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Reflective Teaching 
ByThomas Farrell   posted on01 Aug, 12 9974 Views 0 Comments Special Feature Add to favorite

Reflective practice is becoming a dominant paradigm in ESL/EFL teacher education programmes worldwide. Reflection-in-teaching refers to teachers subjecting their beliefs and practices of teaching to a critical analysis. However, the concept of reflective teaching is not clearly defined, and a plethora of different approaches with sometimes confusing meanings have been pushed in teacher education programmes. This article reviews some current approaches to reflective teaching and then suggests a method of providing opportunities for ESL/EFL teachers to reflect on their work. The article seeks to examine: 1) reflective teaching and critically reflective teaching and, 2) the different approaches to reflective teaching. Five components of a teacher development model that can provide opportunities for practising ESL/EFL teachers are discussed.

One day a young girl was watching her mother cooking a roast of beef. Just before the mother put the roast in the pot, she cut a slice off the end. The ever observant daughter asked her mother why she had done that, and the mother responded that her grandmother had always done it. Later that same afternoon, the mother was curious, so she called her mother and asked her the same question. Her mother, the child’s grandmother, said that in her day she had to trim the roasts because they were usually too big for a regular pot.

Teaching without any reflection can lead to “…cutting the slice off the roast,” and can also lead to burnout on the job. One way of identifying routine and of counteraction burnout is to engage in reflective teaching.

What is reflection?

In a review of the literature on reflective teaching, one discovers that there is much variance in the definition. Pennington (1992:47) defines reflective teaching as “deliberating on experience, and that of mirroring experience.” She also extends this idea to reflective learning. Pennington (1992:47) relates development to reflection where “reflection is viewed as the input for development while also reflection is viewed as the output of development.” Pennington (1992:51) further proposes a reflective/developmental orientation “as a means for (1) improving classroom processes and outcomes, and (2) developing confident, self-motivated teachers and learners.” The focus here is on analysis, feedback, and adaptation as an on-going and recursive cycle in the classroom.

Richards (1990:5) sees reflection as a key component of teacher development. He says that self- inquiry and critical thinking can "help teachers move from a level where they may be guided largely by impulse, intuition, or routine, to a level where their actions are guided by reflection and critical thinking." In referring to critical reflection in an interview with Farrell (1995:95), Richards says:

“Critical reflection refers to an activity or process in which experience is recalled, considered, and evaluated, usually in relation to a broader purpose. It is a response to a past experience and involves conscious recall and examination of the experience as a basis for evaluation and decision-making and as a source for planning and action.”

Outside TESOL, the terms involving reflection become less clear. The definitions move from simply looking at the behavioural aspects of teaching, to the beliefs and knowledge these acts of teaching are based on, to the deeper social meaning the act of teaching has on the community.

According to Zeichner and Liston (1987:34) reflective action “entails the active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge. Routine action is guided primarily by tradition, external authority, and circumstances.” Zeichner and Liston (1987:87) define teaching as “taking place when someone (a teacher) is teaching someone (a student) about something (a curriculum) at some place and sometime (a milieu).” Dewey (1933:9) sees a further distinction in teaching when he says “routine teaching takes place when the means are problematic but the ends are taken for granted.” However, he sees reflective action as entailing “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it and the further consequences to which it leads.”

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