moment may be one of them -- the questions and problems swirling around in our heads are so numerous as to appear overwhelming. Use this protocol to think about small, iterative, measurable improvements.

  • Make a plan, individually or with a group, for what you would like to study in the next 10 hours,.. 10 days,... 10 weeks,.. And 10 months.
  • Share your thoughts with colleagues to collect feedback.
  • Record a brief reflection based on your discussion.


This protocol focuses on what has gone well, which can tend to be overlooked. And just because something has gone well, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, so we ask questions that dig deeper and think about polishing future iterations.

Praise: What has gone really well over the last few months? What have you done well; what has your team done well; who or what deserves your highest praise?

Question: What lingering questions do you still have? What might you want to question or challenge? What questions do you have for others at your school?

Polish: Where can your school improve its policies, communications, resources, or professional development to meet the needs you have identified? What might you want to polish and share with your school or the broader technology leadership community?

2 Reflection Protocols from ATLIS Member Schools

Reflection Questions
Vinnie Vrotny, The Kinkaid School, TX

  1. What elements of your remote teaching are you likely to start incorporating as part of your standard, best practice?
  2. What elements of your remote teaching would you like or need more time and/or assistance to set up that you would like to incorporate as part of your standard, best practice? This may include items that you just didn't have time or energy to work on as you pivoted to remote teaching?
  3. What are some of the areas of your face to face teaching that you are willing to drop so you can add some of the best practices from remote teaching?
  4.  In the off chance that we will still need to implement remote teaching when we return in August and/or September, what can we do to best support you? What items would you like to improve or incorporate that you weren't able to this spring?

A Personal Note on Reflection
Ally Wenzel, Stevenson School, CA

Hello friends and colleagues,

It's a dreary Saturday morning and I'm reflecting on life, the school, and our roles, where we are and where we will be in the future.

I'm hoping that in this moment of space, after our quick pivot and your dedicated work for the past 4 weeks, we can all have some time for rest and reflection. That will look different for all of us. 

I encourage all of us to get off our screens and spend some time journaling, with pen and paper, about where we are personally, professionally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

A lot has changed, and I believe it will never be the same as before. What have you learned about yourself, your families, the school, your students and their parents, and your colleagues?

As a teacher, parent, colleague, leader, or friend, What are some silver linings that you want to continue after the crisis?  

I'm missing our face-to-face interactions. Take care and be well.

Resources and Tools

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. The Technology Integration Matrix, College of Education, University of South Florida.
Jennifer Porter, Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It, Harvard Business Review, March 2017.

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