ELC Qs & As: Pro et Contra

There are two sides to every coin, as an English idiom goes, and in my language we say the same thing about a medal (I am smiling as I am typing these words because it seems to be a nice topic for another blog post about these linguistic similarities and differences) I am still in my ‘reflective mode’ and eager to write and share ideas about using the Experiential Learning Cycle, or the ELC, when looking back on our teaching and training experiences. You can read more in my previous post.

My most recent post has questions and answers about using the reflective cycle, and this time I will continue the Q & A idea but will be looking at potential pros and cons, or advantages and disadvantages, or… both sides of the coins and medals.


What are the pros and cons of written reflection (as opposed to reflection in conversation?)

+ Writing, especially handwriting, calms strong feelings down and puts one’s thoughts in order (very true about me) It also gives extra time to basically select a moment to reflect in more depth, which is especially important right after the experience. You can also re-visit what you wrote later and perhaps have other (better!) ideas

? Might feel more time-consuming, and even boring, depending on a personal style


What are the pros and cons of private versus public/shared reflection?

+ I think it is probably more honest (you don’t have to worry about what the listeners will say or think about your ideas or feelings), and therefore, might go deeper.

? On the other hand, having someone simply listen to the description of what happened and adding a couple of questions to help you verbalize the experience can be tremendously helpful. Talking to someone who had observed the lesson you are talking about adds a bonus of hearing their perspective and their thoughts in the Analysis/Generalization parts of the ELC.


What are the pros and cons of immediate reflection over delayed reflection? (aka ‘ hot’ and ‘cold’)

+ If you are reflecting right after the lesson you remember many little details clearly and objectively* (*This word can hardly be used in the reflective process at all as our feelings ‘filter’ everything anyway). Reflecting later in time means forgetting more and more detail and even adding what you think happened.

? Having at least several hours or one night after the lesson was over gives a ‘fresh’ perspective on what was done and helps you see the lesson objectives achieved (or not) more clearly. This sometimes means selecting new moments to reflect on.


What are the pros and cons of reflecting on one’s own experience versus observing someone else and then taking it through the ELC?

+ This experience is yours, and you are learning by doing and then reflecting. ‘Involve me, and I will remember’ works equally well for language learners and their teachers, I think.

? Sometimes, when a teacher is starting to apply the ELC, it is easier to practice objective description on the lesson that is not yours; to detach, or divorce yourself from the feelings and emotions; to realize that the object of the reflection is not your personality but the lesson taught


What are the pros and cons of taking the same moment and looking at it through several lenses, for example, student interaction, use of materials, aim of this lesson stage, student engagement, level of challenge, etc.?

+ Using ‘more with less’ idea is helpful to deepen the reflective process and can be surprisingly rich and informative. Works especially well if the lesson was observed by peers, for example, and they can contribute.

? The other moments of a lesson are left without attention.


What are the pros and cons of reflecting on positive, or successful moments of a lesson taught?

+ Learning by doing can sometimes mean ‘fixing’ mistakes and improving what needs improvement. Doing something well might be taken for granted and … forgotten. Something we often talk about with teachers on a course is making sure that the fantastic ideas are nurtured, and repeated, and developed further. This makes us teachers unique,boosts our confidence, helps to like the job we are doing (which might be a challenge on some days!)

? As with any other extreme, focusing only on what works well can make us ‘blind’ to what does not work so well.


What are the pros and cons of reflecting on shared experience as opposed to completely new context? To make this question a little more clear: do we always need a group of people who know our context, the group of students we are working with, their language levels, background, etc. to be able to benefit from the reflection process?

+ Even observers who watched the lesson taught didn’t experience it in the same way as the teacher, so it is still an exchange of different points of view. Being present in the room (or watching a recording, which is somewhat different) also means connecting several moments of this lesson (sometimes what happened at the beginning of a class could impact a student later) and seeing a perspective.

? Having others to observe you means that selecting a moment to reflect might be influenced by the peer pressure (even if you trust the people who observe the lesson)


What are the pros and cons of reflecting on an experience that the others have not been a part of? As you see in our RP Descriptive Challenge the writers often gave a little bit more information about the subject of description, or if not, the readers asked questions to actually imagine what was happening.

+ Adds extra weight on the description part of the cycle and makes this experience more distant, and more objective. It is even more interesting to reflect with someone who is not working in ELT, for example, and whose questions and insights might be amazingly helpful.

? One challenge would be how to explain what your context is, who the students are, what the lesson objective is, etc. This perhaps makes the description a little more subjective than it already is.


What are the pros and cons of asking questions about reflecting?

This part is over to you! (as well as more comments and thoughts about the pros and cons above)

Looking forward to tossing those coins together!

