2. Reflective Practice

“Reflective Practice is the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. It is one of the defining characteristics of learning practice.”

— The Reflective Practitioner (Donald Schön,1983)

According to one definition it involves “paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining learning practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight.” – Reflective Practice, Writing and Professional Development (Gillie Bolton, 2010)

Reflective Practice is an essential tool in task-based language learning (TBLL) contexts, where individuals learn from their own experiences, rather than from formal teaching or knowledge transfer. It may be the most significant source of personal language and communication development and improvement. However, the question of how best to learn from experience has wider relevance to any organizational learning environment.

Graham Gibbs (1988) presents the stages of a structured reflection — Experience > Description > Feelings > Evaluation > Analysis > Conclusions > Plans — as follows:

  1. Initial experience: e.g. completing a learner centred collaborative task.
  2. Description: What happened? Don’t make judgements yet or try to draw conclusions; simply describe.
  3. Feelings: What were your reactions and feelings? Again don’t move on to analysing these yet.
  4. Evaluation: What was good or bad about the experience? Make value judgements.
  5. Analysis: What sense can you make of the situation? Bring in ideas from outside the experience to help you. What was really going on? Were different people’s experiences similar or different in important ways?
  6. Conclusions (general): What can be concluded, in a general sense, from these experiences and the analyses you have undertaken?
  7. Conclusions (specific): What can be concluded about your own specific, unique, personal situation or way of working?
  8. Personal action plans: What are you going to do differently in this type of situation next time? What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learned?

 Useful links

Learning and Teaching: Reflective Practice (Atherton J S, 2011)

Reflective Practice and Professional Development (Ferraro, Joan M, 2000)

Thomas S C Farrell Reflecting on Reflective Practice (Video running time approx. 50 mins, 2012)