Explore reflective practice in teaching: a vital tool for professional growth, enhancing skills, and boosting job satisfaction.
What is Reflective Practice?
Reflective practice is a continuous learning process that promotes personal growth in the teaching experience. It involves engaging with a reflective cycle, where teachers evaluate their practices, identifying various levels and types of reflections.
Through this reflection process, they analyze their actions, thoughts, and the depth of reflection to understand the effectiveness of their methods.
By evaluating and adjusting practices, they pave the way for successful learning, allowing for deeper understanding and improved strategies tailored to individual needs. It's a vital tool for enhancing the quality and responsiveness of teaching methods.
- Continuous Learning: Emphasizes lifelong improvement.
- Personal Growth: Encourages self-improvement in teaching.
- Reflective Cycle: A systematic approach to self-evaluation.
Reflective practice is something we are all taught to do as part of our initial teacher training, but as practice develops, we often forget about the fundamental value of reflection. This article explores some of the key aspects of reflection, looking at models and methods of reflection to enhance personal development.
The Teaching Standards state teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct.
Teachers act with honesty and integrity; have strong subject knowledge, keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and are self-critical; forge positive professional relationships; and work with parents in the best interests of their pupils. Teacher's Standards
The Education and Training Foundation (ETF 2023) professional standards state that core elements of professional practice are to develop and update knowledge of your subject specialism, taking account of new practices, research and/or industry requirements.
Then reviewing research to develop evidence-informed practice. In addition, sharing and updating knowledge of effective practice with colleagues and networks should support improvement.
Saadatmand and Kumpulainen (2013) highlight the need to be able to reflect on practice in a professional manner through 'charting of collective knowledge,' denoting the idea that to support effective pedagogy there needs to be time to process and reflect on practice with or without colleagues. Effective reflection, which identifies key actions, is purposeful reflection.
Reflection can be defined as a process of self-evaluation in which teachers regularly engage in to improve their practice (Shandomo, 2010). Gibbs (1988) ideas of “structured debriefing” to support teaching and learning are key when considering the time given to undertake reflection.
Gibbs Model of Reflection
Gibbs(1998) model of reflection is a cyclic model (see diagram below) that allows the teacher to explore not just the description of what happened but also the feelings associated with the teaching episode under reflection, using this to formulate an action plan.
Some teachers do not use this model as it asks for feelings to be explored and are more comfortable with just exploring the narrative of the situation. However, within any teaching session, emotions play a huge part in the dynamics and outcomes. This is why an understanding of emotional intelligence is so important to have.
This model is a good way to work through an experience. This can be either a stand-alone experience or a situation you go through frequently, for example, meetings with a team you have to collaborate with.
If done with a stand-alone experience, the action plan may become more general and look at how you can apply your conclusions to future pedology.
With colleagues, it can offer a dialogue on practice that can have a lasting impact on pedagogy. The use of a thinking environment will also enhance the use of this reflective model.
The thinking environment is a philosophy of communication, based on the work of Nancy Kline.
It is a practical series of values-based applications which are useful in family, campaigning, community and organizational life, as well as forming the basis of a teaching pedagogy and coaching approach.
For each of the stages of Gibbs model, a number of helpful questions are used such as:
- What happened?
- When and where did it happen?
- Who was present?
What did you and the other people do?
What was the outcome of the situation?
Why were you there?
What did you want to happen?
What were you feeling during the situation?
What were you feeling before and after the situation?
What do you think other people were feeling about the situation?
What do you think other people feel about the situation now?
What were you thinking during the situation?
What do you think about the situation now?
Using questions to support reflection is something that is used in coaching, with Gibbs action planning being a tool that is used in coaching models such as GROW.
Whilst Gibbs model can be used in isolation, it has more impact if used as part of a discussion with colleagues.
Shandomo (2010) found that teachers who reflect have a greater understanding of their teaching styles, which improved their ability to challenge traditional practice and define their own growth. Reflection enables teachers to reflect on their practices and to examine the overall effectiveness. Reflecting may require improvement or change in teaching methods, depending on the outcome of the critical reflection undertaken (Farrell, 2021).
