What is reflection, and why do we do it?

Congratulations, you’ve just had a glowing teaching quality report! You have been praised for your excellent correction methods, your extension questions were on point, but there were also a couple of things you could improve, like maybe reducing teacher talk time a little, and your review could have used a little sprucing up.

OK, great! But what do you actually do with all of this feedback?

In our busy schedules and lives, it’s so easy to move from one thing to the next, without paying too much attention to ‘how?’ ‘why?’ and ‘what now?’

One of the great things about working as an IQBar buddy is the opportunity to develop our professional practice, and one of the best ways that we can do this is to take a step back from ourselves and employ a reflective mindset. Reflective practice leads to self-awareness, self-evaluation, and self-criticality, and can help us to challenge our assumptions, keep biases in check, and see things from multiple points of view. It can stop us from beating ourselves up when things don’t go to plan, and help us to repeat successes in the future.

Whilst reflection can be practised with the help of feedback from observations, it can also be incorporated into our regular teaching routine –asking ourselves the right reflective questions can lead to better teaching, faster progress for our Breadies, and ultimately, more bookings!

What does the theory say? 

So, how do we do it?

Well, there are a few theoretical models that might encourage reflective practice, many of which take the form of what is known as a ‘reflective cycle.’ There are many different examples of these, but essentially they consist of three fundamental elements.

  • What happened? Describe the event. How did it make you feel?
  • What were the causes, implications, and consequences of the event? What were its positive and negative aspects?
  • Could you have acted differently? If the situation arose again, what would you do?

Whilst simplistic, Gary Rolfe’s 2001 reflective model illustrates this point perfectly.

These are precisely the kinds of probing questions that can be used to carefully consider and critically evaluate elements of our teaching practice and can be used to develop self-awareness and mindset that can facilitate personal and professional growth.

Whilst this is an effective model due to its concise simplicity, it may also be worth investing some time in exploring other models as well – how do other reflective models compare? You may wish to look up the following:

  • Gibbs
  • Kolb
  • Atkins & Murphy
  • Driscoll

Brookfield’s Lenses 

As we have discussed, part of successful reflective practice is the ability to ‘step back’ and see things from multiple points of view. It may well be that you felt that an activity was an unmitigated disaster – but does the Bready share this point of view? Maybe not! They haven’t seen your lesson plan after all! Alternatively, you may have felt like a lesson went perfectly, but how would it have been evaluated by an external observer?

Stephen Brookfield proposes that to gain a full, reflective understanding of events, we should look through a series of different ‘lenses’. These are:

  1. An autobiographical perspective
  2. The learner’s perspective
  3. A colleague or observer’s perspective
  4. The theoretical perspective

Simply taking the time to reflect on events through these multiple lenses can be transformative in improving our teaching. The processes of description, evaluation, critical judgement, reaching conclusions, and creating an action plan can be crucial for our professional and personal development, and ultimately, make us better at what we do.

How can you incorporate elements of reflective practice into your teaching? Let us know what you think!