Reflective practice is a more systematic process of collecting, recording and analysing our thoughts and observations, as well as those of our students, and then going on to make changes.
The Lifelong Learning UK Standards are clear that self-reflection is a core component of effective teacher CPD and key to enabling teachers to become skilled in their roles.
Beginning the process of reflection
You might begin the process of reflection in response to a particular problem that has arisen with one of your classes or simply as a way of finding out more about your teaching.
Although, in order to get the most out of reflecting on a lesson it’s a good idea for you to focus your attention on specific aspects of your teaching.
But what should you be looking for? Here are some suggestions.
7 aspects you can focus on when self-reflecting:
The ratio of interaction - How much are children responding to you, the teacher, versus how much you are talking to them? Is there a dialogue of learning in your classroom or is the talking mainly one-sided?
Growth vs. fixed mindset - Carol Dweck writes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success(2007) about how people with fixed mindsets believe that their qualities are unchangeable whereas people with growth mindsets feel they can improve their qualities through effort. The way a teacher responds to their students can inspire either a fixed or growth mindset. Praising students for being 'smart' or 'bright' encourages fixed mindsets whilst recognising when they have persistently worked hard promotes growth mindsets. Dweck found that people with growth mindsets are generally more successful in life: which are you encouraging students to have? Click here to read more about Dweck’s theory of the growth mindset.
Consistent corrections - Are you correcting your students consistently? You should avoid inconsistency; such as stopping a side conversation one day but ignoring it the next, as this will cause confusion with students and the feeling that the teacher is being unfair.
Opportunities to respond - Are you giving your students enough opportunities to respond to what they are learning? Responses can include asking students to answer questions, promoting the use of resources such as whiteboards or asking students to discuss what they have learnt with their neighbour.
Type and level of questions - Do the questions you're asking match the method of learning that you want to foster in your classroom? The type of questions you ask your students can include open or closed, their opinion on certain topics, or right or wrong. Is the level of questions you're asking appropriate for the students' level of learning? To find out more about open questions read our blog: can you make coaching more effective with open questions?
Instructional vs. non-instructional time - The more students are engaged in learning activities, the more they will learn. You should try to keep track of how much time you give to learning activities compared to how much is spent on other transitional things such as handing out resources or collecting work at the end of the lesson.
Teacher talk vs. student talk - Depending on the topic you are teaching, decide how much students should be talking about what they're learning compared with how much you should be talking to them.
Ways you can document your self-reflection:
It’s important that you keep a record of your self-reflection activities as evidence of you progress and there are a couple of ways you can do this.
Keeping track in a notebook about what happens in a lesson can be very useful. However, because it relies on one's ability to recall things in as much detail as possible, not to mention a certain discipline in taking the time to do it on a regular basis, it’s not as thorough or reliable as other methods.
Video recordings of lessons can provide illuminating information for reflection. It overcomes the challenges of keeping a notebook record and gives you the opportunity to experience you lessons from the students perspective, providing you with clear and accurate information on how to move your practice forward.
This quote from Prof John Hattie sums it up nicely:
“If you look at the research it says that about 80% of what happens in a class a teacher does not see or hear. How can we get more eyes into the class? How do you get teachers to see what it’s like being a student in their classroom? I’m a great fan of recording classrooms and using video to show teachers how they look to students. That’s the power of video, it’s another way to see your impact” - Prof. John Hattie.
Why not download our free guide to enabling effective teacher reflection to learn more about how you can help your teachers to be reflective practitioners >