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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This resource from the UK Centre for Legal Education called Developing reflective practice in legal education has many relevant items of content for teachers in the Lifelong Learning sector . Its is described as follows:
This guidance note, published in 2002, aims to provide a starting point for law teachers who want to know a little more about reflection and how it might be facilitated. Whether you are new to the ideas of reflective practice or seeking to update and refresh current approaches, we hope this guide will be a source of enlightenment and inspiration.
The publication is available online at:
It can also be downloaded as a PDF file (63 pages, 341 KB)
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.
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!
– 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.