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The reflective practice approach to teaching

This article discusses the reflective practice approach to teaching to better understand strengths and areas for development as a teacher.
© British Council

What is reflective practice?

Reflective practice is an approach to teaching that involves critical evaluation of your actions, to better understand your strengths and areas for development as a teacher.

In other words, you look back at what you’ve done, consider carefully whether it worked or not, and if so, why. This helps you to pinpoint and develop successful practices, as well as identify your professional development needs and find solutions for problems.

Kolb’s experiential learning cycle

You may be familiar with Kolb’s experiential learning cycle – reflective practise is based on this:

1. You have an experience e.g. you teach a lesson
2. You reflect on the experience You think about what went well, or not so well
3. You critically analyse the experience Do you identify what it was that made the lesson go well or not so well – the activity? Your instructions? Your knowledge of the subject/topic? Etc.
4. You plan future actions based on what you have learnt e.g. you try the same speaking activity with another class because it worked well, or you research language so that you know the language point better for next time, etc.

Most teachers reflect mainly on lessons, but you could reflect on other things too: a course, an interaction with a learner/parent/co-worker, an interview or conference presentation, for example.

Ways to reflect

  • Keep a learning diary of what went well or not so well in a lesson
  • Ask your learners for feedback on a lesson or activity
  • Make notes in your coursebook after each lesson
  • Talk through your lessons with another teacher
  • Ask a colleague to sit in and observe your lesson
  • Record yourself teaching (and then watch it!)
  • Use an online journal to keep your reflective practices in one place – notes, videos, documents, links.

If you’d like to learn more about reflective practice, check out the full online course from The British Council, below.

© British Council
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