Reflection is the ability for someone to be able to reflect on their actions thus allowing them to continuously learn. It can also be seen as a critical reflection and/or a way of improving or changing the way that something is done or how we behave.
Boud et al stated:- "Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it. It is working with experience that is important in learning."
Within the learning environment reflective practice is a crucial part. It assists in both personal and professional development. The main benefits of reflective practice include the ability for a teacher to have a better understanding of their own teaching style and effective they are as a teacher. In today's society with diversity a big topic reflection will also help to ensure that the lesson and teaching styles employed are diverse.
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However there are a few issues with the way that some reflections are done. These were researched by Boud and Walker (1988). They found that some people just pay lip service to reflection. Reflections also include a person's thoughts and feelings as well as the experience that they have gone through. It is also common for reflection not to be taken seriously. It was found that a teacher was able to obtain better reflections from students if the students felt that they were in a trusting environment rather than an untrusting one.
Donald Schon introduced the process of reflecting in 1983. He wrote a book called "the reflective practitioner,. however the concept of reflective practice is much older and John Dewey (1933) was one of the first to write about it. He had an interested in problem solving and wrote about exploration of experience, interaction and reflection. It is based around an experience and the user of the reflective practice analysing their experience and learning from them.
Schon was inspired by the work that Dewey produced and as such began to explore the boundaries of reflection and different models were introduced. He firstly wrote about "reflection on action" and then "reflection in action".
Reflection on action is where there has been an "experience" and the practitioner reflects on their reaction to the "experience" and then thinks about why they reacted
that way and the resulting consequences of their actions. This is usually done by way of a documented approach. (see appendix 1)
Reflection in action is the ability to 'think on their feet'. This is based around the practitioner being able to deal with a situation that arises and is able to draw upon their experience, feelings and emotions to deal with the situation there and then.
There are various models that can be used to reflect on a situation. These include:-
Kolbs 1984, 4 step model of reflection (Reece and Walker, 2006, p.92, fig. 2.18)
There is some debate about where this cycle starts. Kolb states that it runs in a clockwise direction and may begin at any given stage. It is a continuous wheel that can keep spinning. This is in contradiction to what Dewey (Dewey, 1993; Moon, 2003) state. He says that the cycle should begin with "Concrete Experience" which is a specific occurrence. Personally I feel that it should begin with a concrete experience as this is what is being reflected upon.
Research by Roffey-Barentson & Malthouse, (2009,P.7) suggests that this model is beneficial for teachers.
Graham Gibbs 1988 based his models around Kolbs but created more categories within it to aid the process.
If it arose again what would you do?
What were you thinking and feeling?
What was good and bad about the experience?
What else could you have done?
What sense can you make of the situation?
(Taken and adapted from Roffey-Barentson and Malthouse, 2009, p.7)
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This cycle is a lot more prescriptive that Kolb's and it may inhibit free though as it is more specific. Like Kolb's cycle this is a continuous cycle, it has no specific end point. I don't feel that Kolb's or Gibbs's cycle would suit everyone as some people need conclusion.
This is also a useful debriefing tool. It helps to keep debriefs structured.
Both of these models are used frequently within the department where I work. Kolbs cycle is used to enhance the level of student activity and involvement. Honey and Mumford (1982) linked different learning styles to each stage of the Kolbs Cycle and then different teaching strategies. (see appendix 2). These all help to make the lesson inclusive to all and ensure that everyone learns from the lesson.
It is a lengthy approach to the debrief process but as we say the learning comes from the debrief. A scenario can last a few minutes but the debrief 10-15 minutes or more depending.
When developing my lessons I know the students circumstances and needs. Our training is set out by the "Curriculum", this outlines the standards and training required. We run on a 2 year cycle so that all aspects of the curriculum are covered. The organisation I work for requires me to provide equal opportunities, value diversity, promote equality and inclusivity as well as not to be discriminatory towards any student providing them with a comfortable working environment. Using the cycle set out in Appendix 2 allows me to do that.
