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“… reflective practice is both complex and situated and that it cannot work if applied mechanically or simplistically.” (Finlay, 2008)

by | Sep 18, 2015 | Articles | 2 comments

“… reflective practice is both complex and situated and that it cannot work if applied mechanically or simplistically.” (Finlay, 2008)

Reflecting on reflective practice” by Lynda Finlay (2008) is a research article that explores the modes of reflective practice and its possible effects on educational practitioners. Her articles is primarily focused on reflective practice in nursing that can be easily translated in a wider general educational field. This article will discuss some of author’s points and how they can influence my personal reflective practice.

Defining reflective practice

“The term ‘reflective practice’ carries multiple meanings that range from the idea of professionals engaging in solitary introspection to that of engaging in critical dialogue with others. Practitioners may embrace it occasionally in formal, explicit ways or use it more fluidly in ongoing, tacit ways. For some, reflective practice simply refers to adopting a thinking approach to practice. Others see it as self-indulgent navel gazing. For others still, it involves carefully structured and crafted approaches towards being reflective about one’s experiences in practice.” (Finlay, 2008)

Indeed, what is meant by reflective practice has a multiple meanings as Finlay clearly stated. There is a wide body of research covering the topic and approaching it from a various perspectives. It seems from my perspective that for all educators reflective practice should be properly understood that it can become a valuable tool in their practice. This certainly should not be a self- indulgent navel gazing as it serves a metacognitive purpose that has a purpose of analyzing what has been achieved and as a consequence producing more effective teaching and learning practice. The truth is, that many educators may not have a clear idea of what a true reflective practice is.

Modelling reflective practice

Another author, (Quinn, 2000) realized that all models are somehow based on the three fundamental processes of reflective practice: retrospection, self-evaluation and reorientation. These three processes should be primarily conducted as a personal ones. However, the only way of stopping it becoming “self- indulgent navel gazing” is by including a peer analysis exchange into a process. This in particular, is important when ethical and emotional issues and situations are analysed and reflected upon. Each reflective practitioner should achieve the position of ‘unprejudiced observer’ to establish true and meaningful metacognitive reflection for personal professional growth. To achieve such a ‘subjective’ goal, sometimes additional input from more ‘objective’ perspective is needed.

The actual practice of the concept, highlighting ethical, professional, pedagogic and conceptual concerns

The two main concerns arising are of an ethical and of a professional nature.

Ethical concerns have to be taken into account for teachers and learners alike. How appropriate is to expect a meaningful self-reflection in a very sensitive, personal, emotional or even traumatic situations? As much as such situations are exemption within practice, they are part of life and they are calling for a sensible approach. If there are certain policies in place asking for ‘mandatory self-reflection’ in each situation, than this could have a contra productive or even damaging effect for teacher or learner in question.

Professional concerns are closely related with pedagogical and conceptual ones, of which the main issue is when ‘self-reflection’ is prescribed within the policies and is approached as a routine on a superficial level. In New Zealand teachers are required as a part of their professional standard to be reflective practitioners.  The ‘Teaching As Inquiry’ model is excellent for creating a truly reflective practitioners in the process. The main practical problem is that teachers are caught in a large workload with limited time available for pausing and asking truly reflective questions and for analyzing the same. The danger of it is that it could become another ‘ticky box’ exercise to fulfill appraisal or teacher registration criteria, i.e. done for superficial reasons. Education is way too meaningful and evolving profession to miss the opportunity of embedding tools for professional growth and improvement.

Nurturing effective reflective practice

In her article, Finlay identified four guiding principles for educators that should contribute to more meaningful and effective reflective practice and can be applied to teachers and learners alike:

  • present reflective practice(s) with care
  • provide adequate support, time, resources, opportunities and methods for reflection
  • develop skills of critical analysis
  • take proper account of the context of reflection

Developing reflective practice for learners is a valuable tool and part of a life skills. Encouraging dialogue between learners and teachers and creating available time and space can create multi-purposed benefits in developing critical analysis and deeper reflective practice.

It is obvious that practitioner cannot evolve true reflective practice at once and that it cannot be just something done as a regular routine. Every novice teacher has to start with reflective tasks that might be simple, until they becomes seamlessly embedded into their teaching practice. The emerging question of time available for reflection is always present, as novice teachers will have so many responsibilities to take into account. Experienced teachers should achieve a well-developed habit of self and peer reflection as a natural way to incorporate own experiences and build onto them a more effective teaching practice.


Reference List

Christie, D. and Kirkwood, M. (2006) The new standards framework for Scottish teachers: facilitating or constraining reflective practice? Reflective Practice, 7(2), 265-276.

Finlay, L. and Gough, B. (2003) Reflexivity: a practical guide for researchers in health and social sciences. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

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

Quinn, F.M. (2000) Reflection and reflective practice. In C.Davies, L.Finlay and A. Bullman (eds.) Changing practice in health and social care. London: Sage.

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