A critical reflection of my non-critical reflection

The damp squib of formal appraisal

My reflective practice has been a bit of a damp squib until now and has been applied in the mechanical and simplistic manner doomed to fail (Finlay, 2008, p2).

The only time I reflected on my practice was when I was  ‘required’ to do so  as part of a formal appraisal process. I would dutifully fill in the prescriptive booklet only for someone up the chain to lose it or give it a perfunctory glance before filing it away as another bureaucratic task completed.  I was a busy professional, working with other busy professionals, in an environment where time is short and reflecting on practice was not a priority.

Consequently reflection was applied in the  bland, mechanical, unthinking ways typical of such situations (Finlay, 2008, p.1)

My reflections were unsuccessful because:

I was stuck in the ‘Introspection’ mode  (Finlay, 2008, p.6)  I was essentially carrying out a dialogue with myself in an attempt to rationalise away my flaws.  With no one to challenge my assumptions I was simply stagnating.

They were carried out with a FIXED MINDSET.   As an experienced teacher, stuck in a fixed mindset, I suffered from ‘professional arrogance’ and did not feel that it was necessary to carry out individual reflections.  I felt that I  knew pretty much all there was to know already and consequently I did not value the reflection process.  It was something I was forced to do and as Boud, Keogh, & Walker (1985) observe ‘forced reflection does not work and creates a negative response’.


Looking Forward:  There are many models I could use for future reflective practice, but all will fail unless I move forward with a growth mindset. I need to  begin taking ownership of the reflection process and become both accountable and responsible for its success  (Upton, 2012). I intend to do this whilst experimenting with different reflection models. Finlay (2008) points out that “Models need to be applied selectively, purposefully, flexibly and judiciously.” (p.10)   Whilst doing this I will be guided by three principles extrapolated from Finlay:

Reflection must be critical     This is the central theme of Finlays’s article.  According to Larrivve (2000), ‘Unless teachers develop the practice of critical reflection, they stay trapped in unexamined judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and expectations.’  (p.293)  I was trapped here for 20 years.   In future I will question assumptions;  develop a  social rather than individual focus and pay attention to the analysis of power relations and ideas concerning the pursuit of emancipation (Reynolds, 1998).

I should Reflect IN action not just OF action –   Schon refers to this as ‘ The core of professional artistry’ (1993).  The key point is that reflection is ongoing, frequent,  not an isolated event but ingrained into daily practice.  Experiences and responses are analysed as they occur. (Finlay, 2003)    Dawson (2010) makes some good suggestions: keep it short,  keep it simple,  respond immediately.  Technology could be useful here – for example recording reflections on using voicerecorder after a lesson rather than providing detailed written accounts.  It is important to move away from positivist paradigms with an emphasis on quantative data, and accept that things are messy and that qualitative data is highly relevant.  (Finlay, 2008, p.4)

Reflection should be collaborative: Discussion is essential in order to challenge assumptions and move away from ‘introspection’.  A quick discussion  following a lesson can be more helpful than a lengthy analysis weeks later.The use of reflective blogs could be very also, especially when open to other teachers to comment upon. Peer learning groups (CoPs) are essential for meaningful reflection. (Dawson, 2010).


Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). Promoting reflection in learning: a model. In Reflection, turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page.

Dawson, P. (2010, October 10). Reflective practice [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1aYWbLj0U8

Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: How you can fulfill your potential. London: Robinson.

Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on reflective practice. PBPL. Retrieved from http://www.open.ac.uk/opencetl/files/opencetl/file/ecms/web-content/Finlay-%282008%29-Reflecting-on-reflective-practice-PBPL-paper-52.pdf

Larrivee, B. (2000). Transforming teaching practice: becoming the critically reflective teacher. Reflective Practice, 1(3), 293-307. doi:10.1080/713693162

Reynolds, M. (1998). Reflection and critical reflection in management learning. Management Learning, 29(2), 183-200.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

Upton, M. (2012, December 15). victim_victor.jpg. Retrieved from http://actioncoachmalcolmupton.com/oar-or-bed/

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