On 1 May 2021, I had a chance to present at a one-day online conference organized by IATEFL Teacher Training and Education Development SIG. The theme of the event was ‘Reflection and Reconnection in the Changing World‘. You can read more about it here , and if you are an IATEFL and SIG member, the recording should be available soon.
This is the topic and description of my session:
Appreciating and Practicing Reflection with Teachers and Trainers
Reflective practice is a challenging skill for both participants and new trainers, and sometimes seems underappreciated or misunderstood. During the session we will think about the following questions:
- Why does reflective practice need to be an integral part of a training course?
- Can thinking reflectively be taught online? (A)synchronously? Live?
- Why/How can teacher trainers practice reflection on and between, or outside courses?
If time allows, I will share some of my favorite tools and practices.
One example of a full cycle to share.
Describe: in the summer of 2020 I took part in an online 10k run in Lviv, Ukraine.There were three of us: my husband, his colleague and myself. Before the event, after the payment was processed, I received a parcel where, among other things, was a sealed envelope with a note to open after the race. It felt heavy (could be compared to a smart phone weight) and hard. The size was small (about half the phone), so it fit into a running belt along with my keys, etc. Right after the race, the three of us decided to open the envelopes together. When we did it, there was colorful confetti all around us.
Interpret: Before the event, I was very curious and eager to open it right away, but decided to do as instructed. Actually, the envelope helped me get up and run (on the rainy Sunday morning). I knew it would be a medal, but had not checked the design online, to keep it as a surprise (which made me even more curious!) In fact I forgot about it during the run, which made the surprise effect even stronger. And at the time of opening… all of us were totally excited! This immediately reminded of the feeling of a real race, when you are surrounded by people (who either run or support you, or wait for you at the finish line). Thinking back about that moment now (almost a year after) makes me a bit nostalgic. One thing that really surprised me was my own excitement. It got me thinking about the role of surprise in teaching (and training)…
Generalize: … and confirmed an idea I often think about that a small playful element, even when we work with adults (students or teachers) makes a huge difference. It can make one’s mood better, leaves warm memories, and gratitude. I think small playful elements support our motivation to keep going (with the skill, sport or habit we are working on).
Plan action: In my future sessions or courses for teachers I will add at least one playful element to the slide deck I will be using, or the examples I prepare. I might share this memory, too 🙂
Here is my earlier post about this experience, if you are curious.
The School for International Training (SIT) Training of Trainers Course by Kevin Giddens and Susan Barduhn (2018) The Teacher Trainer Journal Vol 32 No 2.
More links and resources:
- The model of the Reflective Cycle by Graham Gibbs (1988) has six stages, and includes Feelings.
- The ORID Method (questioning and listening) helps to develop thinking in a logical manner and draw conclusions in respect to the situation or topic in question. The Art of Focussed Communication by B. Stanfield (2000).
- The Ladder of Inference by Chris Argyris (1990) describes the thinking process we go through.
- John Heron and Peter Reason’s ‘Ways of Knowing‘.
- Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process.
- Supporting the Development of Reflective Skills by Josh Kurzweil, SIT TESOL Trainer and Trainer of Trainers, the author of “Understanding Teaching Through Learning“.
- Mann, Steve J. and Walsh, Steve (2013) RP or ‘RIP’: a critical perspective on reflective practice. Applied Linguistics Review, 4 (2). doi:10.1515/applirev-2013-0013.
- Farrell, Thomas & Baurain, Bradley & Lewis, Marilyn. (2020). ‘We Teach Who We Are’: Contemplation, Reflective Practice and Spirituality in TESOL. RELC Journal. 51.
Reflection is dialogic and social practice, so we all need a community where regular meetings or conversations with fellow trainers to talk about training experience can happen. We do that not only to improve our professional skills (that’s a side effect) but also to practice and deepen the skill of reflection itself. Through the active and conscious use of the reflective cycle we can make our training and living experience richer and fuller. I feel fortunate to belong to the international SIT Training Community, my source of professional inspiration, training insights, and long-lasting friendships.
Post-Session Update: it went well! I had very enthusiastic people in the audience, and managed to ‘catch’ the questions asked during/after the session. Sharing them here, and hope to add some thoughts in another post.
- Is there a danger of reflection becoming a routine activity if it’s done out of compulsion or if it’s overdone?
- What is an example of a ‘good’ reflection and a ‘not-so-good’ one?
- How can we assess one’s ability to reflect?
- How can we make the reflective practice an interesting option for the ones who are resistant to the idea?
- How can/do student teachers reflect on their teaching practice when their knowledge and experience are limited? How much reflection can they do with their limited knowledge?
Thank you for reading!