Introducing Reflective Practice
ۡ ٍ۬ َ َ َ
إِن فِى ذٲلِك َلَيَ ٰـت لِّقَو ٍ۬م يَتَفَكرُون
َ َّ َّ
Why is Reflective Practice Important?
Teacher improvement is based upon the principle of REFLECTIVE PRACTICE (RP).
More than that, RP is a highly effective tool that will help you throughout your studies at BTC,
throughout your professional work (“practice”) as a teacher, and in any Professional Development
work or higher qualifications you will do in order to get promotion. So, it is important that you
become familiar with RP and understand how it works as soon as possible.
How can we conceptualise Reflective Practice in Arabic?
RP can be thought of as “thinking and doing”, “thinking while doing”, or “reflection-in-action”.
The Arabic words which are closest to the English word “reflection” are تفكيرor تفكرor perhaps تأمل
We can think of “practice” as تطبيقmeaning “to do something practically. So in one sense RP is
about the relationship between thinking and doing, and might be translated into Arabic as
The basic idea behind RP is familiar to us from the Holy Qur’an, where we encounter many
passages asking us to think or reflect about the world we see around us and our relationship to it.
The passage quoted above comes from Surat Al Rum (Ayat 20). This passage suggests that
reflection on the love and tenderness we find in our family and private lives will reveal deeper
meanings to them.
We can also find similar passages asking us to think or reflect on things like our different
languages and skin colours, on night and day, life and death, the wonders of the natural creation.
In each case, the Qur’an suggests that if we reflect carefully on everyday things which we
sometimes take for granted, this reflection will reveal deeper and hidden meanings that will help
us in our lives.
Reflective Practice in the Classroom
When it comes to teaching and learning, RP enables us to do something similar. During a busy
day, it is easy to take what happens in the classroom for granted, to avoid thinking about it. If,
however, we take time to reflect carefully about our teaching and learning, we will begin to
understand what we are doing in a deeper and more meaningful way.
Where and why did Reflective Practice develop?
Reflective Practice as we understand it today developed in the United States of America during
the 1980s. The most important person behind the development of RP was the late Donald Schön
(1926-1997), who was Professor of Education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His
basic ideas were presented in his 1983 book The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think
in action. Since the 1980s, many other people have developed Schön’s ideas further, and today
RP is one of the most fundamental ideas in teacher education.
Schön was concerned that a purely technical, theory-led education was failing to prepare
students for professional work (“practice). In the 1960s and 1970s there was a big emphasis on
teaching students lots of scientific and semi-scientific theories, and it was supposed that just by
knowing these theories students would learn enough to become good professional workers.
But this theory-led approach wasn’t much practical help when it came to helping new
professionals to understand how they were actually supposed to do their jobs, and how they were
to develop and improve their practice throughout their professional lives.
This led to a crisis of confidence in traditional approaches in professional education. People
began to lose confidence in professional education, because it wasn’t helping people to become
good professional practitioners.
Schön called this theory-led approach technical rationality. He wasn’t against theory, or
technology, or rationality. But he thought that these things on their own were not enough to make
sure that trainee professionals received an effective education in how to do their jobs.
In order to work out what to do about this, Schön carefully observed what real professionals did in
their working lives: how they improved and developed their practice; how they thought critically
about their work; how they learned from their mistakes; and how they solved problems.
To do this, Schön carefully observed people working in a wide variety of professions, including
Education; but he also looked at how Architects, Managers, Medical Doctors, Psychotherapists
and Scientists worked in real-life situations.
He noticed that in all these professions, good practitioners didn’t just learn lots of theories.
Rather, they carefully observed what they were doing, thought carefully about what they were
doing, and how they felt when doing it, and then changed or developed their practice in the light
of these reflections. It occurred to Schön that however technical the work of these professionals
was, good practitioners were not just technicians. Rather, the way they related to their work also
had something in common with the way artists work, by having a “reflective conversation”
between themselves and the situation they were working in.
Schön called this process reflection-in-action, to stress the close relationship between reflecting
and doing: in Reflective Practice reflection always should be aimed at action, to improving things
in the real world of professional work; this action then leads to more reflection, which in turn leads
to better action. Understood properly, RP is a powerful tool to help us improve what we do and
how we do it, because it creates a “virtuous circle”, where good reflection leads to better action.