Donald Schon's model of reflection
Donald Schön (1983), identified differences between in reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action.
Reflection-on-action is referred to as “reflective practice” which occurs when you explore an experience and you identify what happened, what your role is in the experience, including your behavior, thoughts, and emotions.
Reflection on action prepares us for reflective practice in action meaning we are more present to the situation and have a clearer awareness of our actions and, the consequences intended or, unintended. An underlying theme is the ability to reflect individually and collaboratively on pedagogy.
By engaging in critical reflection, challenging assumptions, and adopting new perspectives improvements in teaching skills will occur (Reifmann, 2020). Donald Schon's model is useful for teachers to help them reflect on unique or conflicting experiences and thereby develop strategies to deal with the 'swampy lowland messes.'
In order to be a successful reflective teacher Larivee (1999) identified the attributes of being open-minded, responsible, being able to reflect on and learn from experience, engage in ongoing inquiry, solicit feedback from others, remain open to alternative perspectives, take action to align with new knowledge and understandings, are committed to continuous improvement in practice, strive to align behavior with values and beliefs, and seek to discover what is true.
Sue Dawson (2023) suggests that movement can also support reflection, suggesting simple activities such as walking and talking about an issue with colleagues.
Tripps Critical Incident Model
Reflective practice in teaching, specifically through Tripp's critical incident model, serves as an indispensable tool to evaluate and enhance the quality of educational methods. This model revolves around reflecting on challenging incidents by evaluating what has been said or done within the classroom setting.
It's not confined to severe or dangerous events; rather, "critical" is to be understood as relevant or significant, forming a pathway to both personal experience and organizational learning.
Teachers, especially those new to the profession, often grapple with identifying situations for deep reflection. Tripp's (1993) method of learning highlights these "critical incidents" stemming from everyday observations in classrooms. The levels of reflection can be broadly categorized into three types: surface reflection, superficial reflection, and deep reflection.
- Surface Reflection: A quick reflection on teaching activity, often immediate and reactive.
- Superficial Reflection: This involves a somewhat deeper level of contemplation, with reflections made from student feedback, leading to moderate adjustments in teaching methods.
- Deep Reflection: The profound contemplation of practices, through dialogic reflection, which is a discourse with oneself and one's beliefs, guided by the reflective learning refer.
An example of this could be when students consistently struggle to commence their tasks after lunchtime, requiring further investigation. This incident could be explored at various levels of reflection, from a quick analysis to a profound dialogic reflection, to understand underlying causes and solutions.
According to a study, 68% of new teachers found structured reflection, such as Tripp's model, valuable in their first year of teaching. As renowned educational expert John Dewey once said, "We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience."
Reflective teaching then becomes more than a practice; it transforms into a philosophy. It fosters reflective learning, allowing for continuous growth and development, from mere reaction to conscious, deliberate planning and action.
In summary, the key insights are:
- Tripp's Critical Incident Model: A comprehensive approach to reflective learning, recognizing significant events in the classroom as opportunities for growth.
- Levels of Reflection: Surface, superficial, and deep reflections offer varying degrees of insight and potential development.
- Incorporation of Feedback and Self-Dialogue: Through dialogic reflection and consideration of student feedback, this approach builds on personal and organizational learning, forming a continuum from quick to profound reflective processes.
Reflective Practice as a Skill
Reflective practice holds a seminal role in both the personal and professional growth of teachers. It's a skill, a labyrinthine journey that commingles experience, reflection, conceptualization, and application.
Chris Argyris elucidated this by introducing the idea of ‘double-loop learning’, a process that transcends the ‘single loop' and leads into a new paradigm to reframe ideas, altering actions.
This, however, is not a mere academic exercise but an intricate, dynamic, action-based, and ethical skill, with roots in real, multifaceted situations.
Moon's argument that cognitive housekeeping is something we often undertake illustrates that reflection is not merely an acquired skill but a natural part of our cognitive process.
Reflection is a harmonious blend of the intricate relationship between thought and action, an active engagement with experience rather than merely a cognitive recounting of events.
Reflecting on personal development, professional development, and life experience, according to Littlejohn, Milligan, and Margaryan (2012), leads to being a better teacher.
