QR:  Teaching and reflective practice

Teaching and reflective practice

Teaching and learning are complex due to the many factors that impact what happens in a classroom. The teacher’s personality, the learners’ personalities, the dynamics amongst the stakeholders, their moods, the physical space of the classroom, the content to be taught, the resources that are or are not available, the context of curriculum, the time of day and year, even the weather will result in slightly different actions and reactions amongst teachers and learners alike. It is therefore not surprising that there is no one correct and universally applicable approach to teaching.

Teachers need to constantly adapt and change their activities and plans accordingly. And in order to do just that in an efficient and effective way, teachers must be reflective.

Trainee teachers often underestimate the power of reflection when it comes to improving their own practice. Their view is that they need to practise being teachers. Practising planning and delivering lessons is necessary, but ultimately, improvements can only be made if critical reflections take place at every stage, during the planning and delivery phases, as well as thereafter. John Dewey, among the first scholars to write about reflective practice, explained that we do not learn from experience, but from reflecting on experience.

However, reflections must not be superficial evaluations of how the lesson went; the teacher needs to actively engage with what happened and must not shy away from admitting errors and considering alternative viewpoints. Solid theoretical and practical knowledge and understanding of models of reflective practice is paramount. Such knowledge can be acquired best when the models of reflections are applied regularly and consistently.

To this end, initially, reflections do not necessarily need to be about teaching practice. In order to get used to systematic reflections, to apply the reflective models and to understand the models’ individual advantages and drawbacks, all learning situations or observations of experienced staff may be used as a starting point for reflections. As long as reflections are critical, honest and deep enough, learning will take place.

Examples for reflective models:
Kolb: experiential learning
Gibbs: reflective cycle
Brookfield: four lenses
Rolfe et al.: reflective model

Tripp: critical incidents




Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. Toronto: Collier-MacMillan Canada Ltd.

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