Key skill training for education professionals to develop confidence and competence and avoid dismissal or disciplinary proceedings accused of incompetence, neglect or negligent behaviour.
Teacher Training - Reflective Practice (RP) in Teaching
What is RP?
Reflective practice (also known as "witness consciousness") is an objective and systematic approach to improving the ease and effectiveness of our personal style of teaching. RP is a fundamental tool for genuine competence, self-empowerment and self-esteem, as opposed to a false self-empowerment strategy based on personal aggrandizement, deceiving or manipulating others.
Our ease, experience or skill in classroom teaching depends not just on how much past experience of, or time we spend now on, doing the job of a teacher, but more particularly on how well we have learned, adapted, innovated and implemented effective patterns of teaching behaviour.
Roth (1989) summarized the basic elements of a reflective process as follows:
In practice there are two kinds of reflective activity:
- Keeping an open mind about what, why, and how we do things
- Awareness of what, why, and how we do things
- Questioning what, why, and how we do things
- Asking what, why, and how other people do things
- Generating choices, options and possibilities
- Comparing and contrasting results
- Seeking to understand underlying mechanisms & rationales
- Viewing our activities and results from various perspectives
- Asking "What if...?"
- Seeking feedback and other people ideas & viewpoints
- Using prescriptive (advice) models only when carefully adapted to the individual situation
- Analysing, synthesizing and testing
- Searching for, identifying, and resolving problems & result limitations
Reflection-in-action involves considering how to reshape the activity while it is still in progress.
- reflection-on-action which occurs either during (by interrupting) or after the activity
- reflection-in-action, which occurs during (without interrupting) the activity.
A willingness to self-criticise is a key part of the reflective process. We must be willing to challenge our own actions, assumptions, beliefs and practices, because therein lies the fundamental power of this approach to increased personal effectiveness in the college or school classroom.
In being self-critical as a teacher, we risk losing self-confidence or risk losing the confidence and support of others. However, many of us have found that the "solid" head teachers in this world usually value and trust us more for being honest about our failings. Covering up, or "smoothing over" our inadequacies may in time catch up with us, and some people will not forgive us for betraying their trust. As the saying goes "You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time!
In these days of the litigation-prone "compensation culture", teaching professionals are increasingly adopting "defensive education" patterns of practice. Excessive investment in "Protecting our backs!" against professional misconduct or a legal compensation action (the "Compensation Culture") can mean wasting valuable time, energy, resources and compromising our dedication, integrity and commitment to educating our pupils or students.
"Playing safe" is a common activity in school and education authority management, that can often greatly benefit from some Reflective Practice. To what extent are we playing safe for the teaching professional at the expense of the pupil/student and taxpayer (in the case of publically-funded education).
Would all parties be agreable to this situation if they were in full possession of the facts? How long before a government committee or investigative journalist reveals the full facts? Are we striking the right balance between probable costs and probable benefits? Are we striking an equitable balance between the interests of all parties involved?
Reflective Practice draws us into revealing and critically examining the values, assumptions, ideas, theories and strategies supporting our behavior patterns, lifestyle or professional decisions and skills. It is essentially a process of clarification and sometimes reveals quite alarming discrepancies between our intentions, declared professional ethical values and our actual teaching profession conduct in the job (Osterman 1990, Schon 1988).
Reflective Practice Pages...
What is RP?
What does RP offer?
What does RP look like?
The "Sunflower Health" Reflective Protocol
References & Additional Resources
Personal interest & experience