Practicing Reflective Practice

In May I had a chance to present about Appreciating Reflective Practice. This Sunday, 13 June, I invite you to join me on a session with the ELT Workshop team. The session title and description are below, and here are the slides to take a look if you are interested.

How to Practice Reflective Practice

This topic can be a bit tricky for a webinar, as we can’t offer a magic recipe to practice reflective skills. Learning to think reflectively takes time, and it can be hard to get started without seeing the ‘bigger picture’, or the reason for doing it.

In this session, we will think about the following questions:

  • What are some obstacles and challenges to practicing reflection on a regular basis?(and do all those challenges have some solutions?)
  • How (else) can teachers practice reflection?
  • What can teachers reflect on?
  • What are (y)our favorite reflective practice tools?
  • (and what are your questions about reflective practice?)

It may happen that you will leave the session not having the answers to all the questions. Or even with the new questions to think about.

Here is the session registration link and all the other important details. Also, if you have not yet done it, sign up for the regular newsletters and updates not to miss the other cool events being regularly organized!

To help you get started thinking in the direction of the workshop content, I would like to focus on the first question in my list. In preparation to talk about reflection in teacher training I ran a small survey among teacher trainers and experienced teachers. All of them are in my #PLN and all appreciate and actively practice reflection. What obstacles do you see for working on teachers’ reflective skills during a training course?

Coincidentally, Rachel Tsateri, a colleague from my online community, teacher trainer and blogger at #TEFLzone, wrote a post called Reflective Teaching and Training. At the end of it she asked ‘Why is [Reflection/Reflective Teaching] challenging?‘ and offered several ideas based on her experience and research. In response to her invitation to add more ideas, I am sharing some quotes from the survey below.

  • Often there is ‘I-can’t-see-the-wood-for- the-trees’ reaction. Some people perhaps don’t know what to focus on.
  • Difficulty focusing on the specifics of an experience, and this lack of specificity limits teachers’ ability to learn from their experiences.

Obstacles image 4

  • Not having a shared idea/definition of reflective skills, different teachers having different skills to work on, teachers having different opinions of the value or importance of reflective practice.
  • It takes time and practice, both teaching experience and practice reflecting, for teachers to learn to reflect productively. In teaching contexts where learning-centered inquiry is not encouraged, or where job status is at risk, teachers must be willing to consider that there may be room for personal improvement in their teaching practice.
  • Very often teachers are aware of the importance of reflection and they do try to reflect but this process is not deep enough, limited by general questions which don’t lead to any further analysis.

Obstacles image 5

  • The focus on ‘right’ ways of teaching has one of the biggest obstacles to learning-centered reflection for me.
  • Reflection requires time as it is a special type of thinking (different from impulsive reactions or groundless beliefs). 
  • Lack of experience in (personal/professional) self-reflection.
  • Resistance because of history of negative evaluation process.
  • Negative prior experiences towards reflection.
  • Teachers’ ego especially for those who have been doing things in a certain way for a long while (some teachers’ fossilized practices).
  • Reflection is all about critical thinking, and teaching critical thinking is considered one of the hardest skills to teach and it needs a very critical and skilled teacher/trainer.
  • A superficial understanding of what reflection is, how teachers can actively use it and the impact it can have in their own teaching practice.

Obstacles image 6

  • Most teachers, consciously or unconsciously, look for ‘right answers’, not open questions. And the arbiter of right answers is authority (teacher trainer, supervisor, etc.) Education is too many “answers,” not nearly enough “wondering,” and it poisons people towards reflection.

RPA close up 1

Finally, if you would like to start thinking about some ways to practice reflection, I highly recommend Rachael’s recent post called 15 ideas for reflective teaching and training where she generously shares a great list of very practical ideas and resources (Hint: some or all can solve quite a few challenges listed above). I am very excited to read more of her blog posts about reflection in teaching and teacher training. 

P.S. Mike Griffin’s post in his blog about learning Vietnamese is an illustration how a rich description (the post itself) can bring reflection depth (the post and the comments) 

** All the images above are taken by Zhenya and will be used again in the Sunday Workshop in the part where we talk about challenges and obstacles for reflection. Hope to see you there, and thank you for reading the post!

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/.
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4 Responses to Practicing Reflective Practice

  1. I don’t teach anymore but I was always going over what went well, what didn’t, why….what could I do differently next time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      True, those are the most important questions. I personally find that the ‘why’ may have very different depth(s), depending on the skill/habit to reflect. Do you use this same method for the other activities as you are not teaching?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do it with every aspect of my life. The good and the bad. I analyze situations over and over in my head, almost sometimes to the point of annoyance to myself. I mean, why do I have to analyze everything? I do admit that many times I would reflect out loud with my students and they loved it. Things they never thought of or never thought “the teacher” would think.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reflection: Making Theory (More) Practical | Wednesday Seminars

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