• Sharing an activity with a colleague because your students really enjoyed it…
• Thinking about how you give instructions and concluding they were ‘successful’ because all the students were looking, some of them nodded their heads and even answered your CCQ’s correctly…
• Knowing that the students feel like your class is beneficial and understand it because they do all the activities, often laugh and smile and even tell you how much they love you…
2) So What? Now, it is time to develop various possibilities for the event occurring. This stage is imperative, yet those not engaged in critical reflection will often simply skip it. The problem with that is that we are then forming conclusions based on our immediate interpretation (example 1 below). It is at this stage you may want to consider educational theory, research, methodologies and past learning experiences. By critically considering alternatives, we can begin to formulate further explanations we would have missed otherwise.
Example 1 (knee jerk reaction to event): the students who didn’t do the activity properly must have been day dreaming, so I should ask them to stay behind after class and give them minus points for not concentrating.
Example 2: The task may have been too difficult for the students, according to research there should only be 8 words in a text that students don’t know, were there more than that?
Example 3: Were my CCQs confusing? My CELTA taught me that they should only be one or two word answers.
Example 4: What class did my students have before this one? Did they have a test? Did they have gym class?
Example 5: Did I give them too many steps at once? This study suggests activities should be broken down into a maximum of one or two steps at a time.
3) Now What? From these alternatives you can now form a testable action plan grounded in critical thought.
Example: Next time I give instructions, I will give an example with a student and break the activity down into smaller components so that they are easier for the students to digest.
According to Farrell (2013), to begin engaging in evidence based reflective practice we can ask ourselves five questions:
1) What do I do?
2) How do I do it?
3) Why do I do it?
4) What is the result?
5) Will I change anything based on the answers to the above questions?
Example: Using a tape recorder, record yourself giving instructions for one period. Count the number of filler words you use, transcribe the sentences, decide if they could be more concise. At the end of the lesson, ask students to fill in a feedback card with some simple questions:
Did you understand how to do the activities?
Do you find examples easy to follow?
Do I use words you don’t understand?
There are a huge number of ways to collect evidence that can all revolve around these five questions. I’ve included a document I made for a workshop I was conducting on professional development with some other options that you may want to consider.
Later in the week I hope to put together a blog post on how you might want to go about starting a reflective practice group in your local community. But, in the meantime, I hope I have dispelled a couple of emerging myths regarding reflective practice and offered a starting point from which people can consider getting more involved with actual reflective practice.
Dewey, J (1933). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: NY: Basic Books.
Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Towards a new design for teaching and learning in the profession. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Farrell, T (2013). Reflective Teaching. TESOL International Association: Virginia