Glows and Grows: A Positive Framing for Self-Reflection

July 15, 2020

Professional development
Instructional coaching

I don’t remember when I started using the terms “glows” and “grows” for reflection. When I try to trace it back in my career, I believe it came from my friend, librarian, and educator, Buffy Hamilton and the phenomenal work that she does with students and teachers . Whatever their origins, glows and grows have become my way of thinking about positive and critical feedback as well as reflective practice. Here’s how I explain the terms:  

  • Glows are the positive things: what we’re proud of, the interactions that felt positive, or what we want to keep doing more of moving forward. This could be an example of taking initiative on a project or an opportunity to demonstrate leadership with colleagues.
  • Grows are not quite the opposite of glows. To me, a grow is anything that can serve to elevate the work. This could be a reflection such as, “I attended many dynamic learning opportunities this week and gained so much knowledge. Now, I’m going to work harder in the future to capture and share this learning with my colleagues.”

This framing leaves room for feedback and reflection on even the amazing things that went right and seeing where there is opportunity to grow within those accomplishments!

In past positions as an educator, coach, and professional learning facilitator, I used glows and grows as a way to analyze and reflect on the feedback and evaluation data I received from participants. My focus was largely on sustainability—that the people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with will continue to feel inspired to act on and reimagine their practices. Basically, I wanted to make sure that the learning didn’t stop once I left (one of the biggest pain points of professional development). 

Some of the questions I used to solicit feedback were: 

  • What did you learn today that you will use to inform your instruction and to help design better learning experiences for your students?
  • How have you shared what you learned with your colleagues or students (or even people outside of the building, such as colleagues outside of your school, in your district, or your broader personal learning network)?
  • How have you found ways to elaborate and expand on what you learned in new and different ways?
  • In what way(s) has this learning impacted or changed your practice? If it hasn't, you’re welcome to share why.

As I have moved into the private sector, my reflective practice has come with me. I aim for growth and the only way I can foster this is to engage in reflective practice, ask for feedback, and then act. 

Currently, my professional process for considering glows and grows is simple: 

  1. Each Friday, I use a Google Form to collect weekly data on my work; both internally for things like organizational development and professional growth, and externally for clients. 

  2. I input three specific pieces of information for each project or type of work. 

    • First, I state the facts of what work or actions I engaged in that week, listed as simple statements. 
    • Then I reflect on glows, or the things I’d like to keep doing more of in the future. 
    • And lastly, I consider grows, or opportunities to elevate or improve on the work. 
  3. This data is populated in a spreadsheet that is shared with my manager and linked to my professional focus plan. 

At the end of each month, I look over that month’s glows and grows, framed by the question, “How is your work impacting the future, building something meaningful, and amplifying others?” to reflect. In a separate column, I note the trends or threads I see and how I can address those moving forward while considering the support or resources I might need. At the end of the year—when we begin our formal employee review process—I have a large collection of my growth and contributions ready to share and reflect on further. 

This simple, growth-minded approach allows me to focus on the work and how this work helps me to contribute both within the company and externally for clients. And inevitably (and perhaps most powerfully), how I’m continuing to grow myself; for me!