Purpose and benefits of reflective practice
Building reflective practice into everyday as a matter of course leads to continuous learning. Reflective practice as a powerful tool in developing teaching is not new. Most recent models date from 1970s onwards. Taking time to think over how a session went allows for learning and professional development based on real life experience. It allows for trialling new materials and techniques which might have appeared fine in theory but be found to be different in practice. This is especially beneficial with teaching and even more so in a constantly changing field such as digital literacy. Reflecting on such matters as how easily learners accessed a particular app or website. Has an update altered how an app or website functions to the detriment of learners’ learning or privacy. Are the default security settings adequate or do they need to be altered to protect the learners’ digital footprints? If learners’ are wanting to use an app outside of the classroom will this compromise their or other learners’ information or privacy if group work has been carried out? Whilst appearing to be a backward looking task, reflection done consistently and with an open mind will lead to future benefits. It will help to keep ideas and actions fresh and inovative rather than staying static and getting stale.
The following benefits are taken from Roffey-Barentson and Malthouse (2009)
- Improving your teaching practice
If you take the time to reflect on your teaching, and reflect on how different parts of what you do work well, where aspects of your teaching can be improved, and how problems which arise could be solved, that is bound to help you to improve your teaching.
- Learning from reflective practice
There is a good range of evidence that purposeful reflection helps ‘deep’ learning take place, and for you as a teacher, it will help you to make connections between different aspects of your teaching and what goes on around your teaching. Reflective practice will help you gain new learning and use it in your teaching.
- Enhancing problem solving skills
When starting off with reflecting on your teaching you may tend to concentrate on problems which arise. By carefully and honestly considering and analysing those problems, you will improve your own capacity to find solutions.
- Becoming a critical thinker
Critical thinking is about ‘thinking well’, and ‘taking charge’ of your own thinking (Elder and Paul, 1994), and reflective practice will help you recognise and adjust what you think to take account of changes in circumstances, and by doing that help you to be better equipped to find solutions which work.
- Making Decisions
As you reflect on your practice, you will find you need to make decisions about what to do (or not to do) next. You may well have a number of choices which you have to weigh up, and deciding which one to take can be difficult. If you regularly reflect on your teaching in depth, you are regularly going to come across the need to make decisions, but the results of your reflective practice will help you to make those decisions in a more informed, thoughtful and objective manner.
- Improving your own organisational skills
You will notice as this section progresses that the benefits of reflective practice can reaching into every aspect of your professional work as a teacher. If you are thinking carefully about what you are doing, identifying possible actions and choices, trying out solutions, and adjusting what you do to take account of the results, this involves a good deal of organisation. By breaking down issues and problems into steps or stages, you will get better at organising your time and your activity to concentrate on the important, ‘solution-focussed’ actions.
- Managing personal change
Working in education involves managing regular, rapid, pressured and often confusing change, which can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a teacher. If you are using the techniques of reflective practice, which involves, calm, thoughtful, honest, critical and organised thinking and action, this should introduce a calming and less emotional response to that change. As reflective practice is itself focussed on seeking positive improvements and solutions, managing change more effectively should take place.
- Acknowledging personal values
There will be things which take place within your professional situation as a teacher which you will wholeheartedly agree with, and others which will worry or alarm you. This is because they may agree or disagree with your own personal values such as what you believe in, and what you think is wrong or right. How these are affected by teaching will vary, but you will almost certainly come across major clashes of values as part of your work. Reflective practice is an excellent way of acknowledging and recognising that those values exist and have an effect, but which concentrates on helping you to choose approaches and actions which can help you to resolve those clashes without it adversely affecting the professional balance of your work as a teacher.
- Taking your own advice
Teachers are often more critical of their own teaching than anyone else, and it could be possible for this to develop into an attitude about teaching which is negative and destructive. The techniques and approaches of reflective practice will place you in a position where you are an informed, positive agent in your own development and improvement and one where you can ‘take your own advice’ with a confidence tht it is reflective, focussed and informed advice.
- Recognising emancipatory benefits
If you reflect on the nine benefits of reflective practice which have so far been described, you will clearly see that this is a model of practice which represents the teacher as someone with influence over their own teaching and their own destiny as a teacher. This is what is at the heart of reflective practice, and as such it should help considerably to free you from some of the burdens which can weigh teachers down, and refresh your confidence and your teaching.