Stephen Brookfield (1995) emphasized the need for teachers to critically research what they do. He argued that the teachings of critical research occur when identifying and examining the underlying assumptions of actions. A teacher is required to see their practices, actions, discover and test their assumptions through four perspectives, or four critical lenses, as explained by Brookfield. These lenses include the points of view of teachers, learners, colleagues, and literature. Brookfield introduces an important element in reflective practice that starts with observing from the teacher’s own point of view—then involving the students by asking how they see the activity, what they like and what they do not like. After that, the teacher should ask their colleague to act as a mentor or friend in order to get an additional evaluation. This allows a teacher to be more critical of their work and reveal areas that were previously unnoticed or neglected. Finally, it is required to incorporate references to theory and literature into the work.
I am a trainee teacher teaching adults in pre-entry level ESOL/ESL at a college, and I had experienced a critical incident that could be analyzed through the theory suggested by Brookfield. When I have started to teach, I was focused on the result of the learners, and I desired my students to have the best possible language learning outcomes at the closest time. I saw that they were motivated enough and intended to maintain their motivation by the first fast results. For this reason, I had prepared quite a lot of homework that emphasized grammatical rules and new vocabulary. However, after a while, I have noticed that some students gave up on submitting their homework. After that, I have decided to ask the students why they did not do the given homework. It turned out that the workload was too large, and even if they were interested in the content, they sometimes were overwhelmed by the size of it.
At this point, I felt guilty for not asking their opinion about the workload at the beginning. It is significant to get the reflection as early as possible since it will help to manage the teaching strategy in accordance with the learner’s preferences. In addition, I could ask my more experienced colleges about the size of the homework they are giving. After this situation, I have started to ask the student’s point of view right after the first couple of finished homework. That is a great example of reflective practice for me.
Reflective practices evaluate events from different angles and perspectives and determine the best course of action based on relevant theories. In contrast to common sense remorse, the reflexive practice creates autonomous learners and improves subject comprehension, critical thinking, problem-solving, and individual change management skills. Biggs (1988) uses a mirror analogy, meaning that the reflection of a mirror is an identical replica of what is in front of it. He noticed the difference between this and reflexive practice when he discovered that the reflection in professional activity was not what it was, but what it was, returning a better version of the original. Self-improvement is achieved through reflective practice. It can be used to evaluate intellectual, social, and psychological performance academically, socially, and psychologically.
The second type of reflex is called reflex practice and was developed by Donald Schon in 1983. He called them reflection in action and reflection on action. Sometimes teachers might face a situation where the lesson does not go as it was supposed or planned to. In that way, they are required to think about what they are doing now, and that is called reflection-in-action. I have been in such a situation when I was teaching as a volunteer ESOL teacher. I was teaching adult learners in pre-entry level ESOL, and at one of the lessons, I have asked the students to accomplish the given written task. However, some of them refused to cooperate and did not even start to do it. At that moment, I was feeling terrible and have realized that I was required to create a solution in order to save the lesson and still have enough time to work on the learning objectives. I have suggested doing the task together in a verbal form. After that, all of the students started to participate actively, and we have accomplished the task in a planned time.
According to Schon (1987), teachers can abandon the concept of role-playing and choose another method. For example, teachers can have a discussion or give an example that makes students think verbally. From experience, I have learned the significance of fast reflection on the events going on at the moment. Sometimes, the lesson might take unexpected curse, and that is why Schon’s reflection approach is important. If I face such a situation in the future, I would ask students what is wrong and then try to come up with a different approach to the task in order to catch their interests. Action research is crucial in such situations, be it reflection-in-action or reflection-on-action. A reflection action project might be created from the incident analysis by evaluating the students’ response to the given tasks and finding alternatives for the cases when students refuse to collaborate.
Brookfield, SO (1995) Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gibbs, G (1988) Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit.
Roffey-Barentsen, J. and Malthouse, R. (2009). Reflective practice in the lifelong learning sector. Learning Matters, pp. 1-12.
Schon, D (1987) Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.