What is Reflective Practice?
As teachers, there is not a single school day that we leave our buildings and do not think about how our day went. We are always perseverating over why a student acted out or why an amazing lesson did not go over well. Without even realizing it, we are using reflective practice. These daily thoughts are rather informal, but if we act on what we think, these thoughts can be an excellent starting point on using reflective practice to improve ourselves and our teaching strategies.
Reflective practice is and should be an ongoing exercise throughout our entire teaching career. This is not an exercise for preservice teachers or those early in their teaching. As educators and administrators, we need to be partaking in reflective practice all the time. Reflective practice is when we look at and analyze our class from an outside perspective. We can do this by looking at our students’ data. Additionally, teachers can journal after each lesson to help them pinpoint the positives and possibilities for change.
What are the Benefits of Reflective Practice?
There are many benefits from reflective practice. Teachers who regularly reflect on their teaching can help improve their own professional practices. They can help administrators decide what professional development would be most helpful at that time. Day-to-day responsibilities and actions are always changing in schools. When teachers participate in reflective practice, they are able to respond in a positive way to change.
Reflective practice pushes teachers to update their lesson plans to reach the current needs of the students in front of them. Every year, students change. Therefore, they will have different needs than the students in the past year. Evaluating our teaching methods will help us keep all students engaged.
How to Get Started with Reflective Practice
Getting started with reflective practice does not need to be overwhelming. As stated above, journaling at the end of the school day (or even between class periods) is an easy way to start. By writing down and taking the time to think about everything that happened during your teaching, you will be able to decide what areas need to change and what lessons definitely were successful.
Another great way to begin is to ask a fellow teacher if they would like to do reflective practice with you. Conducting two-way peer observations will give each teacher another viewpoint on their lessons and an opportunity to learn new ideas from other teachers.
Research New Theories
Reflecting on our lessons has to also include learning new theories. Even though we think that our lessons are going wonderfully, we want to continually learn the newest techniques. Researching these theories is the first step, but then you must take the time to put theories into your practice. Trying out new strategies and then of course reflecting on them will make you a progressive teacher with whom students love to engage.
Curriculum development is another way to participate in reflective practice. There are times when teachers complain about new curriculum being introduced into their areas. Therefore, reaching out to administration ahead of time with innovative ideas will certainly make you part of the team who is developing new curriculum. This will give you an opportunity to discuss what has worked in the past and what has not. You will be able to use your reflective practice to guide the curriculum development in your area.
Conducting student surveys is also a great way to do reflective practice. This does not have to be time consuming at all. At the end of a unit or chapter, after quizzes, tests, and projects have been completed, ask the students to reflect on what was done in your class. Ask them to be honest about what they liked and disliked, but most importantly, ask them why they liked an activity and why they did not like something.
Understanding what your students are thinking can help you create future lesson plans and change past lessons for the next time you were to use it. If the majority of student feedback says that they did not like a test because they felt they were unprepared, it will make you a better teacher by realizing you needed to go more in depth with the topic. These are meant to be helpful and not for any teacher to feel intimidated or upset with comments given by students. It is especially important that students know that you will not be offended by their comments.
Involvement in School Change
Reflective practice can also be when a teacher gets involved in school change. Reflective practice is being aware of what is working and not working in your classroom but also in the entire school. Speaking with fellow teachers about issues that they may be seeing and then researching solutions to fix these problems will serve the best interest of the entire school community. Trying to find solutions to problems in both the classroom and school is reflective practice.
Finally, reflective practice leads to reflective teachers. Reflective teachers are able to meet problems head on and not get intimidated by change. They are flexible and patient. They are always learning new techniques and sharing those with fellow teachers. They are inquisitive and wanting to learn from others. They do not look at criticism negatively but as way to improve their teaching and to reach their students. Reflective teachers use their time wisely and are continually reflecting on themselves for personal improvement. A teacher new to reflective practice should not be afraid at analyzing their teaching. Instead, they should see how much reflective practice can help them throughout their teaching careers and the way that they will influence their students.