Why am I writing about reflection?

I’ve been thinking about it 🤔. What I think it is, how (or if) I practise it and how it can help me improve as a teacher and trainer.

 Inevitably, I went all the way  back to my initial training ; CELTA. I realized I didn’t know what to write in my  self-evaluation . One of my responses was I’m not entirely satisfied with the outcome of the lesson, followed by my tutor’s why?? I didn’t know. I just felt that it wasn’t good enough but wasn’t able to verbalize it. 😔

Fast forward to Delta M2. Little by little, I felt more confident going back and recalling events as well as learners’ responses. I realized my strength was actually remembering everything my students had said and done; and I had between 10 -12 students, so that was good.. But is describing events  enough?

After doing some reading, I’ve taken some notes on the whats and whys of reflection. Here they are:⬇️

What is reflection?

a linguistically constituted mental process

Ahmed, cited in Mann and Walsh:12

Anderson wrote in this wonderful article that reflecting can mean thinking deeply about two questions:

 –Who am I? When looking at oneself (reflexivity)

What happened? When looking back in time (retrospectivity)

Schön (1983) distinguished between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.

Reflection-in-action

 synchronous  (thinking on your feet)

something surprising or interesting happens and you have to intuitively, spontaneously deal with it/address it.

Reflection-on-action

asynchronous (a reflection after the professional action or incident)

 Reflection-for-action

A further concept. Thinking about how you are going to use this knowledge to improve your practice (Farrell, cited in Olteanu, 2017).

According to Dewey (cited in Mann & Walsh, 2017:82) , there are three pre-requisites for successful reflection:

  • open-mindedness: Examining different possibilities as well as admitting that one might be wrong. Being able to let go.
  • responsibility: Taking ownership of one’s actions and learning.
  • whole-heartedness: Reflecting profoundly, to help oneself develop. Not “faking it” (Hobbs, cited in Mann & Walsh, 2017:18) or ticking boxes.

In Greek:

antanáklasi reflex, reflection

sképsi̱ thought, contemplation, meditation, speculation

provlimatismós reflection, problem, speculation, questioning

perískepsi̱, circumspection

What does reflection mean to you?

Why should we engage in reflective practice?

There is a general consensus (Dewey, cited in Farrell, 2013, Farrell, 20123, Mann and Walsh, 2009 and Schön,1983) that by allowing ourselves to surrender to a repetitive routine, we are likely to reach a point where we no longer improve, develop or “overlearn” what we know. Reflection is the way to avoid plateauing. Maingay (cited in Wajnryb,1992:81) accurately suggests that  reflection helps us deritualise ritualised behaviour.

It heightens awareness of our beliefs and assumptions about learning, teaching and training.

Gradually, as we get more accustomed to the process, it becomes  part of our everyday practice.

Why do you reflect?

Who should practise it?

Everyone! Students. Both teachers and trainers. The more teacher educators practise what they preach, the more they can convince teachers of its value and usefulness.

Why is it challenging?

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Schön (1983) states that reflection can be challenging or even avoided for a number of reasons:

It’s time-consuming. There’s often not enough time, especially on PRESET courses. Teachers tend to rush it to move on to the next task.

Teachers/trainers may think it’s unnecessary. They know what they’re doing. If they engage in reflection it shows insecurity and uncertainty.

Mann and Walsh (2009) also confirmed my belief that novice teachers may not be ready for it. They tend to describe rather than analyse what has happened. (Watts and Lawson cited in and Mann (2009: 610)

Even if some people may find it easier to reflect than others, it’s still a skill that needs to be demonstrated and taught. It also needs to be sufficiently scaffolded until teachers feel confident to do it independently.

As it is often assessed, it makes it just another box to tick. Inevitably, the stress of getting it over with, means our reflection will not be profound.

It is often encouraged but in a vague way, without providing useful tools and ideas on how to actually do it.

Written reflection is often considered a chore, or just another assignment you have to write on a course. Teachers may worry about the language they’ll use, the correctness, the structure more than the process itself.

When done individually it can be overwhelming, but  collaborative reflection is rarely encouraged.

There is usually one single pro-forma per course instead of a variety of reflective tasks over time.

Moon (2004) adds that the word reflection doesn’t exist in some languages! It can be tough to grasp the concept.

Would you add more issues here?

 In my next post (or posts?), I’ll share some tools and ideas for reflective tasks that I’ve encountered in my reading. The hows. 💡

Update: Here’s the link to that post

References

Anderson, J., 2021. The difficulty of defining reflection. [online] Jason Anderson: Teacher educator & author. Available at: https://speakinggames.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/the-difficulty-of-defining-reflection/   

Farrell, T., 2013. Reflective practice in ESL teacher development groups. 1st ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mann, S. & Walsh, S. (2017). Reflective practice in English language teaching: Research-based principles and practices. New York: Routledge.

Moon, J., 2004. A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

Wajnryb, R., 1992. Classroom observation tasks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Image credits:

Clear Light Bulb Placed on Chalkboard · Free Stock Photo (pexels.com)

Melancholic ethnic woman with broken mirror at home · Free Stock Photo (pexels.com)

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels