Learning from Our Year as a Team: Reflection Questions for Collaborative Teams

Reflection for collaborative teams using the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique

At the end of each school year, I like to ask questions to create a “pause and reflect” moment as my children and I eat around the dinner table together. This year, my two oldest children finished their junior and sophomore years in college, and my son finished his sophomore year in high school. The questions ask (1) what they did during the school year that they were most proud of, (2) some areas that they are still working on, and (3) one specific action they need to fix before they head back to school next year. Listening to my adult children this year was amazing, as I witnessed how well they are in tune with plausible growth and stretch areas for the upcoming school year.

This same thought process applies to mathematics collaborative teams and has become a tradition for the teachers I support. In a professional learning community culture, there is a “cycle of inquiry and action research” embedded in a collaborative culture (DuFour, R. et al, 2016). However, in the rush of the end-of-the teaching-season events, like cleaning up the rooms for summer painting projects, grading finals, getting ready for summer school, or end-of-the-year celebrations, collaborative teams too often bypass this learning exercise. There is a need to make time for “pause and reflect” moments, to engage in action research around the high-leverage team actions and the successes or challenges that continue to persist as a collaborative team.

A reflection activity I have used to facilitate reflection conversation is called Rose, Bud, and Thorn. (To create your own copy, click HERE)

Below are the questions teams consider as they are engaging in the conversation. The individual team members complete the reflection on their own (3–5 minutes), and then they take turns sharing their responses as a team.

Areas of Reflection Questions to Consider

(Team strengths)

  • What are the team accomplishments this year?
  • What was the best task that we tried as a team? What was the impact on the students’ conceptual understanding of the mathematics?
  • What team action impacted student learning in the most meaningful way?
  • What team artifacts (common assessments, unit plans, independent practice, or lessons) have we completed and feel are “almost perfect” and ready for next year?
  • What did our students learn well this year? Which instructional practices contributed to that learning?

(Team areas of growth)

  • What team actions are we better at this year compared to our past?
  • What ways have our students grown this year? What concepts, skills, or habits of mind have grown more this year because of our team’s efforts? What do we need to continue to do to build these?
  • How has our team grown to include a focus on collaboration? A focus on student learning? A focus on results?

(Team areas where we still need to grow)

  • What team actions do we need to work on next year?
  • What areas do we need to focus on to improve student understanding?
  • What aspects of high-quality lesson design do we need to improve upon for next year?
  • What assessments might we need to improve to ensure that the assessment evidence is more tightly aligned to the standards?

I hope you take time as a team to celebrate your team strengths, just as my children celebrated what they have accomplished during this past school year. What is your team’s rose, something you and your team are proud to share that you have accomplished? What is the one area in which you and your team grew? And what is one area in which you still need to grow? Inspiration for continuing our efforts and engaging in the right work is derived from knowing that the work we did this year made an impact in the lives of our students.



DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., Many, T., & Mattos, M. (2006, 2010, 2016). Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

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One thought on “Learning from Our Year as a Team: Reflection Questions for Collaborative Teams

  1. Really like these questions! Wish I read this in June! As I save this exercise, what suggestions do you have for a reflective piece that helps set new goals to kick off this school year?

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