Friday, 13 May 2011

Reflective Practice

As a leader, do you engage in reflective thought for the purposes of learning? 

Learning is the foundation of individual and organizational improvement.  Learning requires reflection.  From an individual perspective, "It can be argued that reflective the process which underlies all forms of high professional competence."  From an organization perspective, reflective practice is a powerful norm that is required for continuous improvement of teaching and learning practices that results in high levels of student achievement.  Reflective practice is the means by which learning, renewal, and growth continue throughout the development of career educators. ...

Most educators - both teachers and administrators - experience a continuously hectic pace in their daily and professional lives.  Such a pace is not conducive to reflection and learning.  The dominant culture in many schools is one of doing, with little or no time for reflection and learning.  ...

Educators routinely juggle multiple tasks, process information on many levels, manage a continual stream of interruptions, and make on-the-spot decisions to meet the changing needs and demands in the teaching environment.  ...

To change our practices, to change our beliefs, and to alter our own theories of change, we must slow down and have reflective conversations that allow us to think through possible changes.  ... Shifting from a culture of doing to a culture of learning and doing, however, is not easily accomplished.  ...

Reflective practice cannot be done in the fast lane.  Although much of educational practice occurs in the fast lane, educators must locate a rest area to reflect on past practices and to determine adjustments for future practice.

...the seeds of reflective practice begin first within individuals and then, with continuous nurturing, spread and take root in the broader educational community. 

From:  Reflective Practice to Improve Schools by Jennifer York-Barr, William A. Sommers, Gail S. Ghere, and Jo Montie
Published by: Corwin Press


  1. This post struck quite the chord with me, especially:

    "Reflective practice cannot be done in the fast lane. Although much of educational practice occurs in the fast lane, educators must locate a rest area to reflect on past practices and to determine adjustments for future practice."

    In my school, we were given four 100 minute blocks divided throughout the year for case management and to reflect on what worked well for us, and what our next steps should be.

    While I believe this is a step in the right direction, is meeting once a term the best way to build capacity around reflective practice? Is there a more effective way?

    I know that reflective practice begins with the individual, but we must be able to help create an environment which is condusive to this way of thinking.

    I am curious to hear what other schools do to promote reflective practice.

  2. I have been working with a team of 8 teachers and an administrator in one of our high schools to work through a co-planning, co-teaching, co-reflecting cycle. The teachers are in four different subject areas and they work with a planning partner. While the partners teach a lesson the others watch and collect information about what the students are doing and saying and any additional information the teachers have asked us to focus on. Then we all debrief and reflect. We also generate some ideas about what we learned and what we want to learn /investigate next. It is very exciting and I can see real investment in the learning as it is driven by the teachers' inquiry and directly related to student work. We will be doing in in departments next year as 5 different departments in the school have come forward to say they are interested in trying this model of professional learning and reflection.

  3. Theresa's co-reflecting situation sounds great. It is scheduled into the work environment and sounds like a safe place to take risks. I wonder if this type of setting can be created in a regular schedule (I agree with Craig that once a term is not enough time) for many teachers and leaders to reflect about their current practices.

    There are many educators in our schools that wish to reflect on their teaching and find time in the halls to do this, but I think that system change or whole school initiatives would need a larger and more formal structure to ensure that all staff have a chance to reflect and share their voices. This whole school ideal would be a huge challenge to regularly schedule!

  4. As I read this post, it certainly got me thinking about reflection.....and I agree with the idea that it is an essential aspect of anyone's professional practice....but I wonder why it is presented as a stand-alone aspect of professional work. As leaders, why is it not possible to embed reflection into current work? For example, anyone in a leadership role takes part in a lot of meetings. Would it not be fairly easy to embed some reflection into the meeting? What a great way to start off a meeting - What's been working? What's not working? Where do we need to go next? What are the current issues and why?.....++++ any of dozens of other questions. Rather than reflection being an either/or consideration, I think if we're thoughtful in planning our work, we can embed these kinds of questions into our daily interactions as leaders.