Saturday, 31 March 2018

TML Week 17: Reflective Practice

Reflective practice is one of those terms that is touted as current best practice for being responsive to the needs of our learners and dare I add in my leadership role, responsive to our staff and community needs.  It has become an integral part of the cycle of teaching as inquiry for effective pedagogy, a practice that is now widespread as a means for educational improvement and improved teacher quality. However after reading through the article by Finlay (2008), I would postulate that it is not done with the depth of understanding to truly be reflective.  The important element of critical analysis required for reflection-on-action as Schön (1983, cited in Finlay, 2008) describes as ‘after-the-event-thinking’ is often missing. In this post, I attempt to use a three step model by Jay and Johnson (2002) to critically reflect on my own reflective practice.

Jay and Johnson (2002) Reflective Model

Stage 1: Descriptive
In my own practice, as an educational leader, I do not believe I reflect to the best of my ability, despite good intentions.  In a time poor environment where I am driven to juggle many tasks and manage events on a situational basis, I feel I need to be more selective and spend time to reflect and draw clarity to the events around me for future learning and leadership. I am often caught up with situations that arise unscheduled, where I have to be agile and this requires me to take a reflection-in-action (thinking while doing) approach.  I often find that I then personally reflect on my own after a situation or event on my actions, my feelings and what I would do differently in the future based on my own gut feeling and hindsight.

Stage 2: Comparative
When given the opportunity to meet with a colleague, my leadership team, or in a professional learning group, I have the time to digest an event and reflect more deeply on my actions, the situation and contemplate how to adapt if this event or similar was to occur again.  When reflecting with others, if this is verbal or completing a PMI chart of an event, I am drawn to the many perspectives that I would not have had while in an isolated internal thought structure. This interaction allows me to consider multiple perspectives, feelings and therefore new information for me to add to my personal professional knowledge and mental model.  I also find when I reflect with my professional learning group, we are often reflecting against our own practice and a current topical reading. For example, currently my professional learning group is reading Dylan Wiliam (2016), Leadership for teacher learning. I find relating relevant readings when reflecting on a situation or event can be helpful to uncover what the wider educational community have found through research.  However, I must include in this part of the reflective process that through being a connected educator and leader, I will often seek perspectives from social media. I tend to post on a closed Facebook group for New Zealand Principals, or on Twitter to seek advice.

Stage 3: Critical reflection
After connecting with others through online forums or in person (partner, team or group), and considering relevant readings (or research) I find I am able to draw conclusions and considerations to add to my personal professional knowledge.  Through these connections I know that when confronted with a new situation or event, I am often more poised to respond in-the-moment (reflection-in-action) by appropriately drawing on hindsight of previous experience, collective wisdom gained through discussion and readings, and ready to seek further feedback from my colleagues.

Word Count: 599


Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on reflective practice. Practice-based Professional Learning Centre, Open University. Retrieved from

Jay, J.K. and Johnson, K.L. (2002). Capturing complexity: a typology of reflective practice for teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 73-85.

Schön, D.A. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books


Natasha Leafberg said...

Hi Justine,

Thank you for your honest and reflective post. I really like the way you have designed your blog. It is user friendly and aesthetically appealing. I am fairly new to blogging so my prior knowledge with how to set up pages etc is rather sketchy.

I agree with your post about reflection in action. I find that teaching is so all consuming in terms of workload that it is often really difficult to reflect in a truly critical way. My most meaningful inquiries are always ones that are taken in very small steps. For example: Implementing the flipped classroom as a podcast. I find it manageable to focus on how small tasks are effective rather than large unwieldy projects. Student feedback in a narrower context has far more meaning for me.

Natasha Leafberg

Justine Driver said...

Thanks for your comment Natasha. In my work with Google, one of their mantra's is "Think big, start small". Making small achievable steps, like what you have suggested is great for your self as an educator and for your learners. It's important to show gratitude and realise in our jobs as educators, where we face so many complex tasks starting is often the hardest part for an initiative or inquiry. Well done for finding success in small attainable goals towards a bigger change initiative.