by Cathy Gunning
What is reflective practice?
Reading a book by Donald Schon early on in my career as a teacher opened my eyes to the world of reflective practice. I think that I had always been a reflective person – self critical, questioning, re-thinking things about my teaching day. But this practice modelled and mentored during my Masters study. It opened my world to journalling, to thinking and questioning things, applying theory to what I had experienced and learning about how to become better.
It is an approach that I have used ever since, personally and inspiring others to reflect. Reflecting on our practice makes us richer in understanding and more confident in our practice.
I would encourage you to use it in whatever form to support your professional and pedagogical growth and development. In the links below there are academic papers and useful links to tools to help you in this journey.
Why reflective is practice important
Reflecting on our practice is important as a tool to self improve and develop. We can become better practitioners when we learn from our reflections and gain insight.
Teaching is a skill where pedagogy is gained and built through processing and reflecting.
Writing about your experiences will help you to make sense of them, so that your undersatnding lasts and contributes to your lifelong learning.(Howatson-Jones: Reflective practice in Nursing, 2010:120)
How do you reflect?
It is helpful to process and reflect about our lives and work. Our personal pedagogy benefits from reflection and time to think and talk around issues, things we might be grappling with, things we would like to be more confident about or generally what has happened in our day or week.
Processing with the help of a trustworthy, listening ear is helpful to our professional development. Collaborative conversations and communities of practice faciliate and enable this listening and talking. We can use coaching techniques and questions to help our reflections and conversations to help us develop in our practice and support our journeys.
Time to talk
How often do you wish that you had time to talk about your day, reflect, process and talk with like minded colleagues in early years?
Do you long to meet like-minded professionals, have challenge and input, or be part of supportive collaborative conversations? If you’re looking for opportunities to do this locally, find an Early Education local branch near you.
A reflective journal or a reflective conversation
Some people use a reflective journal to process the answers to these questions and process. Others like to have reflective conversations about these areas. We’ll look at ways we can reflect and things that will help us in this process and learning.
A useful processfor reflective writing is to describe – then reflect – then think about what now?
Some powerful questions for reflection
- What does your practice look like at your best?
- What is distinctive about your practice?
- What helps you to learn best?
- What would it be like to be taught by you?
Further reading and links
- Daniel J Ayres’ (senior lecturer in education at UEL) blogs on reflective writing exercises and reflective practice
- Gillie Bolton’s PhD by publication Explorative and expressive writing for personal and professional development is a fascinating read
- Harvard Business Review Want to be an outstanding leader? Keep a journal by Nancy Adler.
- Nancy Kline’s thinking environment and its ten components
- 10 reasons to get a coach in 2017
- A time to reflect Sue Cowley in Nursery World
- Reflective practice (part 2) by Melanie Pilcher in Teach Early Years
- Reflective thinking and writing Solent online learning
- Donald Schon: learning, reflection and change
- Gibbs’ reflective cycle University of Cumbria