Reflective Practice 3

What is Reflective Practice?

refpract.jpg Reflective Practice is a concept which has been extensively used in education for some time, and is also adopted by other professionals such as healthcare workers. As with reflection, there are several models of Reflective Practice which vary from writer to writer, and organisation to organisation. Some of the key ideas are presented here, but we do not suggest any one is better than any other. Use the content and ideas which you think will work best for you!

Definitions of Reflective Practice

reflective practice is viewed as a means by which practitioners can develop a greater level of self-awareness about the nature and impact of their performance, an awareness that creates opportunities for professional growth and development. (Osterman and Kottkamp 1993: 2 )

Schon puts it in a nicely simple way

A dialogue of thinking and doing through which I become more skilful. (Schön 1987)

Reflective practice’ is a term often used in education pedagogy. It is a continuous process from a personal perspective that considers critical incidents within your life’s experiences.

Reflective practice involves thoughtfully considering one’s own experiences in applying theory to practice. In teacher education it refers to the process of trainees studying their known teaching methods and determining what works best for the students. All lecturers need to reflect on their experiences in the classroom and adapt their strategies accordingly.(Duckworth et al 2010: p 41)

Pollard and Tann (1993) laid out a set of six characteristics of reflective practice. They argued that the reflective practitioner:

  • has an active concern with aims and consequences, as well as means and technical efficiency
  • requires competence in methods of classroom enquiry (gathering data, analysis, evaluation) to support the development of teaching competence
  • requires attitudes of open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness
  • is based on teacher judgement which is informed partly by self-reflection and partly by insights from educational disciplines
  • is enhanced through collaboration and dialogue with colleagues

(Pollard and Tann 1993: pp 9-10 )

Learning Activities – available to download from links below

What is reflective practice? – download
Simple activity to consider what reflective practice is about with accompanying powerpoint presentations (below).

Models, frameworks and theories of reflective practice – download
Activity to consider further some of the models, frameworks and theories associated with Reflective Practice using individual / group workand asking generic questions.

There are many items on this website which will help the completion of this activity

Complete online courses / modules in Reflective Practice

When locating resources for this website, we have discovered complete online courses in reflective practice from more than one source. We have included them here, but they should be treated as self contained modules for particular purposes rather than an integral part of this resource.

Reflection On and In the Workplace for Students

Part of the practice based learnng website with the aim
To identify the importance of reflection in learning and to discuss how you might use it in the workplace. The different models of reflection will be considered and how you can reflect upon your practice/work and learning. Available at:

Introduction to Reflective Practice

This online module is designed as an introduction to reflective practice for students at the University of South Australia. A second module, Critical Reflective Practice, that expands on this topic is also available.

Reflective practice is a key skill for developing as a professional. ‘Only through contemplating what one is doing and why can one demonstrate that intelligent and competent practice ensues’ (Thorpe, 2004, p.330).

Employers regularly highlight their need for people with both the appropriate professional knowledge and skills in critical reflective thinking. They recognise that the workplace is where employing staff with an ability to develop creative solutions to problems, who can work within ethical frameworks and who are able to step outside formulaic approaches to challenges are highly desirable assets to their organisation.
By completing this module you will:

  • gain an understanding of reflective practice by engaging with learning activities
  • differentiate levels and processes of reflection
  • develop an awareness of your personal strengths and learning opportunities
  • use reflective writing to demonstrate your learning development.

Please allow 3 hours to complete this module. **Click on this link to begin the module** 

11.965 Reflective Practice: An Approach for Expanding Your Learning Frontiers

(from MIT OpenCourseware)

Course Description

The course is an introduction to the approach of Reflective Practice developed by Donald Schön. It is an approach that enables professionals to understand how they use their knowledge in practical situations and how they can combine practice and learning in a more effective way. Through greater awareness of how they deploy their knowledge in practical situations, professionals can increase their capacities of learning in a more timely way. Understanding how they frame situations and ideas helps professionals to achieve greater flexibility and increase their capacity of conceptual innovation.

The objective of the course is to introduce students to the approach and methods of reflective practice by raising their awareness about their own cognitive resources and how they use them in their practice. The course will introduce theories of learning, knowledge generation, framing and reframing, theories of action, reflection-in-practice, and conceptual innovation, and provide students with opportunities to experiment with these theories in real life through practical exercises in which they reflect on real situations that they have faced in their past professional experience. Through these practical exercises, students will have the opportunity to reflect on their thinking capacities in the context of their practice.

Technical Requirements

Special software is required to use some of the files in this course
Avaiable at:

Further Resources / Activities on this topic

Reflective Practice PowerPoint  Introductory (thanks to Caroline Harvey)
Reflective Practice PowerPoint  Detailed (thanks to Lorraine Simpson)
Reflective Practice PowerPoint – from the IfL
Osterman, K.F. and Kottkamp, R.B. (1993) Reflective Practice for Educators – Improving Schooling Through Professional Development. California: Corwin Press – 20 page extract – download
London Pharmacy Education & Training (2005) Reflective Practice Handout – version 2 Reflective Practice – download
– Introduction to Reflective Practice – a handout from the ‘old’ Gold Dust Resources – download
From the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education there is Reflective Practice and Professional Development. ERIC Digest. at:
From the excellent Learning and Teaching website at
Escalate ‘Busy Teacher Educator Guide’ on Reflective practice for download (pdf)
Describes itself as follows:
It is the intention of this guide to attempt to explain how reflection – in which searching questions are asked about experience – might be conceptualised, why it can be viewed as rather more than ‘thinking about teaching’ and why a consideration of reflective practice itself might be helpful to both the beginning and the experienced teacher.
– Practice Based Learning
Good website with many resources including a section on Reflective Practice at

What are the benefits of reflective practice?

