Reflective Metaphors

by Zhenya

It has been a while since I last posted here. To be precise, it has been exactly 6 months since my last post here. Wow. I think I am back. I realized that December is my month to start writing (coincidentally, my very first post here was on the same date last year!), and Reflection/Reflective Practices is a topic often on my mind.

I think I like metaphors in teaching and learning process: they help me become more clear about an idea, and oftentimes become a tool for developing an idea further (did I just use a metaphor?)

I also like making lists. The list below shows what metaphors about reflection I came across while reading about the topic, or talking to colleagues.

Layers, layers, layers...

Layers, layers, layers…

  • onions (you can uncover as many layers as you wish, or cut them into pieces)

  • magnifying glass (allowing you to see something more clearly)

  • water, as in a river, or a pond (only still water will show you the reflection of yourself)

  • (a) picture, or camera (letting you could look at the image and reflect on it, ‘detaching’ yourself from the scene)

  • filming (same as in camera but in more detail)

  • a mirror (using more than one mirrors at the same time to see yourself from various sides and angles)

  • a compass (enabling you to stop, look, and discover where you are at that moment and then decide where you want to go in the future)

I am not 100% sure about the original sources where these metaphors appeared first. The very last one comes from T. Farrell’s article Reflecting on Reflective Practice: (Re)Visiting Dewey and Schon.

Besides, there are several metaphors about feedback I came across or used in my training practice:

  • (a) candy on the table (while sharing what you observed or what you thought about various moments in someone’s lesson you are treating this person to candy; the ‘feedback receiver’ can then choose whether or not to pick them from the table, to eat them all at once or save some for later, etc.)

  • a gift (as a symbol of how valuable someone’s feedback can be)

  • a mirror (the person observing makes it possible to have another point of view, or angle on what was happening in a lesson)

I re-read the above and noticed several things:

  1. I often used the word ‘yourself’ when writing about reflection (as opposed to ‘teacher and students’ or ‘lesson’) I think I meant a class in general though. It might also mean that reflection is very personal to… myself 🙂

  2. I used the Mirror metaphor for reflection and feedback (this reminds me how close they are in my own beliefs and practices)

  3. the image I chose for this post is far from being metaphorical at all!

Which other metaphors (about reflection, feedback, or both) do you personally like and use with colleagues and teacher training course participants? (or, which metaphors have been helpful to you personally in your own process of learning and reflection as a teacher?)

P.S. a book by George Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By, is one of those I really like and get back to