What does it mean to be a reflective practitioner?
A reflective practitioner reflects on practice in order to improve their performance. A teacher who develops a habit of reflection to get more knowledge and experience and apply it to classroom planning and instruction is a reflective practitioner. This includes critically reflecting upon their teaching practice to develop practical instructional strategies.
Why should teachers be reflective practitioners?
Teachers have a job of planning instructions and delivering them in the classroom. John Dewey explained this as theory and practice in education, he focused primarily on experiential and reflective learning. He explained that a theory cannot be understood unless it is practised hence experience is very valuable in practice (Dewey, 1923). Long before John Dewey, many educational theorists and philosophers like Lev Vygotsky and Confucius have written about the benefits of reflective teaching and experiential learning as the best strategy to attain knowledge and understanding.
Teachers get an opportunity to improve their teaching if they can look into their successes and challenges to make necessary amendments. This process is reflection. Since experience and reflection are interlinked, reflection denotes an experience as a reflective experience. “Reflection is a way of converting ready-structured experience into the newly structured actions we call the professional practice” (Silcock, 1994, p. 278).
Teachers should be reflective practitioners as they will be able to combine knowledge and expertise empowering themselves to be change-makers and thought leaders in education. Teachers need to be reflective for professional growth as well as for the growth of pedagogy.
How can teachers be reflective practitioners?
Teachers can be reflective practitioners if they have developed a habit of documenting the teaching and learning process in three simple stages:
- Reflections before teaching a concept, content or competency
- Reflections while teaching a concept, content or competency
- Reflections after teaching a concept, content or competency
One of the tools that I use is Kolb’s Model of Reflection (1984). This model requires teachers to follow four simple steps to reflect on their practices:
- Concrete Experience: to answer the question what you did?
- Reflective Observations: to answer the question what do you wonder?
- Abstract Conceptualization: to answer the question what you learned/so what?
- Application: to answer the question now what?
The process of reflection helps in creating focused learning strategies for differentiation, addressing student needs, planning collaborative tasks, creating authentic assessments and selecting meaningful content. As practitioners of pedagogy, we need to reflect on our practice to ascertain if we are informing our pedagogy with our practical experiences in the classroom. In many ways, this is a design thinking routine that teachers should implement in their instructional planning.
The big advantage of being a reflective practitioner is the idea that the habit of reflecting on practice makes the teacher a lifelong learner.
Dewey J., (1973), Lectures in China 1919-1920, Honolulu, The University Press of Hawaii.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Silcock, P. (1994). The Process of Reflective Teaching. British Journal of Educational Studies, 42(3), 273-285. doi:10.2307/3121886