INDICATOR IV-A-1: Reflective Practice


Prepared by Karen Schwartz for WGEE and the DESE


Indicator IV-A-1: Reflective Practice insists that a teacher with proficiency in this area regularly reflects on the effectiveness of lessons, units, and interactions with students, both individually and with colleagues, and uses insights gained to improve practice and student learning.

In the forward to  At The Heart of Teaching – A Guide to Reflective Practice
– Mike Rose writes, “teaching is a complex, ever-evolving activity, wrought from disciplinary knowledge, human encounter, and institutional negotiation, and doing it well means thinking hard about it, weighing, deliberating, and asking others for their take on your action. It means that we sometimes nail it, do the right thing, and foster the kind of intellectual and social growth we desire. And, it means that at other times we are less successful, OK maybe, muddle through, stumble terribly. But such is the nature of this remarkable, difficult, rewarding work. And, thus, it demands reflection.”  While this may seem a straightforward task, busy teachers and administrators well know that meaningful reflection on our work takes time and attention that can be challenging to find. That said research shows that reflective practice is crucial to teacher effectiveness and school improvement. If we are to teach with intention, then it is vital that we figure out how to examine what we do, why we do it, and how we can continuously improve to best meet the needs of our students. So what are the characteristics of a reflective practitioner?  How do we find opportunities to incorporate reflective practice in our already demanding and full teaching lives?  What opportunities exist in schools for reflective practice: individually? with partners? in small groups/teams? school-wide? How can use of technology assist teachers and teacher leaders to find the time/space necessary to reflect and improve upon their work?The following compilation of vignettes, video-clips, reflection tools, and supporting web links/articles provides teachers, administrators, and evaluators with a clear sense of what proficiency with Indicator IV-A-1: Reflective Practice could look like.

Characteristics of a Reflective Practitioner: **

• Is committed to continuous improvement in practice

• Assumes responsibility for his or her own learning

• Demonstrates awareness of self, others, and the surrounding context

• Develops the thinking skills for effective inquiry

• Takes action that aligns with new understandings

• Is fully present with oneself and others

• Is open to multiple perspectives and can hear different views as valid ways of thinking, not as threats

• Listens without judgment and with empathy

• Seeks mutual understanding, thus promoting trust (a foundation for reflective practice)

• Views learning as mutual and understands that we can learn from people both with more and less experience than ourselves.

** Inspired and taken from Reflective Practice to Improve Schools – An Action Guide for Educator

Vignette #1   –  Julia is a fifth year high school teacher who would like to improve her students’ attentiveness and engagement in class. She describes how she reflects on her practice using professional resources and changes her students’ learning environment with positive results.

Vignette #2    Shared goals and a search for effective camaraderie bring history teachers, Pam and Suzanne, together for a reflective partnership that positively impacts student work in both of their classrooms. They share the significance of finding a compatible partner, some of the elements that make a partnership thrive, and ideas for what partners can do to support each other’s reflective practice.

Vignette #3   –  A Critical Friends Group at a K-5 school gathers to examine a piece of student work. By following an established protocol for reflection, teachers find safe space for individual and group reflection that has positive implications for their growth and student learning.

Vignette #4  –  A veteran middle school science teacher shares how journaling “the old fashioned” way remains a convenient habit of reflective practice that impacts how he tweaks and designs each of his classes to best meet his students’ needs. Creating “parallel reflection writing” time with his students at the end of each class gives them all a chance to respond in the “heat of the moment.”

Vignette #5 –  A high school science department creates a common language and practice to reflect on classes and shares the valuable insights gained from taking this weekly “journal writing pause.”

Vignette #6  –  A sixth grade social studies teacher sees strides in student learning when he consistently reflects upon the closure activities that he uses at the end of each class to re-think or plan the next lesson.

Vignette #7  –  A high school Spanish teacher embraces feedback from the audience that sees and knows his teaching most intimately – his students! No longer reserved for college courses, mid-semester and end of course evaluations can serve as important tools for teacher reflection. As with daily closure activities, unless a teacher takes the time to make an “action plan” based on his/her reflection on the feedback, it does not serve its truest purpose.

Vignette #8   –  A first grade teacher videotapes her classroom as a means of self-study and as a way of getting feedback from her more seasoned colleagues.

Vignette #9   –  For twenty years, a monthly oasis for deep and powerful reflection has opened its doors to any and all who are involved in education work. Lured by a chance to slow down and reflect with a wide range of people in the field, urban elementary teacher “Amy,” started going to ROUNDS five years ago. These monthly Saturday morning gatherings over bagels and coffee have offered the “nourishment” that she needs to “fill her teaching soul,” especially during the more demanding and stressful times of change in her school and in the world.

Vignette #10  –  A K-8 school promotes a process of school-wide reflection that brings administrators, teachers, parents, and students together to grapple with an influx of bullying and social tension in their school.


In the introduction to his Taxonomy of Reflection, Peter Pappas claims, “Reflection can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not something that’s fostered in school – typically someone else tells you how you’re doing! Teachers are often so caught up in the meeting the demands of the day, that they rarely have the luxury to muse on how things went. Moreover, teaching can be an isolating profession – one that dictates ‘custodial’ time with students over ‘collaborative’ time with peers.”  In his effort to help schools become more reflective learning environments, he developed a “Taxonomy of Reflection” – modeled on Bloom’s approach.  It’s posted in four installments: 1. A Taxonomy of Reflection, 2. The Reflective Student, 3. The Reflective Teacher, and 4. The Reflective Principal. The questions he raises in each installment serve as excellent and provoking guides to help inspire reflective practice. At the very least, check out Pappas’s  Prezi Tour of the Taxonomy.

Reflecting on Our Practice  –  This is an hour long program from Annenberg Media that shows various elements of reflective practice at work in a middle school. Teachers connect with other teachers and classrooms in order to integrate practice, reflect on their work, and improve what goes on in their school. The culture of collaboration here is palpable. Here are some of the questions that this “interactive” training video poses to its audience:

• How and when do you reflect on your teaching practice?

• How do teachers at your school typically reflect on their practice?

• Is there space for formal reflection at your school?

• How do you feel this affects your practice?

• How could you work with a colleague to evaluate your instruction?

• How can your colleagues help you improve your teaching?

• How can group reflection assist in planning integrated instruction?

• How can you improve your practice by engaging in structured discussions with colleagues

Hall McEntee, Grace, Appleby, Jon, & Dowd, Joanne. At the Heart of Teaching: A Guide to Reflective Practice (The Series on School Reform). New York : Teachers College Press, 2003. ISBN: 0807743488    This book delves into reflection as a concept and provides specific, replicable tools for professional practice.

McDonald, Joseph P, Mohr, Nancy, & McDonald, Elizabeth C. The Power of Protocols: An Educator’s Guide to Better Practice (The Series on School Reform). New York : Teachers College Press, 2003. ISBN: 0807743615   This book describes nearly 30 protocols or “scripts” for conducting meetings, conversations, and other learning experiences among educators.

Sommers, William, Montie, Jo, & York-Barr, Jennifer. Reflective Practice to Improved Schools: A Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks , Calif. : Corwin Press. 2001. ISBN: 0761977635    The book provides a framework and strategies for supporting educators to continuously and meaningfully reflect on their practice—by themselves and with their colleague – to create schools in which both students and adults continually learn.

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