Gibbs Model is used during most debriefs that take place. As we are a firearms training centre nearly all aspects of training have a practical element to them that requires a structured debrief. This cycle is used to aid the process for both shooting and role play exercises.
For each of these models it is essential that the teacher or in this case Firearms instructor is occupationally competent in their role.
This is the ability for someone to do their job effectively. There are a number of skills that are used to improve performance they include knowledge, skills and behaviour. All instructors at the TTC (Tactical Training Centre) are well qualified and are competent to perform the role.
Each instructor is qualified to carry weapons and can be used operationally whenever required. Due to this it is essential that instructors maintain a good knowledge of operational procedures, time is allocated within the year planner for instructor training days. On these days instructors take part in refresher training to maintain these skills. The Curriculum governs everything we do and as a team we have team meetings to discuss changes and reflect on the practices ensuring that everyone is clear about the changes. As an instructor or student you should always be striving to learn more so that you can share his knowledge and move forward with the changing times. This in turn will make you more operationally competent.
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land amongst the stars"
(Les Brown, Educational Quotes for the 21st century page 3)
We use the evaluation sheets along with the instructor's personal reflection to improve training sessions and modify them accordingly. Instructors are encouraged to reflect using the EDAR cycle. This stands for Experience, Describe, Analyse and Revise.
"Students, especially adults, can provide invaluable information about your performance that cannot be collected from any other source"
(Reece, I Walker, S (2007:48)
Instructors are required to have a minimum of 120hrs contact time with the students in a 24 month period. A minimum of 60hrs should be instructing tactics and 60hrs range work. This is to maintain a good skill level. As an instructor you are assessed on a regular basis to make sure that you are competent in these areas. This is done by the head of centre, CFI and the evaluation officer to confirm that they meet the required NPFTC criteria.
A detailed portfolio is also kept by each instructor to document lesson and activities that they undertake. This is cross referenced with the National Firearms Instructor Accreditation needs. It is checked and signed by the CFI and Head of centre to ensure that each instructor is competent.
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On a personal level I use SWOT analysis (Brookfield, 1988) to evaluate and reflect on my current skills. This also helps me to identify areas where I can improve and develop. It also identifies areas where opportunities were not taken and the implications of this. Leading on from the SWOT analysis is the SMART action plan that assists in my personal development. Both of these are uncomplicated to use.
Another reflective practice available to us was devised by Ojanen (1993). He stated that group discussions about personal experiences relevant to the topic being taught will help the students and teacher to improve their practices. At the TTC we always try to ask for, and get, the students own experiences to help with the lesson. This becomes increasing relevant when doing more specialist training like, VIP, Medics training Rifle etc. It was found that by doing this both teacher and student learn.
"By three methods we may learn: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."
(Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC) Chinese Philosopher)
Critical reflection is also used when debriefing aspects of firearms. It first came about by Dewey in 1916. It is important that this type of reflection is conducted in a professional manner and that it uses the knowledge and experience of the instructor to discuss the scenario and guide them towards the necessary changes that maybe needed. This is quite a complex task that requires good orchestration by the instructor.
Thompson and Thompson (2008) discuss critical depth and breadth. Critical depth is the need to look beneath the surface and emphasise that things shouldn't be taken at face value. Critical breadth looks beyond narrow, individual factors and takes into account the sociological aspects of the situation. They go on to state that without depth the reflective practice may come across as insignificant and not get the points across and could be misleading. Without Critical breadth there is a possibility of not seeing the bigger picture.
This type of reflection is used frequently however some students take it personally and get very defensive and "stroppy" during this type of feedback. It has to be issued with tact and as the instructor I have found that you have to prevent yourself from getting involved in a heated discussion.
"The teachers' role in discussion is to keep it going along fruitful lines - be moderating, guiding, correcting and arguing like one more student"
(Mortimer Adler, The Paideia Proposal, Educational Quotes for the 21st century page 18 )
Self-evaluation is very important as it allows you to reflect on what you have delivered and the quality of it. From both your own reflection and the information gathered from your student's feedback you are able to make changes to areas within the lesson that may need adjustments for the next time that it is delivered to make them drop dead proof and flow better.
