Anyone who is starting or has started a career in the field of education or youth work (and in other fields besides) may well have come across the term “reflective practice”. And if you’re not 100% clear on what that is or why it’s important, you’ve certainly come to the right place…
In this article, we’re going to cover why reflective practice is so important in teaching and education, and how to perform it, before also providing you with a handy helpful example.
Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you. Here goes.
Why Reflective Practice is So Important in Teaching and Education
For those of you who aren’t already familiar with the term, reflective practice is basically about taking time to reflect upon your own actions, and then using this reflection to improve your teaching and/or educational practices.
It is a technique that is used by a wide range of professionals, such as in healthcare in particular, but it has also proved to be invaluable in the field of education. As a teacher, you have to reflect on whether the students have understood what you have tried to teach them, and gauge their reaction to your teaching.
But then you can take your reflection inward and examine HOW and WHY your teaching is, or isn’t, working. Because it is only through such reflective practice that you can assess your teaching method and (ultimately) behaviour, that you judge what is and isn’t working.
Any findings you come up with can then be integrated into your future teaching, so that you can adapt the style of your teaching to best facilitate the learning of your students.
This process is not just for teachers and classrooms alone. Anyone involved in any form of educating, be they a lecturer or a youth worker, can benefit from such reflective practice. Anywhere where there’s a need to facilitate learning, or get a point across well, can benefit.
How to Perform Reflective Practice in Teaching and Education
If you are a teacher, you will want to spend some time observing your class, either during lessons, or when you are planning your next lesson. You’ll want to pay attention to:
- The way your students interact with each other
- How your students react to you
- What level of understanding your students seem to have gained from your teaching
- How your students respond to different aspects of your teaching
You might even want to consider recording yourself teaching, and then watching back over the footage later on. This could help you identify areas where you need to make changes to your teaching style.
You should also try to keep track of your teaching throughout the year, noting down anything that stands out, and how you felt about it. If you find that certain things happen regularly, you might want to think about why this is happening, and if there is something that you can do to change this.
The most popular way of keeping track of the effectiveness of your teaching techniques and methods and reflecting on it is to simply keep a diary. It requires no filming and no special equipment. Ideally, you would take the time to reflect in your diary after every lesson, but if this is not possible, aim to write your entry as soon as possible after the lesson, before the details are gone from your mind.
An alternative method may be to have someone observe your teaching as an outsider. This can be particularly valuable because they may notice something that you have failed to spot.
As mentioned above, you can use all of your observations to help you reflect on your current teaching methods, and to plan future lessons. You may well find that some techniques work better with one set of students, while other techniques work better with others.
Example of Reflective Practice in Teaching and Education
And now for an example of reflective practice in action.
Ellen recently taught a group of Year 12s at her school. She wanted to know what worked well, and what didn’t. So she decided to watch herself teaching, and record everything that happened.
She watched the video several times, looking for patterns. For instance, did she tend to ask more questions than she answered? Did she give too much information? Was she too formal? Too informal? And so on.
She found that she tended to start off by telling them what the topic was, and then asking them to tell her what they knew about it. Then she told them what she thought they needed to learn, and asked them to explain their answers.
Afterwards, she wrote up a summary of what had happened during the session, and tried to figure out how well she did. This approach gave her lots of useful insights into her teaching. For example:
- She realised that she tended to talk too fast when trying to cover a lot of ground quickly.
- She realised that she tended not to listen carefully enough to what the students said.
- She realised how important it was to make sure that she kept the class interested.
She noted her behaviour and learned from it. In future lessons, she ensured she had the attention of the full class before imparting important knowledge, she ensured that she talked more slowly, and when the students did speak, she checked that she understood what they were saying. Her future lessons were much more successful.
For more information on getting started with reflective practice for educators, please refer to “Getting started with Reflective Practice” by the Cambridge International Education Teaching and Learning Team on this link.