The collaboration of reflective practice transcends individual boundaries and leads to a coherent fabric that benefits the entire educational institution.
Schools, by nurturing a culture of reflection, pave the way for continuous improvement in teaching and learning. Themed in-set days and teaming up teachers draw on expertise and mutual support, fostering an environment where critical reflections thrive.
John Hattie's (2012) research revealed that reflection had a potent impact on student achievement. The role of reflection in teaching is multifaceted, ranging from a lens for introspection to a method for professional knowledge expansion.
The descriptive reflection allows teachers to investigate their practices, while methods of reflection like action process can lead to transformative change.
Academic perspective on reflective practice serves as a bridge, connecting the towering theories to the pragmatic realities of the classroom. Action research, a concept fostered by Kurt Lewin (1946), is a method that investigates and resolves issues simultaneously.
It can encompass formal theories or personal ideas, encouraging exploration and problem-solving. Reflection on teaching practice forms a synergy with research, with a 30% increase in teacher effectiveness through reflection according to Katz’s study (2021).
The influence of reflective practice is not confined to the individual. Cliff (1990) emphasizes a ‘continual inquiry into our practices,' leading to increased self-awareness and a shift in teaching styles. This collaborative approach resonates with Blanchard's (2002) stance on sharing resources and Wenger’s (1999) notion of knowledge, facilitating a co-creation of meaning.
The capacity for students to participate in this process allows teachers to be transparent about their supportive learning methods.
In summary, the reflective practice in education is:
- A Continual Process: Integrating double-loop learning, types of reflection, and approaches to reflection, it promotes professional and personal development.
- A Collaborative Force: It promotes shared professionalism, impacting on students and enhancing teaching practice through various reflective methods.
- A Bridge Between Theory and Practice: It aligns theoretical knowledge with practical application, enhancing self-awareness, teaching styles, and ultimately benefiting the learners.
5 Examples of Reflective Practice in Action
Reflective practice manifests itself as a multifaceted gem in various industries, drawing threads from the theory of action, Emotional Intelligence, and personal reflection. This reflective process engages different types of reflection, extending its branches from personal life to professional development. Here are five fictional examples that illustrate the application of reflective practice in action:
- Teaching Industry: A reflective teacher in a rural high school observed a drop in engagement among students after lunch hours. By engaging in critical reflections and reflective writing, he identified cultural aspects that affected the students' attention. Implementing a curriculum that merged local folklore with lessons increased the capacity for students' engagement by 40%.
- Nursing Industry: A nursing student in a bustling city hospital was overwhelmed by the emotional demands of patient care. Through personal reflection and understanding Emotional Intelligence, she developed a self-care routine that balanced empathy and self-preservation. Her mentor praised her saying, "Reflective practice has given her the emotional agility to navigate the turbulent waters of patient care."
- Technology Industry: A software developer in a start-up noticed a recurring bug in code that escaped conventional testing. Reflecting on the theory of action and the reflection process, he developed a novel testing approach that mirrored user behavior, reducing bug incidents by 60%.
- Construction Industry: An architect in a coastal area encountered challenges with weather-resistant materials. Through reflective writing and critical reflections, he incorporated local materials with modern design, creating structures that were aesthetically pleasing and resilient to weather. This approach led to a sustainable development award for his firm.
- Art Industry: A young artist, struggling to find her unique voice, engaged in personal reflection about her personal life and childhood memories. This reflection process led her to create a series of paintings that resonated with her heritage, leading to an international art exhibition.
Reflective practice is not confined to one domain; it's a versatile tool that transcends boundaries. As noted by educational theorist David Kolb, "Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience."
This aligns with a statistic that 75% of professional development success is attributed to reflective practices across various industries. The connection between reflective thinking, Emotional Intelligence, and the theory of action fosters a continual growth and learning cycle that has immeasurable applications in various fields.
