How to do reflective practice


Extract from Issue#31 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link


How to do reflective practice


Educational research has resulted in many different models of reflective practices to support student learning and staff development. Each model of reflection aims to make links between the ‘doing’ and the ‘thinking’.


In Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher Brookfield (2017) suggests that through critical reflection and the challenging of assumptions, you can reframe your teaching by viewing your practice through four lenses:

  1. your students’ eyes,
  2. your colleagues’ perceptions,
  3. your own personal experience, and
  4. relevant theory and research

In the second edition of his highly regarded practical guide, Brookfield devotes chapters to each of the lenses, incorporates current pedagogy and provides in-depth discussion of critical reflection.

This volume is available as an e-book from CSU library

Dewey: Concept of reflective teaching stems from Dewey (1933, 1938) who contrasted ‘routine action’ with ‘reflective action’ in response to a dilemma.

Schon: The concept of reflective practice was first introduced by Schön (1983, 1987, 1991) and is associated with the terms Knowing-in-action, reflection-in-action, reflection-on-action and the concepts of the theory-practice gap between technical rationality and tacit knowledge (see for a short 4-min introduction) (see Cambridge Community for expanded examples related to these terms).

Others: Other authors who contributed models and theories of reflective practice

Solomon (1987) – reflection as a social practice with the support of colleagues and mentors. Proposed seven key characteristics of reflective practice:

Lortie (1975) described how failing to reflect on teaching decisions leads to teaching by imitation rather than intentionality.

Grimmett (1990) proposed four modes of thinking to understand the complexity of reflection: technological, situational, deliberate, and dialectical (as cited in Danielson).

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Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory – four-stage cycle of activity highlights reflective practice as a tool to gain conclusions and ideas from an experience: concrete experience – reflection – abstract conceptualisation – active experimentation (includes teacher emotional intelligence)© CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Image retrieved from Simply Psychology

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Gibbs’ reflective cycle (1998) approach leads from a description of the experience through to conclusions and considerations for future events. Encourages the teacher to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings, the first three sections are concerned with what happened. The final three sections relate to making sense of the experience and how you, as the teacher, can improve on the situation. © Image retrieved from Crowe Associates.

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What – So What – Now What.Known as Borton’s Reflective Framework, this model is widely used in nursing education and practice. Variations on the model have been attributed to a number of different authors in different disciplines. It can be used in conjunction with other models, but its key attribute is the simplicity of structure for those stepping out on the reflection journey.


These tips are drawn from the references below and are based around Brookfield’s four lenses, Grimmett’s modes of thinking and the reflective cycles of Kolb and Gibbs.


For more in-depth background and practical advice try these resources:

Pollard, A., Black-Hawkins, K., & Cliff, H. G. (2014). Reflective teaching in schools. Retrieved from The supplementary resources on the Reflective Teaching website include an extensive range of questions for you to use in your own reflective practice.

Yale (2018). Reflective teaching. Retrieved from

Zalipour, A. (2015). Reflective practice. Retrieved from This is an 18-page workshop booklet that you can use for your own self-paced learning – RECOMMENDED.


From the Cambridge Community website (2018): There are five main principles, sometimes referred to as the five Rs, that will make sure you get the most out of your reflections − reacting, recording, reviewing, revising, reworking and reassessing. If you are new to reflective practice, it will help to ask yourself the following questions

How will I decide what area of my practice I need to focus on?

Recording (logging your reflections):
How will I assess my performance?
How will I record this? How will I log this? When will I log this?

Reviewing (understanding your current teaching methods):
What worked well and how do I know this?
What did not work as planned? And why?
What could I try next time? How could you adapt the activity?

Revising (adapting your teaching by trying new strategies):
What will I change or adapt?

Reworking (action plan of how you can put these ideas in ):
How will I put this in place? What materials do I need?

Reassessing (understanding how these new strategies affected learning):
How successful were the new strategies? What changed?


The journal you produce can be used for EDRS and evidence for teaching awards.

Reflection should become a habit that takes a few minutes per class.

  • Get into the habit of writing and do it as soon as possible after the event. (SET a daily alarm)
  • Don’t spend too much time thinking about it
  • Little and often with free, spontaneous and informal style
  • No inappropriate language or too much slang or colloquialism or negative personal comments about colleagues
  • Your choice about hand-written or typed
  • Blogs provide opportunities for online communities of practice
  • Include whatever content you like: – e.g.description (what happened; analysis (how, why); evaluation (how effective it was); conclusions (suggestions for future practice), visuals, critical incidents.
  • Use Gibbs model – Description – Feelings – Evaluation – Analysis – Conclusions (general and specific) – Personal action plans, OR
  • Use the What – So What – Now What model

Brookfield’s four lenses are useful for collecting feedback on your teaching at any time of the session

1. Your students’ eyes

Student Observation and Student Dialogue: Students are very observant and love to give feedback. Drawing on student feedback will make sure your reflections are focused on your students. By reflecting with students, you allow them to play an active part in their learning and gain insight into what needs to improve to support student development.

