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Comparing relevant theories, principles and models of reflective practice Essay

Reflective practice is an evolving concept. In the 1930s, John Dewey defined reflective thought as: ‘Active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends.’ He set out five phases or aspects through which we can see a process of reflection. However using phrases such as phase and stage does give a sense of sequence, a set method and there seems to be no room for interaction or dialogue rather that the teacher reflects individually.

Of course, this can be the case we don’t all have someone to discuss and reflect with following every teaching experience. However it there is a definite place for interaction and dialogue with e.g. colleagues, mentor in order to evaluate what has gone before and how we can move on. I have found that through reflection with my mentor and by discussing points raised I have seen my teaching from another perspective and have taken on board different approaches.

Shortly after starting teaching I was keen to achieve more involvement of the students in my sessions and through reflecting with my mentor I introduced various questioning techniques that have made my sessions more interactive and have benefitted the students. This use of Blooms’ taxonomy of questioning (1956) broadened my way of thinking about questions and as well as impacting my sessions developed my literacy skills by thinking about the way in which I communicate with others and being aware of my audience.

The work of Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985), addressed emotions and reduced Dewey’s five phases to three. For them reflection is an activity in which people: ‘Recapture their experiences, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it.’ This approach is very much reflecting on action which enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did, what was happening in the group etc.

This goes against the idea of reflection as a continual process, a way of life, and there was criticism of Boud et al from Cinnamond and Zimpher (1990) when they argued that: ‘They (Boud et al) constrain reflection by turning it into a mental activity that excludes both the behavioural element and dialogue with others involved in the situation.’ More and more I find myself reflecting as I’m teaching and adapting my teaching as the session progresses to meet the needs of individuals who have brought their own view to the session and presented me with an additional way of looking at the subject matter or prompted me to use an example which I had previously dismissed or forgotten about.

The work of Kolb (1984) has been influential for the majority of educators as he approaches reflection in a cyclical way as one that is ongoing and constantly striving for improvement (see Diagram below).

This to me is a practical and usable model of reflection that can be applied to many aspects of our life experiences not solely education. An example of how I have worked in this cyclical way and developed my ICT skills is my use of power point presentation within sessions. I began teaching using pre-prepared power points that did add to my sessions but could still be quite dry at times. By researching ways in which to improve on this I have progressed to adding animation, DVD clips, sound and am now in the process of compiling my own power point presentations using up to date and more relevant information which the students can relate to. By using this ICT tool in this way I have seen students response increase as well as their interest in further research.

Brookfield (1995) saw reflection as viewing teaching from four different perspectives, he maintains that: ‘The heart of the reflective process is viewing teaching from four different perspectives or “lenses”: our autobiographies as teachers and learners; our students’ eyes; colleagues’ perceptions; and relevant theoretical literature.’ We all come to teaching from different backgrounds and with differing life experiences. Using this together with information gleaned from dialogue with colleagues and students and researching our subject specialism so as to keep up to date with new information will all add to the reflective process.

On my short courses I like to find out, if possible, what type of electrical work the students are currently undertaking and then I attempt to relate the theory to practical situations they will be familiar with. This dialogue with students is, I believe, one of the reasons they have been so successful. Reflective practice requires a commitment to self-development and the time to achieve it, this as we know is one of the issues facing us all as educators as we strive to improve our teaching but can be held up by a lack of resources including time. Teachers improve their ability to react and respond as they are teaching, to assess, revise and implement approaches and activities on the spot. Reflection is key to moving forward and providing the best possible education for those students in our care. Word Count: 774

Boud, D et al (eds.) (1985) Reflection. Turning experience into learning, London: Kogan Page. Kolb, Da. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as a source of learning and development, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Brookfield, S (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York: Longmans, Green. Cinnamond and Zimpher. (1990). Reflection. Available: www.infed.org/biblio/b-reflect.htm. Last accessed 20 March 2010.

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