Reflective Practice Group Meetings: Defining?

I first attended a reflective practice group meeting in Daegu in 2013 and fell in love with the idea. I then came to another one in 2014 (again, Daegu, South Korea). Two years later, we started a new RP Group in Dnipro, Ukraine, with encouragement and support from the group facilitators and coordinators in California, Japan and South Korea.

Earlier this month I had a chance to talk with several reflective group leaders on Skype, and our small ‘homework’ was to share our answers to the three questions below. You may want to pause here, jot down your own answers, and then continue reading. My answers will be shared under the image below.

  1. How is a reflective practice group different from other training sessions in your opinion/experience?
  2. What makes a group meeting ‘reflective’?
  3. My perfect/successful reflective practice group meeting is …


Taken in Ulsan, South Korea, in 2010.

Zhenya’s answers and thoughts

How is a reflective practice group meeting different from other training sessions in your opinion/experience?

Unlike other professional development (PD) events, these meetings are not about ‘giving’ or ‘transmitting’ knowledge from experts, research findings or books. There is no ‘input’ in terms of ‘how’ to teach a language skill, or ‘what’ (activities and techniques) can be done in class. There is no authority ‘knowing’ more about the topic than anyone else in the room. Such meetings put each other’s experience in the center of attention. Everyone’s perspective and opinion matters. Contributions are made by talking or listening.

Extra thoughts

I wonder if my viewpoint is a bit biased (as a founder and coordinator of the group). Coincidentally, there was a survey shared anonymously among our group members as a preparation step for IATEFL Ukraine presentation.




One of its questions asked ‘In what way are these meetings different from other Professional Development experiences you have had?


At least 5 people (put of 9 who have completed it) mentioned the meetings’ atmosphere: relaxed, informal, comfortable. Quotes:

  • ‘There’s no obligation in the air’
  • ‘The feel is different.’

Overall group support was mentioned, too: the meetings offer ‘a chance to communicate with the people who understand your worries and difficulties and can support you’.

The point about contributing ideas was important: we ‘share ideas, not just listen’. Another related quote: ‘You get information not just from one person but from all the participants which allows you to compare the experiences and discuss them deeply’

Another quote: ‘Unlike other PD events, our meetings are free, topics are vital for every member, they take place on a regular basis

Two things that made me think:

1) ‘no specific outcome is expected‘ > > I wonder if this is about some ‘action plan’ or ‘knowledge body’ that could be meant; it could be seen as a kind of feedback to some of the meetings, where some participants may be leaving without a feeling of ‘getting’ something out of the discussion. I would like to think more about it.

2) there is ‘no need to accept if you disagree‘ > > This is something I find myself saying (as an alternative, ‘we don’t have to agree‘ meaning that it is not the goal or purpose of the discussion to ‘prove’ that someone is right, and that something is ‘the’ solution to an issue under discussion.

What makes a group meeting ‘reflective’?

For me, it is the use of the Experiential Learning Cycle as a tool to share the experiences.

A topic/theme is set beforehand, and oftentimes, a list of 3-4 questions are shared before the session. These questions ‘activate schemata’ in terms of what the meeting focus could be, and help to bring stories to the meeting.


Quoting one teacher who has completed our survey: ‘the [ideas, questions, topics of] teachers from different backgrounds are accepted, not judged, assessed, or trained’

Also, the openness of the people who attend the meeting, their desire to contribute to the conversation. That motivation is partially based on the interest to the topic (and the excited facilitator who chose it and prepared the meeting), and mostly on the habit and skill to reflect on the teaching and learning.

Finally, the overarching belief in the critical, reflective and creative thinking and the importance of ‘meaning-making pauses’ in the rapidly changing world of ELT and beyond.

My perfect/successful reflective practice group meeting is …

  • engaging on a personal level
  • offering space for thinking and sharing
  • leaving me a choice not to step in if/when I am not ready (yet)
  • planned and unplanned at the same time
  • flexible
  • leaving unanswered questions
  • not limiting ideas
  • not about ‘the right answers’
  • too fast (people don’t want to leave, keep talking on the theme)
  • accompanied with snacks and tea/coffee

Finally, wanted to share what one teacher wrote about our meetings in Dnipro. I would really like to keep this for our future meetings.

