In our first session (in week 5… get your head around that) we looked in small groups at two passages addressing reflective practice and presented our findings to the other groups. It was interesting to see how much of what was written about we had already figured out for ourselves, and made it really clear to people how simple it can be to be critically reflective in their assignments. Whilst this exercise was valuable, I’m not going to talk about the specifics of what the articles said, but rather write about the thoughts I’ve had which stemmed from these articles.
Debate 1: Reflection is surely a constant cycle.
What I have found, from placement and lectures, is that my reflections are usually a constant and ongoing cycle. I have an experience, reflect upon it, learn something new, adapt the experience and try a new approach, which then leads to having another experience etc. It is ongoing and, whilst in school, I find myself reflecting on my feet whilst the lesson is ongoing. This enables me to change the lesson then and there, if I need to. However, this isn’t actually constricted to school time: I am a highly critical person in all that I do, and so I find myself second guessing most of my actions almost immediately. I began to understand this side of myself around February 2013, and since then have been making a conscious effort to be less critical, and more reflective. Anyway, I digress.
Although reflection is a cycle, I found myself wondering whether it needs to be so constant, in order for it to be effective. If we apply what article A said about ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ learners, with a focus on quality thinking, then effective reflection must be done when there is time. We need to find time to think clearly about what has occured, before discussing it with someone (either a peer, or an advisor) to get their reflections on the subject, so that we can gain a balanced reflection. The argument is that if we take the time to reflect, away from the situation, the greater our judgement can be.
Whilst I do think it is important to arrive at these ‘greater’ judgements, through solid and deep reflections, I think that it is also important for an effective teacher to be able to reflect on the spot. Perhaps, different kinds of reflection are needed in different situations.
Debate 2: Reflection is personal… but you need to discuss it.
One of the confusing things for me was that reflection is, and always has been, something which is entirely personal. After all, how can someone else reflect on your situation, when only you know exactly how you feel? However, the case is put forward in article B that a very important part of reflection is discussion.
For me, discussion must be involved in effective reflection. Without reflecting upon how I judge myself, using discussion with peers, my tutor and a counsellor, I’m not sure I would have realised just how critical I can be. I had spent the last 2 years believing that being critical and being reflective were ‘basically the same thing’. I think that, whether we are aware of it or not, other people are usually involved in reflective disscussions. After all, I cannot count the number of times I have sat with friends and run through plans, lessons and social dilemmas with them – never mind the amount of conversations with the class teacher I have had after every lesson, each one reflective.
When we get children to write sentences, they are encourage to read their sentence aloud to their partner. This is to see whether their sentence makes as much sense outside of their head, as it does inside. Then the case for reflective discussion is simple, because it is surely a similar kind of thinking. If we want to make sure that what we are thinking makes some sort of sense, then a simple way to do this is to talk to a peer or an advisor. I have realised over the past 6 months that my peers or tutor don’t need to understand exactly how I am feeling and that, in fact it can be helpful to gain a rational and disconnected viewpoint. I put my increased confidence in the classroom down to the fact that I finally felt comfortable discussing my reflections with the class teacher. These discussions then led to further pedagogical development.
Reflection is a powerful tool which, I believe, allows us to unlock our minds and freely criticise, in a positive manner, our actions and experiences as we strive for effectiveness in the classroom.