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LAS Teaching Academy: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

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Reflection on one’s work can take many forms. In regards to teaching, optimally, being a reflective practitioner means that you globally and critically consider the impact that you have on student learning. Ideally, your reflections center on these basic questions:

  • What am I teaching?
  • How am I teaching this content?
  • How do I know I’m doing a “good” job of impacting student learning?

Here are some examples of when and where reflection can occur:

While You’re Lecturing.
Reflection can occur during a lecture when students seem puzzled. How do you address their bewilderment? Are you unaware and continue lecturing until you have finished going through your notes? Do you notice and say to yourself, “They’ll be clearer after the readings.” Do you solicit questions to clarify the material? Do you provide examples so students make the connection between your lecture and the real world?
Just Prior to Your Next Scheduled Class
Use the technique of just-in-time teaching to gather information about students’ current understanding of class material. Use your reflections to design an in-class exercise, revise your lecture notes or discuss students’ misconceptions with them.
After Reviewing Student and Peer Evaluations
Read and absorb comments from your course evaluations and alter your behavior based on the feedback. Sometimes we scoff at evaluations from students or peers when we receive low marks or criticism. We say things like, “The students never understood the concepts which is why they disliked the course.” or “My peer evaluator doesn’t like my way of thinking about subject X.” Instead of rejecting all commentary as invalid, take the time to consider the feedback and change one or two behaviors for the next course. For more on evaluations, go to LASTA Assessment and Feedback.

Additional Information

  • In the speech "Educating the Reflective Practitioner", Donald Schon, author of The Reflective Practitioner, illustrates reflective behaviors for teachers with the aim of helping them to better understand how students learn and how they can help augment this learning. Here is an excerpt:

    “These explanations give the teacher the knowledge of the greatest possible number of methods, the ability of inventing new methods and, above all, not a blind adherence to ONE method but the conviction that all methods are one-sided, and that the best method would be the one that would answer best to all the possible difficulties incurred by a pupil. That is, not a method, but an art and a talent. And this is teaching in the form of reflection-in-action. It involves a surprise, a response to surprise by thought turning back on itself, thinking what we’re doing as we do it, setting the problem of the situation anew, conducting an action experiment on the spot by which we seek to solve the new problems we’ve set, an experiment in which we test both our new way of seeing the situation, and also try to change that situation for the better.”

    Donald Schon
  • The Harvard Graduate School of Education offers a unique “reflection tool” to help educators think about the practice of teaching. The tool is very user-friendly, designed to be used when you have only a few minutes for reflection.
  • Schon, D.A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York, NY: Basic Books.