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Reflective Practice in Teaching

Reflective practice in teaching shows how teachers can use each student's unique experiences to discover new learning ways.
Person writing on white lined paper with a pen

The promotion of democracy in school classrooms needs to be adapted to the needs of each context. Contexts are very different from each other. In this MOOC, we have had an opportunity to listen to three teachers from three different countries in Europe. Their curricula are different, what is expected from them is different, their students are different, etc. Even within the same school, each classroom is unique so reflective practice in teaching helps to reveal to students new ways to learn.

It has a singular combination of students and teachers who have a unique set of daily experiences. There are always options for the unexpected. The philosopher Gert Biesta discusses this as the “beautiful risk of education”. Teachers might attempt to do the same every year but each school day is different.

As a result of this, there is no magic universal way of promoting democracy in schools. Whilst we have examined some key subject and pedagogical knowledge and considered some of the challenges teachers might encounter, the reality is that it is impossible to predict or be prepared to respond to all possible challenges. Situations teachers might encounter in classrooms when promoting democracy are never-ending, and teachers can never be prepared to address all possible challenges.

Promoting democracy, as a teaching practice, is a continuous learning experience. As you probably know teaching can be defined as an ‘action’ or a ‘practice’ but one which is informed by our values and beliefs, previous experiences, knowledge, and the context in which we act. Reflective practitioners make decisions that better support their students’ needs and their educational purposes. When promoting democracy in their classroom, teachers need to reflect on their context before making decisions.

There are numerous frameworks for reflection (Schön, 1987; Smyth, 1994, etc.) and strategies (reflective writing, photo elicitation, peer dialogue) that can facilitate teachers’ reflection. Modes of reflection often include four cyclic steps that can be summarised in the diagram.

Reflective diagram - Reflect, Plan, Act, Evaluate

Reflective Practice © Edda Sant, 2021

For each step of the diagram, it is helpful to consider some reflective questions. Some possible questions could be:

Planning

  • What was/am I trying to achieve?
  • What perspective on democracy was/am I trying to implement?
  • What competencies of democratic culture was/am I planning to teach?
  • What approach (education about/for/through democracy) was/am I aiming to follow?
  • What practices am/was I considering?
  • What teaching methods am/was I planning to use?
  • What assessment methods am/was I planning to use?

Acting

  • What happened?
  • What was my part in this?
  • What did others do?
  • What classroom/school structures regulated our actions?

Evaluating

  • What was the result?
  • Did I consider the hidden curriculum?
  • Did I consider school/classroom structures?
  • Did my/others’ actions mirror democratic practices?
  • What challenges did I encounter?
  • How did I feel after? Did I feel discomfort?
  • How did others feel after? Did others feel discomfort?
  • Did my actions balance out my caring, democratic and educational responsibilities?
  • What evidence do I have?
  • Did the result respond to my intentions?

Reflecting

  • What does this tell me about my teaching?
  • Am I promoting democracy in my classroom? In what ways?
  • Am I promoting/undermining competences for a democratic culture? In what ways?
  • What could I/we have done differently?
  • What could I do to further democratise my teaching/assessment methods?
  • What could I do to address the hidden curriculum?
  • What could I do to foster more participatory structures in my classroom/school?
  • What can I do to further involve the community?
  • What else can I do to better balance my caring, democratic, and educational responsibilities?
  • Where can I gain further knowledge for future planning?
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Promoting Democracy in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Teachers

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