Everything we say, believe or do may seem innocent and supportive. On the other hand, it could be filled with hegemonic, paradigmatic, causal and descriptive assumptions and we could be oblivious of its effect on our educational developments. Reflective practice (1) helps us to understand how considerations of power undergird, frame, and distort educational processes and interactions and (2) exposes and questions assumptions and practices that seem to make our teaching lives easier but actually work against our own best long-term interests, (Brookfield, 1995).
Prior to reading the resources, I was assured that I knew a lot about reflective practice as I frequently apply this at work. However, I realized that what I knew about it was just the superficial process of it. I’ve always done it at the end of my teaching day and would ponder on the practices or activities that worked or didn’t and adjust my teaching accordingly. Being able to spot numerous assumptions in my previous ideas regarding reflective practice was certainly a huge revelation for me.
Using my autobiography as a lens, I now realized that my choice to do this process privately was instigated by fear of being humiliated. I didn’t want to be thought as an inept and inexperienced teacher by my colleagues. However, my causal assumption is impeding myself to improve. Brookfield even cited that self-reflection could lead to self-denial and that may have happened to me several times.
Another causal assumption that I had was that reflective practice could improve one’s teaching. Theoretical literature lens had facilitated for me to realize that reflective practice goes beyond improving one’s skill. “In education, a minimalist understanding of reflective practice is that it refers to the process of the educator studying his or her own teaching methods and determining what works best for the students and the consideration of the ethical consequences of classroom procedures on students; a broader understanding would accept that it also involves questioning the organizational, social and political context in which the teaching takes place.” (Larrivee, Barbara, 2000 “Transforming teaching practice: becoming the critically reflective teacher”)
Moreover, theoretical lens has helped me to find out other effective ways to record my reflections. My prescriptive assumption of journaling my reflection has limited my approach of this process. Sherin (204) argues that using video for developing “analytic mind set” is developing “a different kind of knowledge for teaching—knowledge not of “what to do next,” but rather, knowledge of how to interpret and reflect on classroom practices”. Putanam and Borko (2004) also added that because teachers’ patterns of thought and action become routine, they may need different types of experiences that “help teachers ‘break set’—to experience things in new ways.”
This practice exposes our hidden thoughts and beliefs to be subjected to judgment. It’s like placing ourselves under a magnifying lens vulnerable for critical examination and questions at every angle. This could result us doubting ourselves, or our very foundation that made us who we are. We could end up being in denial or even defensive. And while it strips us off of our power, it asks us to be honest, accepting of the emerging and maybe hurtful truths and be willing to change. Reflective practice is effective if we subject ourselves to a good change.
Another issue relating to this practice is motivation. How motivated am I to do this? How much time will it require for me to do this? How about the time it will demand to do this with colleagues? How do we maintain consistency?
School leaders need to prioritize and reinforce this practice. The ugly truth is teachers are consumed with meetings after meetings regarding school accreditation, the new teaching practice that’s trending now in other schools, ways to attract more students and parents, etc. We don’t have time to breathe anymore, much more think about what we do. What we need is for our school leaders to give teachers a time to reflect. It should be intentional, explicit and built in our schedule. Not doing this is like disregarding the need of teachers, students and the school to improve. Preaching to the crowd and asking them to reflect is not going to happen unless the school leaders themselves see its utmost importance. They may think that it’s common sense to reflect, but the reality is not all teachers reflect. We need training after training until this practice becomes our second nature.
Moreover, reflective practice is not embedded in our culture. Rarely do I hear parents ask their children to ‘reflect on what they’ve done’. It’s usually ‘fix the problem and move on.’ I can’t remember a single teacher either who taught me or even ask me reflective questions growing up. As what Abraham Lincoln once quoted, “Teach the children so that it will not be necessary to teach the adults.” I think we will achieve more if Reflective Practice is designed to be part of our curricula from Early Childhood to Doctorate Level. There are now sets of beliefs that International Schools require their learners to have, and one of them is being reflective. This is a promising start but it should also permeate all schools and communities, not just the privileged ones.
And instead of being a reflection of our society, let’s be a reflective society. Let’s look at our past actions, hunt and get rid of assumptions that are hindering our nation to be progressive. Using different lenses, let’s stop from being defensive but rather be open-minded to change.
Reflective practice does have its benefits and barriers. The question I face now is, are the gains from this practice more valuable over the challenges I might face? Definitely, but I have to have a concrete plan to eradicate these challenges for me to have an effective reflective practice. First and foremost, I need to seek the advice and support of the school I work at. I and the rest of the teachers should receive education required for the development of our skills that will strengthen effective reflection. Also, this practice should be embedded into our teaching practices. We should also reflect constantly on our reflective practices as it will help us make adjustments in our process. Lastly, it is my duty to teach my students how to be reflective learners to make them better members of our society. Our society will be much better if all our kids learned how to be reflective.
Putnam, R. T., & Borko, H. (2204). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher; 29(1), 4-15
Rosaen, Cheryl L.; Lundeberg, Mary; Cooper, Marjorie; Fritzen, Anny; Terpstra, Marjorie (September 2008). “Noticing noticing: how does investigation of video records change how teachers reflect on their experiences?”