Last week I had both the pleasure and honour to participate in the 28th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece Annual International Conference and share my thoughts on a practice that has helped me develop both professionally and personally and has hopefully helped my learners assume ownership of their progress too. I’m referring to reflective teaching and how the tools and strategies associated with reflection can help us build learning experiences that are more student-centered.
My presentation was half theory, half practice and started with Farrell’s (2019) definition of reflective practice which I feel best captures the most important aspects of reflection (a bridge between teachers’ knowledge and inner system of beliefs, an ongoing, collaborative process that extends beyond classroom walls) and was followed by a brief historical overview of reflective practice and its evolution. I won’t go into detail regarding the theoretical part, but I’ll include my list of References at the end of this blog post in case anyone would like to research the field further. The theoretical part finished with some of the benefits and criticisms associated with reflective practice. Out of the many benefits associated with reflective teaching, the one that stands out for me is that it provides teachers with the opportunity to conduct teacher-driven research informed by their practices and learning procedures. At the same time, since reflection is a highly subjective, often time-consuming practice, the wider learning and teaching context, teachers’ own training and any lesson-related practical issues often make it challenging for reflection to be used consistently in practice.
After the theoretical part, I moved on to some practical class suggestions/activities that were inspired by tools commonly associated with teacher reflective practice, that is journals, observations and visualization techniques (usually in the form of sketchnoting/mindmapping). I added a fourth category of activities called “Culture of reflection” with some broader initiatives that can help classrooms and schools build a culture of reflection. I presented activities in a continuum ranging from minimal prep activities that can be used to introduce learners to the process of reflection to activities that gradually involve deeper levels of reflective thinking.
I’ve grouped some of my favourites in the infographic below:
Before I wrap up this post, I would like to share my presentation slide with some points to consider when using reflective activities, the three most important of which I’ll briefly expand on here as well:
Small steps: Since reflection is an on-going process, we should keep in mind that we need to start with baby steps by carefully considering our context and implement more steps/activities/practices gradually so that any change we introduce can be sustainable.
Adaptation: Activities will have to be revised, redesigned or left aside as reflection is an ongoing process that requires perseverance as well as revisiting and resetting of priorities.
Modelling: In order for learners to engage in reflection, teachers should be the ones to model reflection in the first place by practising reflection themselves and sharing any relevant areas of strength and improvement they identify in their practices.
References (from the presentation’s theoretical part)
- Akbari, R., 2007. Reflections on reflection: A critical appraisal of reflective practices in L2 teacher education. System, 35(2), pp. 192-207
- Borton T., 1970. Reach, touch and teach; student concerns and process education. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Burton, J., 2009. Reflective practice. In: A. Burns, & J. C. Richards, eds. 2009. The Cambridge Guide to Second Language Teacher Education. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp.298–307
- Dewey, J., 1933. How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. Boston, MA: D.C. Heath & Co Publishers.
- Farrell, T., 2019. Reflective Practice in ELT. Bristol: Equinox Publishing Ltd
- Gibbs, G., 1988. Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Educational Unit, Oxford Polytechnic, Oxford.
- Kolb. D. A., and Fry, R., 1975. Towards an applied theory of experiential learning. In: C. Cooper, ed. 1975. Theories of Group Process. London: John Wiley.
- Richards, J., and Lockhart, C., 1994. Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms (Cambridge Language Education). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Schön, D., 1987. Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Towards a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Wallace, M.J., 1991. Training Foreign Language Teachers: A Reflective Approach. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.