I keep a "Reflective Practical Journal" for my own personal action plans and Continual Professional Development; I am currently mid-way through a mentoring process that began when I first came to the Tactical Training Centre. Evaluation also helps with this process.
To complete the evaluating process I use EDAR:-
Experience:- Deliver the lesson or Experience.
Describe:- who was involved, what happened, when it happened and where.
Analyse:- Consider what happened
Revise:- Think how you would do it differently.
I feel that it is important to make the time to complete a reflective practical journal and find it useful to refer back to. When this document is reviewed by myself I pick out areas for development. The Tactical Training Centre has a high standard of teaching and the head of centre strives to ensure that each instructor continues to develop. He does this by ensuring that the instructors go on courses to maintain skill levels and also ensure that there are enough instructors to be "subject matter experts" in specialist areas.
Teaching standards are regularly checked by the head of centre who sits in on lessons and evaluates the training and how it is delivered. He encourages the instructional staff to make the lessons interesting and that all the students are involved in the training. The continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers is governed by the 2007 regulations regarding to CPD. This complements the aims set out by the Institute for Learning (IfL) to encourage teacher-centred development activities.
"CPD in relation to a teacher means continuing professional development, which is any activity undertaken for the purposes of updating knowledge of the subject taught and developing teaching skills."
I had a lengthy discussion with the Head of the Tactical Training centre who is an experienced teacher and Master Practitioner in NPL. We discussed the pros and cons of reflection and both came to the same conclusion that it is good to reflect however it is important to try not to make it to complicated.
He believes that everyone should reflect however, it is not the be all and end all. It is a useful aid to help teachesr to progress. If we don't reflect we don't learn. Reflection is all part of the experiential Learning practice. It can also have a tendency to stop some people from moving on. They get stuck in the past rather than trying to move on.
He feels that it is a useful tool and he tend to reflect quickly to try and prevent it becoming too negative. It is his belief that we should spend about Â¼ of our time reflecting and Â¾ of our time improving. However he does not have a preferred style of reflection but it is generally based around Kolbs (1984) 4 step model of reflection.
In the NLP world reflection is described as either moving away from something or moving towards something. It is all based around what you actually want to get from delivering something. This needs to be established prior to the lesson commencing. Reflection tends to be cognitive; people drop into it and revisit it at a late date.
We discussed and both agreed that reflection tends to be quite negative and we don't tend to focus on positive reflection. It is just as important to know why something has gone well and why it has gone well as it is to know why something hasn't gone as well. In our organisation positive reflection tends to be done in the form of "Evaluation".
Within our area of teaching reflection is conducted using Reflective Practical Journals, personal Portfolios, Personal Development Reviews, Peer observation and group discussion. Everyone helps each other out. For example the 2or 3 instructors selected to run a core session produce a package on the given topics. Once completed and signed of they deliver the session to the other Instructors in the office. This is so that any issues can be ironed out and addressed prior to it being delivered to the students. This also helps with keeping it uniformed and making sure that everyone is "singing off the same hymn sheet". If you are very close to something it is quite difficult to always see any issues. If you reflect on it as part of a team it came help open it up and make sure that the product to be delivered is of a high standard.
There are many purposes of a RPJ, these include:-
To record an experience
To learn from an experience
To develop critical thinking or the development of a questioning attitude
To increase the ability of reflection and thinking
To enhance problem-solving skills
To enhance reflective practice
For personal development and self-empowerment
For means of supporting behaviour change
Improves skills like numeracy, writing, reading, ICT skills etc
The list is endless.
"The act of writing is a great stimulus to creativity. When we are grappling with a problem, it is a common occurrence that in writing down our conscious thoughts on the question, useful associations and new ideas begin to emerge. Writing immediate thoughts makes more "room" for new avenues of thinking, new possibilities.
