rpc 3: description

I was hoping to write a quick recap of all the great stuff that has come out of this challenge so far, but there is just too much! Have a look at our previous challenge and you will see links to all the fantastic participants posts. Hana Tiche does a great job here of highlighting how beneficial this #RPPLN of ours can be.  Even better, there is a vibrant and quite enlightening dialogue going on in the comments section of everyone’s posts as well!

That said, it is never too late to join in with us. Have a go at commenting or maybe even a whole post! The more voices we have the richer and more fulfilling our learning becomes.


Before setting up our next reflective practice (RP) challenge, I thought it would be prudent to provide more information on what the experiential learning cycle (ELC) is. RP comes in many flavors, but the ELC provides us standard platform from which we all may jump.


What? = description. The goal in this stage is to describe, objectively, what has happened. The key difficulty in this step is separating our emotions from our descriptions.

So what?= analysis. Once we’ve described fully and separated feelings from our description we can better analyze the experience we encountered.

Now what?= action plan. This is the stage where we review our description and analysis and form a plan of action for our next experience.

In addition, if you are interested in how a RP meeting might work in a face to face context, Josette Leblanc has a great write up here.

Now, without further to do…


rpc3 – description

Our third challenge might prove to be our most difficult. At least I find this part of the ELC the most difficult.

In the description phase of the ELC our job is to fully describe our experience. We must acknowledge as many facts as possible. EVERYTHING is important and useful. The more thorough we are the better we understand.

In addition, we must acknowledge our emotions, as well as those of whom we’ve interacted with.

This is no small task.



Think about a negative interaction you have had in your classroom. Not an entire lesson, but a single interaction that occurred between you and someone else (a student, another teacher, a parent, etc).

Perhaps a student was sleeping in class, or being disruptive or inattentive. Perhaps we, the teacher, reacted to a specific stimuli in an unhelpful way. Maybe someone walked in on a lesson and caused a negative disruption to us or our students.

Our task today is to take this negative interaction and describe it. It is important that we describe and describe only.

Give a little background. Describe the classroom layout, the students, the weather. Were you hungry? Was the class the first of the day? The last? Right before lunch? How often do you have that class? Have there been previous incidents with class? at this hour? How did you feel before walking into class that day? How did you feel before the incident? During? Directly following it? How did you respond? How did the students respond?

There is no detail that is too small. 

In addition, I would like us to pay particular attention to the feelings of all those involved. How did we feel? How do we think the student(s) felt. For now, let’s not analyze why we think they felt one way or another (that’s for our next challenge).

Often times, the act of description provides a valuable insight into our thoughts, intentions, assumptions and all other manner of things that affect what happens in our classroom. It is my hope that this description process will push you to view what happened through a number of different lenses, thus creating a more complete picture from which to analyze the event.

***As many of us have already noted in previous #RPC related posts, real learning comes from reflecting on the good and the bad. It is not our goal to accuse, ridicule or demean. Our goal is to build each other up and learn from one another. #TRUST is a crucial component of reflective practice, without it our #RPPLN would not successful. Let’s be brave in opening our classrooms up to each other. Let’s maintain the helpful and collaborative safe space that we’ve created.***

Good luck! I can’t wait to see our #RPPLN in action!

(For those of you interested in diving deeper into the ELC and what this whole description thing is about, Zhenya Dnipro has a fantastic post here all about it.)


18 thoughts on “rpc 3: description

  1. This looks really interesting, John. It’s exactly what I need – plain description without assumptions and judgment. As I tend to be quite emotional and I often jump to conclusions too quickly, this may be a great way to get more insight when later analyzing problematic situations in class. I will get down to work as soon as possible.

  2. Hi Hana,

    Thanks! I am glad it intrigues you, it is certainly my favorite part of the ELC cycle (and also the most challenging for me!)

    I think it’s vital for us to observe objectively, but to do so we need to find a way to acknowledge our emotions and feelings. I hope this challenge helps us do that!


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  4. Hey John! Thanks for keeping us going with these interesting challenges! I really enjoy reading your and everyone’s posts and participating in the conversation that happens in the comments. You’re right that non-judgmental description is hard. For me it’s hard to separate it from analysis and it’s hard to know when I’ve done enough. That’s why I love having the community – to ask more questions and draw out the description further and help me see things I didn’t know I saw. Having a recording or a video is also valuable to that end.

    I am, of course, going to disagree with you on a point. Because that’s me. 😉
    You wrote, “In addition, we must acknowledge our emotions, as well as those of whom we’ve interacted with.” And I am going to say that guessing or assuming *someone else’s* emotions is not a part of the description process for me. Anything that I have to say “X might have been/felt/thought…” belongs in my analysis. (But I’ll concede that “he said, ‘I feel (emotion).'” is description.)

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