Is the Reflective Process a New Concept for Teachers?

I realize that I take the process of reflection for granted. When I experience something new – especially if that experience was confusing or didn’t meet my expectations in a positive way – I work it through the reflective cycle.

I go through this cycle out of habit, and this habit began while I was studying for my MA in TESOL at SIT. When I go through the process, I find solutions to problems, and this is crucial to my future success in teaching a lesson. Finding a solution is much more beneficial and rewarding than doing it wrong all over again.

I realized how much I take reflection for granted after spending the day with a group of reflective practitioners during the KOTESOL National Conference on Saturday. We practice reflection on a daily basis either in our personal lives, or when we teach it to the teachers in our training programs.

After my presentation, Blogging: Creative Interaction, one of the audience members posed two inspiringly, inquisitive questions about reflective practice:

Is reflection a new concept?
Is the reflective process and the practice usually taught in teacher training and MA programs?

He asked these questions because this was the first time he had ever heard about it. To the first question, with the help of founding members of the Reflective Practices SIG, we answered that according to what we knew this pedagogical idea has been around since John Dewey’s work on experiential learning in the 1930s.

To the second question, we shrugged. I almost wanted to say no because until I had heard of SIT, I had never heard of the reflective process as being an integral part of programs for educational studies.

So to get a bit more clarity, I did a quick Google search under “reflective practice in education” and “reflective process + university curriculum”. It seems that reflective practice is used in the education of health professionals, but I’m still unclear as to how, or if, it is introduced to teachers-in-training. People are writing about it, but I’m not sure if these are individual educators following their passion, or if they are speaking as representatives of educational programs.

So I put these questions out to you:

If we know how beneficial the reflective process is to learning, why isn’t it a part of every teacher’s education?

Was the reflective process a part of your training? If it was, what profession were you training for; where were you training; and what did the reflective process look like?

By helping me answer these questions, we can build a clearer picture of where teachers can go to study in institutions that values experiential learning and reflective practice. And if these places don’t really exist, maybe we can build that program together.

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4 thoughts on “Is the Reflective Process a New Concept for Teachers?

  1. Hello folks,

    I was also hoping to see more comments here too. Mostly because I thought it was an excellent question and one that I think deserves a lot of thought. On my MATESOL at the New School (home of Dewey and many former and current SIT folks) we had plenty of reflecting. We were always journaling and reflecting on what we were doing and reading and thinking. From my view it wasn’t really explicit in term of the ELC…which could be seen as a major difference. I don’t think that there was explicit focus on how to reflect but there were plenty of chances for it.

    As a sort of a reflective junkie who enjoys journaling and thinking “aloud” through typing I totally loved it. I do remember some people expressing that they were tired of journaling as it was a part of many courses.

    I find myself wondering how explicit teacher educators might be in order to best help teachers develop (during and beyond courses).

    Thanks for the question/pose Josette. Very interesting!

    1. Thank you for your input Mike! I didn’t realize that Dewey was connected to the New School. Interesting.

      I connected to what you said about wondering how explicit teacher educators need to be about the reflective process. When I first started training, I was VERY explicit. Then I realized that explaining the process (ร  la Kolb) was a bit too much information for my participants. Now I just ask them basic reflective questions without explicitly saying that they are now involved in a process of experiential learning. I think it is valuable to feel the process first, and then bring it up more explicitly if I see the need.

      Did you ever feel that you needed more explicit instruction on the process, or were you happy reflecting in your own way?

      Happy reflecting!

  2. My teaching career began with training in the reflective process. I was fortunate enough to have chosen the SIT TESOL Certificate for my initial training program. It was a great excuse to spend the summer in Barcelona, even though I only got to the beach twice! On the course, in addition to learning best practices in teaching and getting real teaching experience we were taught how to use Kolbโ€™s Experiential Learning Cycle to reflect on and learn from our teaching and learning experiences. The course provided a primary and deliberate focus to reflective practice in order to create teachers who were able to continue growing and developing long after the initial intensive month of coursework was finished. I was so moved by the course that I have since completed the SIT MA TESOL program and become a Licensed SIT TESOL Trainer. Like you, Iโ€™m interested to hearing what how other courses treat reflective practice.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Kevin. It seems we may be the only ones who went through this kind of program :P I was hoping for more feedback.

      I like how you summed up the fact that when the reflective process is taught it is to provide teachers with the tools to keep developing well after formal schooling or training is over. If this process is not taught, then it is simply up to individual teachers to develop interest in the concept. Knowing how much it has helped me grow, I would love to think that it would be a crucial element of any teaching degree. At least this way every teacher could make an informed decision to either accept or reject the process.

      Of course if they reject it, they won’t be teaching at your school :P

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