Reflective Practice Group: One Student

Background: you might have already heard or read about Reflective Group Meetings where teachers discuss a challenge or question they face and think critically and analytically about some possible reasons, formulate their own teaching and learning beliefs and come up with action plans to try out in the future.

I learned about (and attended two) such meetings in Daegu (South Korea). I am also in touch with inspiring and reflective colleagues in Japan and USA. Well, I decided to make a step myself and ran our first meeting here in Dnipro, Ukraine.

The first meeting was more of an introduction, and ‘test-drive’ of this idea: I invited my former colleagues and course participants, and some of them brought their reflective friends and colleagues. We had a small circle of 10 people and discussed how a reflective cycle can be applied, experienced a short non-language demo activity and reflected on it, and reviewed the stages of the Experiential Learning Cycle. We agreed to meet again, and created a group on Facebook to stay in touch.


Now I am planning our second meeting, and this is what this post is about.

One Student

My intro message about this meeting says:

Let’s start with something simple, and complicated at the same time: Your Student. Choose a student whose learning manner, behavior, needs or personality you would like to reflect on. Keep an eye on this student in the coming weeks, maybe take brief notes of specific situations and behaviors you would like to share.


I am thinking to structure the meeting around the theme of One Student, and will share my ideas below. Your comments and insights are very welcome (there are still a couple of days left before the meeting)

Getting Started

Think (and/or take notes) about the student you are thinking about. You might choose to share some of this with your reflective peers today.

Some helpful questions:

  • Why does s/he stand out for you?
  • Why do you think the student needs English? Why is s/he in your classroom?
  • What makes this student special? Unique?
  • What can you learn from him/her (personally, and as his/her teacher)?

Context Setting

This is something your reflective peers will need to know if you want them to understand your situation better.

Some helpful questions:

  • How old is the student?
  • What is his/her level according to CEFR, and how balanced are the four skills?
  • What kind of class/group/course is this?
  • How does thinking about this student makes you feel?

One Scenario

Choose ONE situation/event/interaction where your student took part (a recent one, or the most memorable one). Imagine that you are making a picture of this scenario, or telling about this episode to someone who has never been in your classroom, and describe it in as much detail as possible. Please remember that we talk about a situation rather than the whole lesson. This piece, or moment, can be 5-10 minutes long.

Some helpful questions:

  • Where was the student sitting?
  • Where were you (the teacher) standing or sitting?
  • What were the other students doing?
  • What was the task/the activity that this student was doing?
  • What exactly did you, and/or the student say (write)?

Look at the answers you wrote and think about a feeling you had at that moment. Please note that you might not remember all the feelings right now, because the event took place some time ago. Also, your feelings from this distance might change the ‘color’ (something you were angry or frustrated about at that moment may seem different now)

Re-read your description again. If you did not know the student, or your classroom, what else might you want to ask the teacher? Add 1-2 questions, and answer them.

Practice Time

Now, read the description of a situation provided by a reflective teacher Anne (at the moment of writing this blog post she was based in South Korea and was writing about her student; she gave me her kind permission to use this post in our session)

  • What did you notice about the way she described the scenario? How does it compare to the description you created?
  • What would you like to ask Anne about Josh? Write 1-3 questions.
  • Compare with the questions her readers asked in the comments. Mark the questions you were also interested in.


ELC Review


We are using the Experiential Learning Cycle for structured reflection. Which of the five stages have we just been though? – Experience and Description.

Which questions asked by the readers do not fall into the Description stage? – Depending on the time available and the number of people present we might only look at several examples of the questions asking for interpretation (analysis or generalizations). Some examples are:

  • You mention that you were frustrated during the encounter. Do you think that the frustration showed in your voice/body language?
  • He wouldn’t follow your instructions straight away as the others did. Does he need to be asked differently?
  • What motivates him? How does he respond to praise? What kind of praise?

Back to Your Student

  • Are there any questions you would like to add (and answer!) to make the description of your student fuller?

Exchange the descriptions with the reflective peers in your group and be ready to ask and answer further descriptive questions about him/her.

Reflection on Reflection

  • Why is the Description part important?
  • How did it feel to be describing one particular scenario?
  • What information for further reflection do you now have?

If time allows, the small groups will take the experience through the complete Cycle analyzing some possible reasons for specific actions or words, formulating their learning/generalizations about learning and teaching, and coming up with possible action plans to apply.

I am wondering if there is enough time for the complete cycle, or not; whether or not to change the groups (every time there are new listeners the person has to describe the whole thing all over again); whether or not to keep the same focus (and the same student) for the following meeting, or to switch the focus and continue to explore the other stages of the Cycle in more detail.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts and ideas. Thank you for reading! 😉

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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5 Responses to Reflective Practice Group: One Student

  1. Such depth! The guiding questions and examples will really help participants explore the descriptive stage and their experience.

    I’ll be curious to know if you have time to go through the stages during one meeting. I used to think that wasn’t possible as there is so much depth at even one stage, but I was able to guide everyone through it. That being said, I wonder if there is something lost in individual understanding by doing that.

    If your participants have a background in the ELC, they will surely gain more awareness and understanding from this experience: either from just staying with description or going through the cycle.

    In my experience, the challenge with breaking down the cycle during separate meetings has to do with people who attend once and then only come at another time down the road. They don’t get a chance to see the full cycle in action. Of course, that’s based on people with no experience with the ELC.

    I look forward to hearing more about what you decided! Congratulations on this new adventure!


    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for reading dear Josette, and for thinking together in this direction. I really value your input, as you are way more experienced in running the meetings like this.

      I like that I am making these comments after the actual session/meeting, so your questions are adding an extra focus to my ‘reflection on action’ process.

      Yes, I agree that the questions were helpful. One more question I added during the meeting was ‘How does the post itself, or the readers’ questions, inspire you to add more details to the initial description of the scenario?’ In fact, they really motivated to say/write/remember more, as I saw and experienced.

      Re going through all the stages during one meeting: a very good question, and I was debating pros and cons of doing so a lot. We actually ‘rushed’ through the remaining stages of the Cycle (analysis, generalizations) and shared brief plan of actions as the whole group. By ‘rushed’ I mean small group discussions without going into detail about the ‘features’ of each stage. I sensed (and heard as feedback) that the ideas from others were expected as one of the main reasons to join the session. As a group, we are still learning that reflection is mostly ‘inside’ (even though it is a dialogue) Your point about ‘breaking the cycle’ session by session makes a lot of sense (including the problem it might create re attendance)

      Now, the most important challenge/question I have (and you touch it in the question about the background): what can be done if a group has people with and without ELC knowledge and skill, and habit? This time one teacher was new to the process, (and the others were either SIT Cert holders, or planning to take the course) and I realized there might be more people like her joining the group in the future. After all, it is our kind of ‘mission’ to spread the idea.

      Well, this comment feels like another post. Thank you very much for the chance to reflect, share and learn with you!


  2. Pingback: From our Reflective Practice Group to yours…Holiday Greetings! – reflection pools

  3. mistergesl says:


    I teach English in the U.S and stumbled upon this blog via twitter and have to say that this is an excellent resource. I have worked as a teacher trainer for several years and have come to the undeniable conclusion that thoughtful introspection such as described here is what prevents most of my struggling teachers from being effective with their students. The process you’ve outlined through the Experiential Learning Cycle I feel could really help overwhelmed teachers begin to take a more honest look at their practice and realize that there are more factors under our control than we realize. Will definitely be sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Possible Topics for Reflective Group Meetings | Wednesday Seminars

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