Reflecting on a STAR

Writing a reflection can be a daunting task.  Where do you begin?  What should you write about?  What is the purpose of it anyway?

In my work with pre-service teachers, I have realized that the students are required to write a reflection for every week of their practicums, which will require at least 12 reflective writings.  In order to maximize this writing effort, I thought it would be a bonus if these reflections could serve a dual purpose.  It occurred to me that maybe these reflections could provide concrete examples for the students’ future job interviews.

The most popular type of questions used in teacher job interviews today are the behavioral style of interview questions. This demands the interviewee to recount a personal story or incident about a topic in question.

Here are a few examples of behavioral type questions:

  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation.   What coping skills did you use?  Were those skills effective?
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was your thought process? What was the outcome? What do you wish you had done differently?
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.

A format  used  to tackle these tough questions is known as the STAR technique:

Situation or Task 

Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you        took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did — not the efforts of the team. Don’t tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you achieved What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

This same format can be use to tackle the request of writing a reflection.  Students can use the STAR format to frame their reflection:

Situation:  Describe a situation that went well or that didn’t go well in your                       class this week.

Task: Include an account of the task that your students had been requested                    to do at this time.

Action: Describe the action that you took regarding this situation.  ie.  Did you go ahead with the task as planned?  Did you stop and make changes to the task?

Result: Describe the result of your actions.  Did the students respond well?                      Why or why not?

Obviously students will choose reflections with a positive outcome for their interview answers, however, it is the situations with not-s0-positive outcomes that have the greatest learning potential.    Hopefully these reflections will not be ‘lost’ and the learning from the mistakes that has been recorded can be referred to in the future for continued growth.


About kbarnstable

Educational Leader
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3 Responses to Reflecting on a STAR

  1. Ray Tolley says:

    Hi, Karen,
    Spot on! Yes, as a supervisor of trainee teachers, and also teachers in full-time service, I was expectated to read their reviews or evaluation of lesson delivery, research and planning etc. And, of course, I had to write these up throughout most of my own teaching career. BUT as you wisely note, these sometimes ephemeral reflections can be of real benefit at a later stage to both the student and even the experienced professional.

    I think that the recording, extraction and collation of reflections as you describe, possibly copied to a separate diary, can lead to a very powerful ‘Life Story’, often of incidents that one might later forget. I wonder just how many thousands of ‘lesson evaluations’ I have written up and are now lost to oblivion.

  2. Hi Karen,

    I loved the STAR technique for reflections. I teach a course on eportfolio creation for community college students and the STAR technique sounds perfect. The students are getting better at writing reflections I think the connection the the behavioral style of interview questions are great, since my course is focused on workforce preparation. Thanks for your post.


  3. I’m happy today 01/02/2011 again, because I found your blog

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