Most teachers who regularly attend these meetings are already experienced and good at reflecting. And they really love what they do and eager to keep on developing all the time. That’s why I always feel that we’re at the same wavelength.’


  • What were your answers to the questions?
  • Would you like to start a group like this in your city/country?
  • What would be some obstacles on the way to launching such a group?
  • What other questions about our Reflective Practice Group do you have?

Thank you for reading! 🙂

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
This entry was posted in Reflective Practice and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Reflective Practice Group Meetings: Defining?

  1. Ben says:

    Thanks for this great post, Zhenya! As I told you, our group in Bern seems to be somehow losing momentum but you’ve identified a lot of what’s important to Dave and I as well as to the regular participants. Refocusing on these core elements and communicating them to our attendees and potential attendees should help re-energise things after the summer break!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for this comment Ben (and for the support and conversations over the last year or so!) It would be amazing if your group re-energizes and returns to new meetings. Also, I don’t know if you saw my DM on Twitter: there is a Facebook group organized by Anna where group facilitators from different places share ideas. It is now at the stage of ‘forming and brainstorming’. It would be great to have you (and Dave?) there!
      Really value our connection!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Irene Sushko says:

    Zhenya, a great post, as always! To answer some of your questions – to me there is a huge difference between training sessions, workshops, conferences, etc. and reflective groups. The former offer you extended knowledge of the subject, someone’s expertise on the topic; the latter offer you a community of passionate, devoted, like-minded people. Reflective groups make you question yourself, your methods and ways of teaching, They make you ask questions and consider the opinions of other people/teachers in the field. You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t expect to get the answers right away. From my point of view, teachers that intend to become great teachers (or at least competitive in today’s economy) have to reflect, that’s the way we learn from our mistakes. And when you reflect with others, you have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes as well. I talked to some of my colleagues about reflective groups and some of the concerns that came up were – absence of an ‘expert” (some people view it as crucial), lack of time, different areas ( I teach adults, you teach kids, for example), no certificate at the end:(
    Personally I often feel that I need to talk to people who understand me, my concerns, problems, worries (profession-wise) more than anybody else over a cup of tea or coffee and a good snack:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Irene,
      Thank you for reading and leaving this thought-provoking comment. You actually inspired me to start drafting a new post, all about the possible obstacles to starting a similar group.

      Yes, agree that ‘reflective groups make you question yourself, your methods and ways of teaching’. At the same time, they do not deny the experts, or do not reject the importance of gaining new input, research findings or attending conferences. It is true that there may be no ‘expert’ in a particular area in the session (well, it depends how we define ‘experts’, and that’s a completely different topic). There are ideas teachers read and heard, however, as all of us attend other PD events. The meetings are a chance to ‘try things on’ our context and students. For example, one session earlier this spring was devoted to Teaching Lexis, and teachers shared their experience with implementing the Lexical Approach. Author names were mentioned, but what’s more important, the ideas were discussed based on the actual classroom experience. Just an example to say that we are respecting and appreciating books, articles, presentations and trainings offered.

      Our time is subjective, and as we know, teachers are really over-worked (around the globe, it seems). So yes, a PD event has to be worth spending the time on. No comment. On the other hand, we are making priorities, and if we see something is worth the time and effort, we might find those 2 hours a month. The point about ‘different contexts’ actually came up in our survey as a plus. Sometimes people who don’t work with the same audience as you do have a ‘fresh idea’ you could never come up with. And yes, sometimes they don’t 🙂

      As for certificates, no, we don’t offer any 🙂 On the other hand, I noticed that our group members in Dnipro started to proudly add a line about their membership to CV, LinkedIn profiles, conference bio blurb. This was not planned to be this way, but turns out it is something they value and are proud of. I am doing that, too, actually.

      I am grateful for the chance to write this reply and to ‘think aloud’. Thank you for this opportunity. I also shared the same questions on Twitter, and collecting more potential obstacles from my colleagues. Expect a post some time soon!

      With gratitude from Lviv,

      Liked by 1 person

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