Some modes for gathering student feedback:

  1. Open-ended questionnaires
  2. Closed-ended questionnaires
  3. Checklists and inventories
  4. The one-minute paper and the muddiest point
  5. Blank index cards to gather a small amount of feedback quickly and easily.
  6. Suggestion box: anonymous In-class troubleshooting sessions (Note: Without telling students your rationale for this exercise, the exercise will not reach its full potential
  7. Learning letter or student journal – could include what they enjoyed, how they felt in the lesson, what they understood and engaged with, what they still need more help with, what they liked about the lesson and things they thought could have been better.
  8. Email
  9. Voice mail
  10. Student liaison committee
  11. Group instructional feedback with an outside facilitator

2. Your colleagues’ perceptions
Reflection is a skill that is best fostered with colleagues. Co-workers who demonstrate expertise in posing and solving problems often prove to be good mentors. Drawing on support from colleagues will allow you to cement understanding and get involved with others’ ideas and best practice.

Peer Observation: Invite a colleague to observe your teaching, or you could observe them. These observations should have a very specific focus, for example the quality of questioning or the quality of student-led activities.

Blog It: Connecting with other great educators through blogging can make learning and growing a collaborative effort.

Shared planning is where you draw on support from colleagues to plan lessons together based on best practice to help create innovative and improved lessons.

The shared-planning process should encourage talking and co-operation. You should draw on support from colleagues to help develop practice and share ideas. (Cambridge)Advice: Talk to your colleagues about your findings and ask them for advice.

3. Your own personal experience

QUOTE: Most teachers will say that there’s very little time in the day for reflecting, and I agree with them. But I still make sure that I find time to reflect because it’s too important to put by the wayside. All educators need time in their day to reflect and think about the different ways they can be better.(Provenzano)

Lesson evaluations: require you to think back on the lesson, assessing its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for development. To help focus your evaluation, consider the following questions:

  • How effective was the overall lesson?
  • What worked in this lesson? Why? How do I know?
  • What would I do the same or differently if I could reteach this lesson? Why?
  • What do I believe about how students learn? How does this belief influence my instruction?
  • How engaged and active were the students?
  • How much learning took place? How do I know?
  • What data do I need to make an informed decision about problems that came up?
  • Was I perceptive and sensitive to each of my students’ needs?
  • How was my overall attitude and delivery throughout class?
  • What did I learn from this experience that will help me in future lessons?

Video Recording:A video recording of your teaching is valuable because it provides an unaltered and unbiased vantage point for how effective your lesson may be from both a teacher and student perspective.

Write it down, Write it down, Write it down: Teachers often think they can remember it all, but that’s rarely the case.

TIP: If you use a planner for your lessons, use sticky notes for initial thoughts after a lesson, and stick them in the planner. If you use a digital planner, quickly write out some thoughts in a different colour so they’ll stand out later. These notes are key for teachers who want to remember certain aspects of lessons that might need to be addressed later.

Self-Reflective/Learning Journal: After each lesson, simply jot down a few notes describing your reactions and feelings and then follow up with any observations you have about your students. Write down what you felt worked and did not work for that day and why. Use the lesson evaluation questions and the five Rs to help focus your journal.

A blog can be used as a private journal to dump ideas. Setting a blog to private can be a great way to just write ideas, review them, and reflect. Seeing those ideas onscreen can aid reflection in a way that just thinking about them can’t. … they can be just a way to get some deep reflective thoughts out of my head.

Record It: Vlog recording thoughts for the week and giving a goal for the upcoming week. The videos are short (limit to about four minutes).

Audio Reflection: can be recorded ‘on the run’ to maintain an ongoing record of your observations and reflections. Software makes transcription easy, if required.

Photo or Video Reflection: Use a tool like Evernoteor Google Keep with your smartphone and snap images of lesson results, activities and student work that will live in one of these tools.

Questionnaires/checklists: that you have students or colleagues complete, you should complete as well and use as a point of comparison.

Assessment tools as feedback tools: your tests and exams as indicators of student learning.

Experimenting with new ideas: Trying out new methods or approaches can create new learning opportunities. These changes can be simple or adventurous.

4. Relevant theory and research

Go online or to the library and read up on effective techniques that can help remedy your situation.

Further References

Danielson, L. M. (2008). Making reflective practice more concrete through reflective decision making. The Educational Forum, 72, 129–137.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Chicago: Henry Regnery.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: MacMillan.

Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. London: Further Education Unit

Pollard, A., Black-Hawkins, K., & Cliff, H. G. (2014). Reflective teaching in schools. Retrieved from

Provenzano, N. (2014). The reflective teacher: Taking a long look. Retrieved from

Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.

Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Yale (2018). Reflective teaching. Retrieved from

Zalipour, A. (2015). Reflective practice. Retrieved from

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link