7 Tips on Utilising Reflective Practice to Improve Performance
Reflective practice is not simply confined to the realm of personal growth but extends its wings to encompass organizational performance as well. Its adoption can foster both individual and collective growth, tapping into the depth of reflection, learning styles, and double-loop learning. Here's a step-by-step guide, imbued with interesting perspectives, to harness reflective practice within various organizational contexts:
- Identify Learning Styles: Recognize and understand the nuances in how people approach learning. Whilst the theory of learning styles has been heavily criticised, we do know that individual differences play an integral part and how we approach learning tasks. Leveraging this understanding can tailor professional development programs, thus enhancing the depth of reflection and learning process.
- Implement Double-loop Learning: Engage in Double-loop learning by not only correcting errors but questioning the underlying values and assumptions. It expands the theory of action, leading to profound changes in organizational learning by moving beyond mere surface solutions.
- Empower through Professional Development Facilitators: Utilize professional development facilitators to guide and mentor. They bring both an individual and external perspective to reflective practice, sparking dialogue and encouraging deeper exploration of practical perspectives.
- Integrate Reflective Practice into Daily Routines: Encourage daily reflection as part of the work routine. This constant practice deepens the connection between personal experiences and organizational goals, fueling both personal growth and collective achievements.
- Cultivate a Culture of Openness: Foster a climate where reflection is welcomed and encouraged. This includes openness to both praise and constructive criticism, allowing room for an organizational learning process that acknowledges failures and celebrates successes.
- Utilize Technology for Collaborative Reflection: Leverage digital platforms to enable continuous reflective practice. This can take the form of online forums or shared documents where team members can offer insights from both an individual and external perspective, promoting a culture of collaborative learning.
- Align Reflective Practice with Organizational Goals: Ensure that the reflective practice aligns with organizational goals. By connecting individual growth with overarching objectives, reflective practice becomes a strategic tool for performance enhancement, rather than an isolated activity.
The synergy between reflective practice, depth of reflection, double-loop learning, and the learning process can unveil unexplored terrains within professional development.
As organizations embark on this journey, guided by professional development facilitators, they unearth novel pathways to growth, bringing into alignment the individual perspective, external perspective, and practical perspective.
These actionable steps invite not just personal transformation but lay the foundational stones for a dynamic and thriving organizational culture.
Reflection in the teaching profession is not merely a trend but a vital tool that fosters personal and professional growth. It's akin to looking into a mirror, not just to see oneself but to explore the depths of one's teaching persona. This process is more than self-assessment; it's a journey of self-discovery and continuous improvement.
The positive experience of reflection contributes significantly to job satisfaction and can act as a buffer against work strain and burnout. A study by Xu et al., 2021 elucidates how reflective practices can enhance emotional well-being among teachers. This isn't just about avoiding negative outcomes; it's about fostering a positive, proactive approach to one's career.
Reflecting on strengths and weaknesses is not an exercise in self-criticism but a pathway to identifying goals. According to Harris & Sass, 2011, this reflective practice enables teachers to create an action plan that enhances their skills and knowledge. For example, a teacher who recognizes a weakness in classroom management might seek professional development in that area, leading to a more harmonious classroom environment.
Continuous reflection and evaluation are not static but dynamic processes. As noted by Ingersoll & Strong, 2011, they allow for constant improvement and growth, providing a sense of progress and achievement that promotes job satisfaction. The art of teaching is the art of continuous learning, it's a never-ending cycle of growth, adaptation, and renewal.
Greater self-awareness doesn't just promote informed decisions about teaching strategies and goals; it leads to professional growth. A relevant statistic in this context is that teachers who engage in regular reflective practice are 30% more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). This isn't just about personal satisfaction; it's about building a resilient, adaptable, and thriving educational community.
In conclusion, reflection in teaching is a multifaceted tool that offers numerous benefits:
- Positive Experience: Reflection contributes to job satisfaction and helps in the prevention of work strain and burnout.
- Goal Identification and Action Planning: By reflecting on strengths and weaknesses, teachers can identify goals and create action plans, leading to the enhancement of skills and knowledge.
- Continuous Growth: Continuous reflection and evaluation foster constant improvement, a sense of progress, and achievement, promoting overall job satisfaction and professional growth.
The practice of reflection is not just a theoretical concept but a practical tool that can transform the teaching profession. It's a journey that every teacher can embark on, leading to a more fulfilling and effective educational experience.
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