Reflective Practice

Objective

This is a written reflection to, “Simply having experiences does not imply that they are reflected on, understood or analysed critically.  Individual experiences can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined and constraining” taken from Brookfield’s text The Skillful Teacher.

Reflective

This reminds me of the famous John Dewey quote, “we do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” And while I have already reflected on the importance of student reflection on learning experiences in previous PIDP assignments, this time around the quote resonates with me because of the importance of reflecting on my own teaching practice. It is certainly something I haven’t engaged in formally by using any kind of record or model, but as I get more and more behind reflective practice it is certainly something that I should make a regular part of my profession. Especially now that I have quite a bit of experience with the focused conversation model.

Whenever incorporating new instructional strategies, new assignments, evaluations, or assessment techniques, it is critical to reflect on how it went for the students and what further improvements could be made in the future. There are things I did as an instructor this past semester that I know I won’t do again. One example is that my heightened sense of the importance of collaboration led me to deliver an assignment worth 10% of the final grade that had to be completed with a learning partner. This was far too high stakes and far too intense a collaboration at this stage of my students’ development.  I will take it much slower with collaboration in the future, focusing more on instructional strategies and assessment techniques.

While technically this constitutes a reflection, it was more by happenstance than something done with intention, primarily a result of overwhelmingly negative student feedback about the assignment.  But I should focus on making reflection a much more regular part of my profession – with intention and by using the focused conversation model.

Interpretive

One of the terms that keeps revealing itself as I research reflective practice is “critical reflection.”  According to Larrivree (2010), the term critical reflection “merges critical inquiry, the conscious consideration of the ethical implications and consequences of teaching practice, with self-reflection, deep examination of personal beliefs, and assumptions about human potential and learning.”  She warns that failing to practice critical reflection leaves instructors, “trapped in unexamined judgements, interpretations, assumptions, and expectations.”  This can obviously be detrimental to an instructor and his students.  

Ghaye (2010) discusses reflective practice in the context of strength-based thinking, which “explicitly emphasizes reflecting on strengths so as to identify them, play to them and develop new ones.”  He advocates an approach to critical reflection that strikes a balance between both strengths and weaknesses.  There are a number of guiding questions provided to being the journey of strength-based critical reflection, such as “What was your best day at work in the past three months? What were you doing? Why was it the ‘best day’?” and, “What was your worst day at work in the past three months? What was going on?”  This is an interesting approach to reflective practice that I believe is an important aspect of teaching and learning – identifying and overcoming weaknesses while focusing and further developing strengths.  

In respect of how to critically reflect, Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, Peter Scales recommends keeping a professional development journal, which he describes as “a written record of your experiences of, and feelings about planning, preparing and delivering teaching and learning.  It will contain general accounts of learning sessions but, more importantly, will identify critical incidents which can be the basis for learning and continuing professional development.

Decisional

It seems clear to me that keeping a reflective journal as part of my teaching practice is an essential component of my continual development as a competent instructor. I will begin keeping a reflective journal immediately.  This is a great opportunity to do so as a new semester is just beginning.  I will update my professional development plan with the goal of maintaining a reflective journal.  

Having just started to use Microsoft OneNote for all my note-taking needs, it will be a good opportunity to start a new notebook in this application specifically for critical reflections related to my teaching practice.  I will identify critical incidents this coming semester and reflect on them using the focused discussion model.  The other model that may also be effective in certain circumstances is the “What? So what? Now what?”, outlined by Scales (2012).

I will use my critical reflections to help plan instructional strategies and evaluations and to manage my teaching practice in the future.  The ultimate goal of this endeavour is to ensure there is a continuous improvement cycle in operation, for the benefit of my students.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom.  San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass

Ghaye, T. (2011)  Teaching and Learning Through Reflective Practice: A Practical Guide for Positive Action. New York: Routledge  

Larrivee, B. (2010)  Transforming Teaching Practice: Becoming the Critically Reflective Teacher.  International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 1, Issue 3, Pages 293-307

Scales, P. (2012)  Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, London: Open University Press

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