It is a fancy name for thinking about your workday, and processing the events in order to make better choices next time. Or, maybe I have a tendency to over-simplify things?
Educators make several instant and instinctive decisions during each and every workday. Where do these judgments come from? How to be more aware about the reasoning behind these decisions? Now, this is where the reflective practice steps in.
Reflecting upon choices not only increases the awareness about reasons behind certain decisions, but often also reveals other possible options. Recognizing these possible choices being available arises from the awareness of different practices – and this is exactly why having conferences and workshops, lectures and moocs, books and magazines discussing the best practices is so necessary. Yet, if participating or reading doesn’t transfer to the everyday work and life, one could rightfully ask whether it was time well spent. Reflecting and implementing extend the benefits of any professional development.
The best and worst of reflective practice deals with emotions. You will explore areas that need improvement and those can invite you grow professionally, but you also will see your strengths and get to celebrate the success. And that actually is the main idea behind the stylish name of learning about your own teaching: being objective and finding out what works and why. Using the functional parts and discarding the unnecessary or harmful (even if it is something you are fond of) helps to improve your teaching practice
Some reflection happens in action while intuitively correcting your responses and “automatically” changing the way to interact with students. Consciously thinking about the instructional materials and activities while doing the daily teaching, making mental notes about how well they work (or not) and planning for improvements is the foundation of reflective practice. To promote effective and student centered learning you need to think about the students’ point of view about the activities and materials as well. Deeper reflection, the intentional improvement, happens after you have done with teaching, and have time to think about your day.
A very simple way to begin your journey to professional reflection is to each day ask yourself these three questions:
1. What went excellently today and why?
2. What could have been better and how?
3. What do I want to change in my teaching?
Processing the events of your workday by writing these three things down either in a notebook or on computer makes it easier to focus on things you choose to improve and not go by the feeling, or become biased by an apparent success or failure. Exploring your own teaching by writing down some thoughts about the day, or at least the week, also creates a journal that reveals your own thinking habits and the way your teaching philosophy and practice have evolved during time. It allows you to get some necessary distance to what happens in the classroom, and see patterns and outlines of your own way of teaching, so that you can improve your practice.
This is the real accountability measure for a teacher, but because it requires ultimate honesty it cannot be implemented by someone else but the teacher herself/himself. Nor can it be forced. But, it can be supported and encouraged – just like learning.
And exactly like learning is a process, not a product, also teaching is a process, because being a teacher also means being a learner.