About three months ago, I wrote these two posts about reflective practice:

Reflective teaching and training

15 ideas for reflective teaching and training.

In this post, I’m going to share 5 activities that can be used at the end of a training session. They can all take from 10 to 20 minutes or more, depending on the group.

It’s up to you whether you just want teachers to discuss or also record their reflections. Padlet is the most popular tool for online sessions, as users can post anonymously and comment on each other’s contributions. If you ask me, using a good old notebook is fine too!

These activities invite participants to organize their thoughts and critically reflect on what was learned. Ideally, they should move, from description to analysis, using both lower and higher order thinking skills. See some examples below:

5 reflective activities

  1. Compass points, taken from Harvard Graduate School Project Zero

NWES do not stand for North, West, East and South, but for excited, worrisome, need to know and stance.

  1. I suggest starting with E for excited. Which idea(s) are you the most excited about?
  2. Then move on to W: Which idea(s) are you worried about and might not use? What might go wrong?
  3. Next is next! What do you need to know or do before you apply these ideas? What are the next steps?
  4. Wrap it up with S for stance: What is your current stance on the topic? Has your thinking about it changed?

You could also use initials or words in teachers’ L1 if you think that you can come up with more interesting phrases and prompts than the ones supplied here.

2. Suitcase, freezer, wastebasket

This activity has been inspired by Wright and Bolitho’s activity suitcases, and Martyn Clarke’s suggestion of storing our thoughts and doubts in a cognitive freezer.

I’ve noticed that colourful visuals can motivate and encourage creative thinking. They’re also fun to make!

At the end of the session, project this image and ask teachers:

Suitcase: What will you take away from this session? That can be one or more takeaways.

Freezer: What do you still need to think about? Perhaps there is something they don’t feel ready to apply and need to read more about.

Wastebin: What would you “throw away”? Not everything that is presented during a session may be relevant to the participants and their contexts. Give them the opportunity to express their doubts.

3. I used to think ….now I think….

This is a quick but perhaps not painless task, taken from the Harvard Graduate school of Education -Project Zero website.

When teachers engage in group discussions, their beliefs about teaching are likely to surface. They become exposed to their peers or trainer’s perspectives, which may lead to  re-examining what they instinctively do or think. Using this zero-preparation task is a good opportunity to explore this change at the end of the session.

Bear in mind that admitting change  can  be intimidating. It is important to create an atmosphere of trust to ensure teachers will feel comfortable sharing such reflections.

4. Trainer approach

This idea was taken from the book ETpedia Teacher Training – 500 ideas for teacher training in English Language Teaching (page 96).

You could ask teachers to reflect and comment on your training approach. What activity types did you use? Would they use any of them in their classes? Why/why not and how?

An alternative is to make this task more open-ended by asking teachers to think about the trainer’s approach and comment on three points of interest. By doing so, you are leading less and giving them more freedom  to express their thoughts. Teachers may comment  on your overall approach, focus on specific activities they thought they would like to try in class., or even comment on your trainer talk, i.e. what you said and how you said it.

5. Collective reflection

Evaluating collective experience is one of my favourite reflective tasks. Rather than  individual reflection, group members can have a brief discussion and decide on a number (1 or more) of common  takeaways from the session. How did the group make progress? As Wright and Bolitho say, groups have a life of their own and it is important to encourage activities like setting shared expectations or group-led evaluation.

Just before finishing this post..

I came across Andre Hedlund’s post where he also recommends using thinking routines from the Harvard Project Zero website. Well worth a read and if you have time, watch the Gallery Teachers Masterclass video.

More on reflective practice..

3 blogposts I recommend reading -2 of which are written by Zhenya Polosatova

Teacher Training #5: Reflective Practice | World of Better Learning (cambridge.org)

Reflection: Making Theory (More) Practical | Wednesday Seminars (wordpress.com)

Practicing Reflective Practice | Wednesday Seminars (wordpress.com)


Melia-Leigh B. and Northall, N. (1988) ETpedia Teacher Training500 ideas for teacher training in English Language Teaching. Shoreham-by-Sea: PAvillion Publishing and Media Ltd:

Wright, T. and Bolitho, R., 2010. Trainer development. La Vergne, Tenn.: Lulu.

“I Used to Think… Now I Think…” Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education pz.harvard.edu/resources/i-used-to-think-now-i-think.  

Compass points Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education http://www.pz.harvard.edu/resources/compass-points

What Is Bloom’s Taxonomy? A Definition For Teachers | (teachthought.com)