Roffey-Barentson and Malthouse (2009) introduce 10 useful ‘benefits of reflective practice’ (p 16) which are summarised below:

1. Improving your teaching practice

If you take the time to reflect on your teaching, and reflect on how different parts of what you do work well, where aspects of your teaching can be improved, and how problems which arise could be solved, that is bound to help you to improve your teaching.

2. Learning from reflective practice

There is a good range of evidence that purposeful reflection helps ‘deep’ learning take place, and for you as a teacher, it will help you to make connections between different aspects of your teaching and what goes on around your teaching. Reflective practice will help you gain new learning and use it in your teaching.

3. Enhancing problem solving skills

When starting off with reflecting on your teaching you may tend to concentrate on problems which arise. By carefully and honestly considering and analysing those problems, you will improve your own capacity to find solutions.

4. Becoming a critical thinker

Critical thinking is about ‘thinking well’, and ‘taking charge’ of your own thinking (Elder and Paul, 1994), and reflective practice will help you recognise and adjust what you think to take account of changes in circumstances, and by doing that help you to be better equipped to find solutions which work.

5. Making Decisions

As you reflect on your practice, you will find you need to make decisions about what to do (or not to do) next. You may well have a number of choices which you have to weigh up, and deciding which one to take can be difficult. If you regularly reflect on your teaching in depth, you are regularly going to come across the need to make decisions, but the results of your reflective practice will help you to make those decisions in a more informed, thoughtful and objective manner.

6. Improving your own organisational skills

You will notice as this section progresses that the benefits of reflective practice can reaching into every aspect of your professional work as a teacher. If you are thinking carefully about what you are doing, identifying possible actions and choices, trying out solutions, and adjusting what you do to take account of the results, this involves a good deal of organisation. By breaking down issues and problems into steps or stages, you will get better at organising your time and your activity to concentrate on the important, ‘solution-focussed’ actions.

7. Managing personal change

Working in education involves managing regular, rapid, pressured and often confusing change, which can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a teacher. If you are using the techniques of reflective practice, which involves, calm, thoughtful, honest, critical and organised thinking and action, this should introduce a calming and less emotional response to that change. As reflective practice is itself focussed on seeking positive improvements and solutions, managing change more effectively should take place.

8. Acknowledging personal values

There will be things which take place within your professional situation as a teacher which you will wholeheartedly agree with, and others which will worry or alarm you. This is because they may agree or disagree with your own personal values such as what you believe in, and what you think is wrong or right. How these are affected by teaching will vary, but you will almost certainly come across major clashes of values as part of your work. Reflective practice is an excellent way of acknowledging and recognising that those values exist and have an effect, but which concentrates on helping you to choose approaches and actions which can help you to resolve those clashes without it adversely affecting the professional balance of your work as a teacher.

9. Taking your own advice

Teachers are often more critical of their own teaching than anyone else, and it could be possible for this to develop into an attitude about teaching which is negative and destructive. The techniques and approaches of reflective practice will place you in a position where you are an informed, positive agent in your own development and improvement and one where you can ‘take your own advice’ with a confidence tht it is reflective, focussed and informed advice.

10. Recognising emancipatory benefits

If you reflect on the nine benefits of reflective practice which have so far been described, you will clearly see that this is a model of practice which represents the teacher as someone with influence over their own teaching and their own destiny as a teacher. This is what is at the heart of reflective practice, and as such it should help considerably to free you from some of the burdens which can weigh teachers down, and refresh your confidence and your teaching.

Learning Activities – available to download from links below

Benefits of Reflective Practice activity – download
Benefits of Reflective Practice resource – download

What are the challenges associated with reflective practice?

Like any other area of work, there can be challenges we face when we use reflective practice. Kennett (2010: pp73-75) summarises some of these:


When your time is pressured, which as a front line teacher it often is, can you afford to take special time to reflect on your practice in the ways suggested here? We would argue that you will work both more effectively and efficiently if you use reflective practice, because you will be able to make more clear and informed decisions, be more aware of what is likely to work and what is not likely to, and more up to date with what works elsewhere. This will all save time which would be wasted elsewhere.

In order to meet this challenge however you have to find strategies for making time.


Reflecting carefully on what you do can be challenging and scary. You may well come to some conclusions which have major consequences for you as a professional. If you have doubts about yourself as a person and as a professional, these can appear at times to be reinforced by reflection.

As you become more proficient both in the techniques of reflective practice, and in your teaching overall, your fears should be replaced by confidence.

This challenge can be met by developing ways both to understand and make use of your emotions, and to hold your nerve and stay with your informed decisions.

Not being naturally reflective

You may well be someone who doesn’t tend to find reflection something you naturally get involved in .. you may well be a ‘doer’ rather than a ‘thinker’. This may well be the case with your students as well. This set of resources provides a wide variety of ways to introduce, encourage, try out reflection in a variety of ways, and draws together a wide range of tools and activities to help with that. These should all help you to get the maximum benefits you can from reflective practice.

It is possible to reflect in highly active, engaged and creative ways. You don’t always have to sit down with your head resting on your hand to be reflective!

Learning Activities – available to download from links below

Challenges of Reflective Practice activity – download
Challenges of Reflective Practice resource – download

Further Resources / Activities on this topic

– Reflective Teaching Practice in Adult ESL settings. A good article about reflective practice in ESOL, with a useful section on the benefits and challenges involved.