Reflective practice

What does the research say?

Effective teachers continually reflect on and improve, the way they do things, but reflection is not a natural process for all teachers. Some teachers think that the toolkit is enough.

Biggs (2003) eloquently highlights that a toolkit will not necessarily lead to excellence in teaching:

Learning new techniques for teaching is like the fish that provides a meal for today; reflective practice is the net that provides the meal for the rest of one's life.

Reflective practitioners take an inquiry stance in that they actively search for understanding, and are always open to further investigation.

Timperley, Wiseman and Fung reinforced the fact that teachers need to be constantly updating and improving their practice, and engaging in lifelong learning:

It is important, therefore, for teachers to continually update and expand their professional knowledge base and to improve or revise their practices so as to meet the learning needs of their increasingly diverse students… The ever-changing knowledge base in our society means that a teaching force that uses yesterday’s professional knowledge to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s society can no longer be tolerated.

The lenses for reflection

Additionally, within each mode of reflection, it's useful to reflect through various lenses. Brookfield suggests using the following 4 lenses for reflection.

The autobiographical lens, or self-reflection, is the foundation of critical reflection. It requires teachers to stand back from an experience and view it more objectively. This lens allows teachers to become aware of aspects of their pedagogy that are effective or that may need adjustment or strengthening.

This lens allows teachers to view their practice from students’ perspectives and is often a consistently surprising element for teachers. Both self-reflection and engaging with student feedback may reveal aspects of teaching practice that need adjustment.

While good teachers will engage with the first two lenses, excellent teachers may also look to peers for mentoring, advice and feedback. Engaging with colleagues and hearing their perspectives allows teachers to check, reframe, and broaden theories of practice, and to consider new ideas and approaches. It also makes teachers aware that many of the challenges in teaching are common, which can be profoundly reassuring.

The fourth lens found in theoretical literature fosters critically reflective teaching. An engagement with both colleagues and scholarly literature supports teachers and also clarifies the contexts in which they teach. The theoretical literature extends understanding and appreciation of learning and teaching practices, and helps teachers to see the links between their personal development path and the broader educational context.

In summary, reflective practice incorporates reflection in, on and for action as well as a reflection within.

Seeking information from various lenses serves to further strengthen reflective practice.

Use the Reflective practice questions to support reflection in action. The questions use the 4 modes of reflection and a variety of lenses.

  • Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership. (2014) Learning from practice - workbook series.
  • Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student Does (2nd ed.) Berkshire: SRHE & Open University Press.
  • NSW Education Standards Authority Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
  • Brookfield, S. 1995 Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Dewey, J. 1938 Logic: The Theory of Inquiry New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
  • Killion, J. & Todnem, G (1991) ?A process of personal theory building? Educational Leadership, 48(6).
  • Larrivee, B. (2006) An Educator?s Guide to Teacher Reflection, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Timperley, H. Wiseman, J. Fung, I. (2003) The Sustainability of Professional Development in Literacy, Part 2. Final report to the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Education, Wellington New Zealand.

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