A Reflective Practical Journal (RPJ) is a reflective journal and can be used to help the author through a transitional phase of education or through a lengthy course such as an initial firearms course or during core training. If used correctly than can help you become a better teacher and help with professional awareness, personal development and self-awareness. They help to document strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges.
"The personal journal has been for hundreds of years to articulate the human drama of living and to explore new knowledge"
A RPJ should reflect the leaning experience that the author has had, what they have seen, what it felt like, how it was seen by others and how it could be done differently if at all. It is important that these entries can be understood and that they are dated to help recall when an event has occurred. They can be used to instigate either small or large changes to procedures or lesson using reflective practice.
I tend to be more of a critical reflector. I have chosen to use Gibbs reflective cycle for my reflection as I believe that it gives greater flexibility with fewer constraints than some of the other models. I have chosen a critical incident that occurred during core training for my reflection.
This session was being attended by AFO's and was a core 2 training session. The session was designed to allow the students to research a given topic and deliver their findings to the rest of the group by using some new technologies that are available to us. I am aware that AFO's don't tend to like to present things to others and I was expecting the session to be met with little enthusiasm.
The session went really well with some good enthusiasm shown. However I felt a little reticent about the whole thing. I wasn't sure why I felt like this so I decided to do a SWOT analysis chart (appendix 3). The headings are quite simplistic however too actually write below each heading can be quite complex from a critical perspective.
There is a potential to make the comments quite negative, the headings almost encourage this.
As I reflected on the Core session and examined the content, the delivery methods etc I knew that it had been delivered well and the learning outcomes had been covered. I still felt a little unhappy. So I began to look deeper into it and then it struck me. One of the students had been very quiet and just sat chewing gum looking uninterested. He actually performed well during the task but the more I thought about it the more it frustrated me. Why was he so uninterested? It was almost like he didn't want to be there.
By writing a SWOT analysis I was able to simplify my views, feelings and concerns and develop an action plan using the SMART model. (Appendix 4). Using these analysis's it helped me come to the conclusion that the reason for my uneasy feeling was that I was taking one students attitude personally.
"It is in the solitude of blank pages that adults can reflect on their life experiences, contemplate future directions, and come to trust more deeply in their own answers"
When, after some deliberation, i found that actually it was the student's issue. . I spoke to him the following day on a firearms detail and asked him what the problem was as he looked unhappy. He informed me that he didn't want to be there doing the training or even in the job. My worry had been for nothing, I had just taken it personally.
It is quite strange but without realising it I reflect on everything, not just things about work but also things in my personal life. Since becoming an Instructor I have been able to put these reflections into context. My reflections always appeared to be quite negative, with me doing something wrong or me having to change.
Since keeping a Reflective Practical Journal (RPJ) my reflections have become more reasoned and I am learning not just to reflect on the negative but also the positive things that occur. As my confidence is growing so is my ability to not be so critical of myself in my reflections.
"The personal journal has been used for hundreds of years to articulate the human drama of living and to explore new knowledge"
I don't only keep a RPJ but also a personal portfolio documenting teaching and training sessions that I take part in. These all form part of my Continual Personal and Professional Development. This is taken very seriously where I work and the inspector at the Tactical Training Centre takes each instructor personal development very seriously. He actively encourages us to do courses that will benefit us and the organisation. We have our lessons evaluated on a regular basis and any training issues or areas for improvement in a trainer's style and/or delivery can be addressed.
The Head of Centre and the Quality assurance and evaluation officer carry out level 1 & 2 evaluations by observing lessons being delivered for content, relevance and the delivery style. These are done on a regular basis. Following lessons the evaluation officer speaks with some students, questioning them on their thoughts on the training that they have received. The information is then collated and is fed back into the CFI and Head of Centre by means of a report during team meetings.
Level 3 & 4 assessments are carried out by independent assessors from external organisations. The feedback that they give is also collated and acted upon to inform and improve training.