You are expected to begin this process during your Teaching Practice assignments at BTC.
Reflective Practice at BTC
RP is at the very heart of teacher training at BTC. It’s important that you understand what it is,
and how it can help you develop professionally as teachers. In particular, RP is the key concept
underpinning your Teaching Practice Journals. In order to complete these journals properly, you
need to understand some simple things about RP:
Reflecting means thinking deeply about things that happen when you work as a teacher,
what you thought, what you felt, how your thoughts and feelings affected your work and
your relationships with students and colleagues
But reflection isn’t just thinking, it should lead to ideas for action, or better still, an action
plan that will help you to improve and develop your practice in a systematic way. In the
course of your TP placements, you will practice various different ways of doing this
Reflection should become a habit, it should become something you do all the time, and
integral part of “who you are” as a professional. It should also lead to a “virtuous circle”,
where good reflection leads to better practice, which in turn leads to new reflections, that
then lead to new and better ways of doing things, and so on and so forth
Reflection should help you develop your skills in problem solving and critical thinking. Real
reflection isn’t just description (although description might be part of it), it should help you
to think in new and more effective ways about how you should develop as a teacher.
Reflection isn’t just a “fair weather friend”. It isn’t enough just to reflect on the things that
go right for us. In fact, RP is often at its most valuable when we are dealing with problems,
negative thoughts and feelings, and things that didn’t seem to go well
To be real, RP has to happen in real time. So in your TP journals you will find weekly RP
tasks. These must be done weekly, co-operating where asked with peers, CTs,
supervisors, or BTC faulty.
New approaches to Reflective Practice
Since Donald Schön’s day, RP has become embedded as an essential element in the
preparation of effective professionals. This is particularly true of the medical profession, and of
Schön’s basic concepts have been developed, adapted and improved by hundreds of
practitioners in the field, and in countries like Australia, Britain and the United States virtually
every teacher trained since the late 1980s would have done RP in one form or another.
One of the most prominent thinkers on education to have developed Schön’s ideas is Kathleen
M. Bailey, Professor of Educational Linguistics at the Monterey Institute in California. In her 2005
paper Promoting our own Professional Development through Reflective Teaching Journals,
Bailey identifies several different types of RP, some of which might be relevant to the journals
you will complete at BTC:
Rapid Reflection: immediate and automatic reflection-in-action; “thinking on your feet”
Repair: thoughtful reflection-in-action aimed at fixing things that have gone wrong
Review: less formal reflection-in-action, “playing events over in your mind”, without
necessarily making diagrams or writing up action plans
Research: systematic reflection-in-action over a longer period of time, leading to the
production of written reports or studies; “action research”
Re-theorizing: using reflection-in-action to improve on theories or theoretical knowledge
Reformulating: using reflection-in-action to arrive at new and better ways of doing things
All of these kinds of reflection-in-action might be useful for your TP journals. But it is important to
ensure you begin the process of RP as soon as possible during your time at BTC.
If you have any difficulties either with understanding what RP is, applying it to your Teaching
Practice, or writing up your journal entries, it is very important that you seek help and clarification.
It might help if you look up Reflective Practice in the library or on-line during private study time. It
might also help if you read some of the books or articles written by Donald Schön or Kathleen
Bailey, they should be easy to find either in the library or on-line.
Other people who have written about RP include Joachim Appel, Leo Bartlett, Andy Curtis, Daniel
P Liston, Jo McDonough, Carol Numrich, David Nunan, Robert Ochner, Jack C. Richards, Vivian
Paley, Mary Ann Telatnik, Deryn P. Verity, and Kenneth Zeichner. It is good practice to read as
widely around the subjects you are studying as possible.
RP is a well established practice around the world, not just in “Western” countries, but also in
places like Malaysia, Japan, and Singapore. However, outside of a few elite institutions like the
American Universities of Cairo and Beirut, RP is relatively new in the Gulf region and the Arab
World in general.
Therefore you can see yourself as pioneers, introducing into Bahrain, the Gulf region, and the
Arab World beyond new approaches that will ensure that teacher education, and therefore the
educational futures of our children and grandchildren, develop in such a way as to help us all
take advantages of the opportunities and respond positively to the challenges that the twenty-first
century has in store for us.