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Theories of Reflection in Teaching

1676 words (7 pages) Essay in Education

09/07/18 Education Reference this

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Understand the application of theories and models of reflection and evaluation to reviewing own practice.

  • Analyse theories and models of reflection and evaluation.
  • Explain ways in which theories and models of reflection and evaluation can be applied to reviewing own practice. (use SWOT analysis if possible)


Reflecting allows the teacher to mentally process, analyse and utilise an experiential knowledge in changing and replicating an outcome. The use of reflection allows the tutor to progress in their tuition. David Berliner (1992) indicates that the tutor advances in phases going from novice to expert

Donald Schon in his book – The Reflective Practice (1983) introduced reflective practice in which he used John Dewys learning through experience notion, based on other theories of learning and development like Jean Piaget, Kurt Lewin, William James and Carl Jung. Reflection according to Donald Schon is the ability of professionals to ‘think what they are doing while they are doing it’. He states that managing the indeterminate zones of professional practice requires the ability to think on the run and use previous experience to new conditions. This is important and needs the ability to reflect-in-action. As a teacher, I try to be student-centred, understanding, evidence-based and economical all at the same time. Schon also gives insight into how the reflective professional is ‘formed’. He describes the main ideas as:

Reflective Practicum: “A practicum is a setting created for the task of learning a practice” D. Schon (1983). This links to learners learning by doing, with the tutor’s assistance. The practicum is ‘reflective’ in two reasons: “it’s intention of helping learners becoming proficient in a type of reflection-in-action, and when it functions properly, it entails a tutor – learner dialogue of teacher taking the form of reciprocal reflection-in-action.” (Argyris and Schon 1978)

Tacit knowledge: arises from Michael Polanyi’s work where he describes the ability of picking out a familiar face in a crowd, without any thought, or a systematic features analysis. We cannot tell how this is done; hence the knowledge is ‘unspoken’ or ‘tacit’

Knowing-in-action: is also Schion’s idea which stems from the tacit knowledge concept. It is a type of knowledge that can be revealed in the manner we perform our duties and tackle problems. “The knowing is in the action. It is shown by the skilful execution of the performance – we are notably not able to make it verbally explicit.” This tacit knowledge is obtained from investigations and also from the practitioner’s own reflections and experience.

Reflection-in-action: occurs whilst a problem is being addressed, in what Schon termed the ‘action-present’. It is a response to a surprise – such that the expected outcome is out of our control. This reflective process is conscious, but may not be verbalised. Reflection-in-action is about challenging our assumptions (since knowing-in-action is the basis of assumption). It is about thinking again, in a new way, about an already encountered issue.

Reflection-on-action: is reflection after the event. Carefully carried out and recorded, willing suspension of disbelief. This phrase was made use of by Samuel Taylor Coleridge for describing the method of committing into an experience without judgement, in order to learn from it. Schon applies the term in association with the concept of learning by doing. “One cannot will oneself to ‘believe’ until one understands. But understanding often will only come from experience” D. Schon (1983). Hence there is a need for the experience to occur.

Operative attention: relates to the readiness to use new information. This concept is partly obtained from Wittgenstein’s contention that the meaning of an operation can only be learned through its performance. It prepares the student for feedback on that activity and builds understanding.

The Ladder of reflection:

Argyris and Schon describe a vertical dimension of analysis which occurs in the dialogue between student and tutor. In order to climb the ‘ladder’ you must reflect on an activity. In order to move down the ‘ladder’ you move from reflection to experimentation. This being a ‘ladder’, you can also reflect on the process of reflection.

From my point of view, this process assists to modify ‘stuck’ situations. Moving up or down the ladder is not essential as long as it assists tutor and learners in achieving together ‘convergence of meaning’.


Kolbs’ theory and model relies on the idea that the tutor and learner learn by experience and then modify collected information into knowledge. Kolb was encouraged by both Dewy and Piaget in the 1970’s as were many other theories.