There is a Firearms practitioner meeting held monthly that is attended by the Inspectors and Sergeants from the Operations and Training departments. The Quality assurance and evaluation officer also attends. Any training issues and needs or issues that have been flagged up by the OPS department are addressed at these meetings before being ratified and put into practice. This ensures standardisation between the two forces.
The Head of centre has just had the role of the firearms instructor for Durham and Cleveland updated. He has now included that all instructors should also be IOSH and CTTLS qualified as a minimum to be able to perform the role. He is also in the process of ensuring that staff maintain and improve within their occupational role by promoting up to date qualifications such as the TAQA assessor's course that is currently being rolled out. This confirms professional accreditation within curriculum compliant courses
Ultimately NPIA attend the centre and assess the work carried out at there. They have recently attended and assessed the centre. They checked lesson plans, Instructors portfolios, practitioner meeting minutes and managerial minutes. They can stipulate if they deem it necessary that more assessment criteria be put in place and can advise that instructor do more academic qualifications in line with educational standards.
All these procedures ensure that all the instructors and training is delivered to a very high standard. This was apparent in the latest inspection where NPIA rated the centre as one of the top 3 in the country.
On top of that each instructor completes a Personal Development Review (PDR) that is looked at annually by the sergeant, inspector and other members of the senior management team. These also outline good and bad practice as well as any other training needs or requirements.
In the future I would like to develop my own confidence. There are opportunities now for some of the instructors to go on NLP courses. I feel that this would be beneficial for me and aid me in my future career as a teacher. I have highlighted this on my PDR and discussed it with the Head of Centre who is very supportive of this.
See Appendix 4 for my SWAT analysis.
Reflective learning Journal
Significant event or incident
Who, what, When, Where
Why, how (impact on teaching and learning)
Changes and/or improvements required
Stages in Kolbs Model
Honey &Mumford Learning Styles
Teaching Strategies for each stage
Direct practical experience
Activist - Prefers doing
Hands on approach, lab or practical session, simulation, taking notes, observation, visits - field trips, project, role play, debate
Reflective Observation -
Reflect, describe, communicate and learn from the experience.
Reflector - Observes and thinks about situation.
Discussion, personal development diary or log, tutorials, case study, one to one.
Abstract Conceptualisation - Use models and theories to draw conclusions.
Theorist - Needs to understand reasons, concepts, and relationships.
Lecture, seminar, discussion, reading.
Active Experimentation - Testing those rules, apply to new learning experiences.
Pragmatist - Have a go, try out to see if they work.
Experiment, simulation, buzz group.
(taken from table linking Kolbs 4 stage model with Homey & Mumford Learning Styles and Identification of Teaching Methods for each stage. Fig 2.21
I am very creative and planned the lesson well which was borne out by the results that were achieved by the session. Due to this creativity I was able to talk to the various groups of students and encourage them to embrace the session and help them to decide what technology that they were going to use to impart the information on the other students.
I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and I take things to personal. If someone is negative in a lesson I tend to take it personal rather than look at the bigger picture.
I deal with students on a daily basis and will be involved in many situations where my ability to deal with negativity will be tested.
I will constantly worry that I have done something wrong. This will then have an impact on my confidence and will in turn have a negative effect on my ability to teach effectively. The students will eventually pick up on my concerns.
I would like to improve my ability to not take negative attitudes or responses personally. This is very relevant for my role as a "teacher" and it will also help me greatly in every aspect of my life both in and outside of work
I will be able to measure this by keeping an up to date reflective diary on each day of teaching that I do. I will include my personal feelings about how I feel the day went and any concerns that I have. I will monitor these along with my tutor and discuss possible reasons as to why I feel that way.
This is achievable as I have time at the end of each day that I use to complete my portfolio and can incorporate filling in a diary as part of it.
This is relevant to my role as a firearms instructor. It will help me to improve and come across more professional to the students by not wearing my heart on my sleeve.