The Reflective Practitioner

In Education, Educational Technology

What kind of teacher are you? Have you ever asked yourself that question? It’s trickier than you think. In his book The Good Teacher, Alex Moore offers a critique of the three dominant categorisations of teachers1, on which the three descriptions below are based:

The charismatic subject – These teachers are born, not made. They do things their own way and don’t play by the rules. They are institutional rebels who rely on their natural ability to lead and engage their pupils. They only put together a lesson plan if there is an inspection, and that if they can be bothered. Think Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society effortlessly inspiring his students to a love of poetry.

The competent crafts person – These teachers are made, not born. These teachers beaver away in the staff-room behind piles of  exercise books worried about the latest assessment for learning initiative. Their lessons are strictly timed and defined by carefully devised lesson plans. They read books on classroom management techniques and worry about whether their subject knowledge is good enough to teach at A-Level.

The reflective practitioner – These teachers are neither made nor born, they become. They question assumptions and established practices. They don’t treat pedagogical theories as gospel and understand that they and their students, who happen to be people as well, are in it together. They reflect and adapt their practice as necessary, even if school policy is yet to catch up.

Although categorisations such as these inevitably are generalisations, that is not to say they should be ignored. They are certainly thought-provoking: If charismatic teachers are born, does professional development not play a role? Are über-competent teachers so engrossed in becoming masters of their craft that they ignore the needs of their pupils?

The answer is, of course, no. Why can we not be charismatic, competent and reflexive all at once?

If I were to have to choose one of these categories for myself, I would definitely pick the third one. I would like to be a reflective practitioner.

But how does a reflective practitioner reflect? I find that I am relying more and more on blogging and micro-blogging – mainly on Twitter – to reflect on my own teaching practice. That doesn’t mean I eschew face-to-face exchanges of views and late-night pillow consultations. I just find that, especially by blogging, I can be more open – as well as truthful to myself – and lay bare my ignorance in the hope a kind reader might entertain a discussion that would help to fill the numerous gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the issues in which I take an interest.

It is therefore dispiriting to find myself often defending this most reflective of activities from those who think that only those who enjoy the sound of their own voices indulge in the ego trip that is blogging. Absolutely nothing further from the truth. In my experience, the teacher-bloggers I have met in person tend to be sensitive, thoughtful and considerate people who are committed to their profession, life-long learning and reflective practice.

In a recent blog post, Martin Weller wrote: “In terms of intellectual fulfillment, creativity, networking, impact, productivity, and overall benefit to my scholarly life, blogging wins hands down. [...] Blogging tops the list because of its room for experimentation and potential to connect to timely intelligent debate.”

I couldn’t agree more.

What do you think?

Many thanks to Mr Strangestain for the photograph

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6 Comments

  1. Just got around to commenting; thanks for sharing the ideas. I too find both twitter and blogging really help with my reflection. I’d suggest that perhaps the first two archetypes are how we might start off in teaching – how we assume teaching will be. They may also be how we appear to our students, and perhaps even to our colleagues. To make progress, however, I think we must all reflect. For some this may happen internally – even subconsciously – but it still happens, at some level. By making it explicit, we make it more effective. Twitter and Blogging allow us to share our thoughts with colleagues both near and far, in a much less threatening way than starting a staff room conversation. And, if we choose to do so, anonymously!

  2. Ian makes a very valid point when he says that “the first two archetypes are how we might start off in teaching”.  I would suggest that many current reflective practitioners in education have at least 10 years experience in the classroom behind them and have been intrapersonal reflectors for many years, their thoughts not really having an audience beyond those that they may meet in their own schools or at the occasional networking conference.  The multiple use blog has become a tool for those thoughts to be aired with a wider audience, alongside the opportunity to place learning tools for students.  By seeing many other educators so passionate and knowledgeable about their craft, your own sense of purpose and enthusiasm grow.  If we could engage our students to reflect on each others work so critically at an early age……… 

  3. Gostei muito do artigo! Sou coordenadora pedagógica da EJA ( EDUCAÇÃO DE JOVENS E ADULTOS ) aqui no Brasil e acho extremamente importante refletirmos constantemente sobre a nossa prática. Em minha escola desenvolvemos um BLOG que retratam párticas pedagógicas desenvolvidas com os alunos sobre temas diversos. Confira! aCESSE :
    http://serejaseculoxxi.blogspot.com.br/
    Um abraço, Cristina.

  4. Wow, how far we have come as a profession. I don’t think when I was in high school in the 1070’s any teacher reflected on anything. Sometimes I do bump into my old high school teachers (the ones that are still alive!) and teaching was so different then. very dictatorial. Thank goodness today for reflective practices. It should be a part of everyone’s daily routine. Evernote is good for that instant recording of reflection on lessons.

    Blogging has certainly opened my eyes to my failings as a teacher and given me some fantastic ideas that I have implemented later on in my classroom. I also enjoy Twitter. I find it a daily trade journal of resources and ideas that is on tap 24/7. Sure beats the old style teaching journals that currently prop up the broken end of the couch in the living room!

    In a nutshell – blogging and Twitter allow us to share good practice on a daily basis and sometimes sadly that is lacking in the staff rooms of schools… on a daily basis.

Your feedback is always welcome