Concrete Experience (doing/having an experience): is the ‘doing’ part which arises from the content and process of the classroom tuition together with other teaching duties and practices. Concrete experience also arises from one’s own experience of being a learner.

Reflective Observation (reviewing/reflecting on the experience): associates with analysis and judgements of events and the discussion about the learning and teaching between tutor, mentor and colleagues. Tutors reflect on their teaching experiences specifically when they are not experienced and have seen a lesson that did not progress well. This may be called ‘common-sense reflection’. It is essential to express our reflections in some systematic way in order not to forget thoughts and develop on that experience for further reference. This might be carried out through self-reflections or evaluations after the event through keeping a log or journal. It might also include learner feedback and peer observation of teaching.

Reflection in itself is not enough for promoting learning and professional development. Unless acted upon, reflection on its own without an action equals no development.

Abstract Conceptualisation (concluding/learning from the experience): In order to plan what could be done differently next time, one must be informed by educational theory and advancement, for example, through CPD. Reflection is therefore a middle ground that brings together theories and analysis of past experiences. It allows a conclusion referring to practice.

Active Experimentation (planning/trying out what you have learned): The conclusions formed at the ‘Abstract Conceptualisation’ phase then create the basis for planned changes – ‘Active Experimentation’. ‘Active Experimentation’ then begins the cycle again; To implement change in teaching practice, one generates further concrete experience which in turn creates reflection and review to form conclusions referent to the effectiveness of those changes.



  • Skills: Organization, interpersonal communication, problem solving, multitasking, and creative abilities.
  • Education: Postgraduate degree, Diploma in Education & Training (in view)
  • Experience: One year teaching experience
  • Networking: Have kept contact with teaching colleagues
  • Character traits: Determined, hardworking, motivated, enduring, loyal, trustworthy, thrifty, and resourceful.
  • Gaps in experience: One year teaching experience which might not be enough for senior roles in the education sector. Not yet achieved a Qualified Teacher Status
  • Gaps in networking: Need to know a wide range of key players in the education sector.



  • Technology: Online marketing, YouTube, mass communication
  • Legislation: Government favours education sector
  • Economy: May be buoyant for career growth.
  • Demographics of Population: Large population, city, lots of job opportunities.
  • Geographical: Schools and FE colleges are in the area.
  • Sectors: Much growth in high-tech and hospitality sectors.
  • Legislation: Government regulations restrict some education institution practices in pending privacy laws.
  • Social Values: Some people may discriminate against being a democrat in a republican state.
  • Economy: Current situations are terrible, unemployment is sky high.
  • Demographics of Population: because I live in a crowded area there is more competition.
  • Geographical: May have to move out of state to get a job.

In analysing Kolb’s theory model, I observed that it hugely depends on ‘trying and re-trying’ of the complete instead of the step-by-step approach preferred by Argyris and Schon, the pitfalls are in the detection of small errors that lead to the complete inefficiency that could become enormous making smaller detail to be overlooked. The impact of the above-mentioned theories, models and principles amongst others is obvious in the reflective tutor and in my own practice, reflection is an importance aspect of my practice and Schon’s Ladder of reflection is an easy means of quantifying and analysing the advances and shortcomings of my practice, paving way for assessment and re-assessment of small aspects of teaching to be analysed and modified without changing the main part of the content and delivery.


Argyris, C., & Schon, D.  (1978) Organisational learning: A theory of action perspective.  Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.

Berliner, D. (Ed.). (1992). Exemplary performances: Studies of expertise in teaching.

Reston, VA: The National Art Education Association.

Dewy, J. (19930 “How we think. A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process”. (revised edition), Boston: D. C. Heath.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) ‘Experiential Learning experience as a source of learning and development’, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith

Schon, D. (1991) ‘The Reflective Practitioner How Professionals Think in Action’, London: Avebury

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