Reflective Approach in Teaching

Reflective teaching is anchored on the ability of the teacher to guide students to reflect on their own experiences in order to arrive at new understandings and meanings. According to Dewey, reflective teaching is “behavior which involves active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or practice.” It involves a thoughtful analysis of a teacher’s actions, decisions, and results of teaching.

Instructional Characteristics

Schulman (1990) cites three key characteristics of reflective teaching:

  1. an ethic of caring;
  2. a constructivist approach; and
  3. tactful problem solving.

Ethic of caring refers to the teacher’s expression of thoughtfulness. To care means to be “ethically bound to understand one’s students.” To practice the ethics’.of caring a teacher is guided by three effective ways:

  1. confirmation;
  2. dialogue; and
  3. cooperative practice.

To confirm a student, a caring teacher takes time to help students discover their individual inclinations and capitalize on them: She recognizes the differences among them. To dialogue means to “talk honestly and openly about one’s innermost concerns.” The goal is to understand and in the long run, to care. This highlights the role played by values, beliefs and attitudes. Cooperative practice facilitates learning through counseling and guiding rather than just imparting knowledge.

Students learn through an analysis and evaluation of past experiences. Without analysis, no new learning and ideas can be constructed. Through reflection, the student’s experience acquires meaning, hence s/he is able to formulate his/her own concepts that can be applied to new learning situations.

Guidelines for Its Effective Use

  1. Allocate sufficient time for reflection. It must be considered in planning the learning activity.
  2. Schedule a short briefing activity so as to recapture the experience and think about it.
  3. The teacher serves as the facilitator and guide in developing the skill in analyzing a past learning experience.
  4. Encourage the students to recount the experience to others, thereby strengthening the insights gained.
  5. Attend to feelings especially the positive and pleasant ones.
  6. Evaluate the experience in the light of the learner’s intent.


1. Self-analysis

A reflective teacher is able to keep a record of her success or failure in employing a strategy, problems and issues confronted, and significance of learning events that occurred, Writing them can help in analyzing and clarifying important aspects that are contributory to future decisions towards effective teaching.

A student engages himself/herself in self-analysis when s/he reflects on why s/he succeeded or failed at some ‘task.

2. Writing journals

A journal entry includes: a.) a description of the teaching/ learning event, b.) outcomes of the event, c.) value or worthiness of the outcomes, and d.) causes of success or failures. A journal reveals feelings about the days activities including what could have enhanced or inhibited their learning.

For a student, s/he is asked to enter into his/her daily journal/diary his own self-analysis.

3. Keeping a portfolio

A portfolio is a very personal document which includes frank; honest and on-the-spot account of experiences. It includes a teacher’s first-hand observations and personal knowledge that will be needed in analyzing changes in values being developed. Instant thoughts and reactions can be recorded in a logbook for future recall and study.

4. Observation of students’ responses.

Some questions that must be answered are as follows:

  • Did I motivate them enough to continue on?
  • Are the students learning from the activity? If so, why? If not, why?
  • Am I relating the lesson to their knowledge and interests? How can I do better?
  • How good was my classroom management skill?

5. Questions at the end of every lesson.

  • Did anything significant occur? If so, describe. Why did it happen?
  • Was the strategy I used the most effective one? What other strategies might have been effective?
  • Did I exhibit flexibility in modifying my lesson according to their responses?
  • What have I learned about my own teaching? Have I become a better teacher?

Reflective teaching is looking back at what one has learned, gaining useful insight from the analysis and applying this new knowledge to daily work.

Make sure each group understands the goals, procedures, tasks and methods of evaluation. The experiential learning process of reflection — looking back at what you’ve learned, gaining useful insight from the analysis, and applying this new knowledge to daily work — helps students to understand the meaning and effect of their contribUtions (van Linden & Fertman, PM). By including reflection time on meeting agendas, for instance, students learn that reflecting on their own actions is a way to regularly think about leading and learning.

Schools are increasingly using reflection tools for learning and assessment, whether in the form of portfolios, journals, dialogue, or products and performances resulting from problem-based learning. Rather than discussing only data relating to test scores, as is the norm these days, we need also to discuss data that emerges from reflection as legitimate measures of success and to include students in any dialogue. (Lambert, 2003).

Summing up, learning that results from reflective’ teaching is best described as one borne of experiences that have been deeply thought of, analyzed and evaluated. Reflection is inseparable from experience. Experience is not yet best learning, reflection is.