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/
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7 Responses to ELC Qs & As: Pro et Contra

  1. I love all your questions to think over. Here are my scattered thoughts:
    One of the ways I try to “sell” reflective practice in Korea is by emphasizing the value of reflecting in a group, with questions and feedback from people who have more distance from your context, and without judgment. I agree that I might go deeper on my own, but on the other hand, I might not know how to go deeper and need the help of the questions a reflective buddy might be able to ask.
    I remember telling a friend of mine about a bad day I had when we were chatting on Facebook one evening. After I had written down everything that had happened and looked back over it, I realized that actually it was only a couple of hours, rather than a whole day, and that it wasn’t really *my* bad day. That experience really drives home for me the value of written reflection in providing that bit of distance, as you pointed out.
    Thanks as ever for helping me think!


  2. Zhenya says:

    I like the idea of having a ‘like-minded reflective buddies’ group ready to reflect together. I think those teachers who have such a chance are very lucky. Really believe in this ‘peer professional development’ concept.

    Also, thank you for the example about sharing your ‘bad day’ experience with someone not from the ELT world! Smiled when you described how you found out that it was more about the hours, not the whole day (have the same tendency to exaggerate sometimes) That’s definitely another point ‘for’ reflecting in writing 🙂

    Thank you Anne for reading and sharing your thoughts!


  3. Hana Tichá says:

    Dear Zhenya,

    You’ve just come up with an exhaustive, balanced description of what reflective practice is. I think it’s great that you looked at both sides of the coin, taking into consideration various aspects and layers of RP. It’s clear now that there is no correct or right way of reflecting. And maybe there’s no wrong way either.
    Now on to your question; I believe that the pros of asking questions about reflecting are that it provides you with a clear strategy for the actual practice. It simply makes things easier for you by giving you a template. For example, you may realize that you don’t have time to reflect in writing, so you find a buddy who you can share your observations with (this is a possibility not everybody knows about). Or you may plan to look at selected moments of the lesson and later on decide to look at the lesson as a whole. You can plan your RP in advance because the questions and answers actually tell you how you can go about it. In other words, the questions help you become aware of the fact that there ARE all those many aspects and layers you can investigate and also many ways of uncovering things. The cons, on the other hand. may be that you delve into the theory and metacognitive strategies related to RP without actually practising it too much. In addition, some teachers may be confused by all the possibilities RP offers and easily give up….


    • Zhenya says:

      Dear Hana
      As usual, your comment made me think more and look at my own thoughts and beliefs from a little new perspective. Thank you for reading and responding.
      You said: It’s clear now that there is no correct or right way of reflecting. And maybe there’s no wrong way either.
      I am totally with you on this one! I like how you see RP not through the ‘right/wrong’ lens but having much more facets and sides (much more than a coin does, I would say? 🙂 )

      Your answer to my question is the part that made me think a lot though, especially where you outline the ‘cons’ or the pitfalls of thinking about how to reflect instead of reflecting. (similarly to taking about doing something rather than doing it?) I think my mind was using a lens of a ‘training a teacher trainer’ and got too fat away from the practical application of reflection. Great reminder to stay focused! 🙂 Another thing I agree with is that having too many options to select from makes the act of choosing harder, more time-consuming, and therefore makes it easier for a teacher to give up the idea to even start reflecting. Now that I am typing this sentence I also think that it depends on how experienced and confident a teacher is and how much challenge they are looking for!)

      In any case, my little action point for a future post is to make it less theoretical 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me Hana!


      • Hana Tichá says:

        Zhenya, I’d like to stress that your posts are not too theoretical and there’s no need to make them less so. On the contrary, they are very teacher-friendly. I just wanted to come up with a few positives as well as some potential pitfalls because your post is about the pros and cons after all. So I only wanted to stay mono-thematic, so to speak. I didn’t want to imply that you should change something – by the way, I hope it’s clear that this ‘you’ I use in my comment is generic (it sounds a little ambiguous now that I think about it).The fact that you, Zhenya the teacher trainer, ask questions about RP is perfectly all right; what I meant that if teachers start delving into theory, they may forget about practice. I hope it makes sense now 🙂


        • Zhenya says:

          Hana, it does make perfect sense, definitely. Thank you for reassuring and being supportive about my posts and thoughts. In fact, experimenting or changing something in what I do is fine by me (and really interesting actually) and therefore I am truly and honestly grateful for this idea. I enjoyed the fact that you kept it i the format of pros and cons, plus I strongly believe that there is no ‘right’ way to reflect, or to write blogs, or… almost anything in our life? I think I said this before, but I am so grateful to connect with you via this communication, Hana, and for the mutual learning and exploration. Have been re-reading your latest post about Speaking, by the way 😉


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