Need For Reflective Teaching

by | Sep 2, 2021

Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend a session on “Reflective writing for teachers” by Dr. Neeraja Raghavan, Founder Director of Thinking Teacher. The session was organized by Agastya International Foundation, where I am currently working as an India Fellow. Half an hour into it, I had a flashback to the time when I was working with a few teachers and one of them, Mahantesh sir, said,

“Madam! After every class of mine, I write down in my diary, what worked in my teaching and what did not.”

It made me accept the fact that he was using such a powerful tool of teaching all along, for so many years, even without knowing the technicalities of it. He was reflecting.

What is reflective teaching!?

To put it simply, reflection is about taking an honest look at how things are going. When a teacher uses it to observe and evaluate the way they teach and try to mend or work on it, it becomes reflective teaching. Those who practice it, are conscious of their assumptions, logic, choices, priorities, and conclusion. A reflective teacher understands the things that influence the way they teach, such as

  • Practical theories about teaching
  • The context including but not limited to class size, access to technology, textbooks, curriculum
  • Knowledge, attitude, values

It is to explore, investigate and grow, while considering alternative methods and points of view, and allow divergence, something like technology in the field of education in Covid times. One has to recognize that the social process of education is personal and cannot be coerced on others. One has to be sympathetic to the needs, interests, and insights of the students.

Are planning lessons, preparing material, and delivering information enough? What are some of the essential components of the teaching process?

One has to look back at their teaching style, student’s responses, outcomes and behaviour. It’s important to be aware of not only what you teach but why and how you teach it. Sometimes, a lesson plan may not work as expected. In those cases, a reflective teacher would not rush on to the next thing. They would take time to revisit the lesson, make observations about what happened and how students reacted to it. It is helpful to identify specific elements that the students did not receive well.

How to reflect?

It takes time and practice to reflect effectively, but a step wise process would look something like this:

  1. Recollect or map the event (collect evidence) Peer observations by other teachers work really well if there is a mutual feeling of trust and respect among each other. Sharing failures and success with colleagues helps with learning. Additionally, video recording while teaching or keeping a journal also go a long way. Teachers can also take student surveys. I remember filling feedback forms in college and now it makes a lot more sense. It gives a chance to look at your own content and style from the student’s point of view. Student notebooks and tests are also evidence tools for teacher’s performance.
  2. Inform, question, and evaluate
    Deliberately and consistently, make it a point to reflect right after the class. Ask yourself evaluative questions like:
    – What worked?
    – What didn’t work?
    – What can I change?
    – How can I improve this material?
  3. Act
    Any amount of planning or observations or reflection is futile if there is no action plan to follow it up with. Once you evaluate, make sure to act on the evaluation to improve your performance.

Dr. Neeraja suggested a few more tools such as:

  • Action research  Here, the teacher first identifies the problem and then tries to analyse it to understand it in depth. Next, they come up with different strategies to solve the issue, pick one of the strategies, try to implement it, and observes if it’s working or not. They finally reflect on the entire process. Some of the common issues could be as follows:
    • Ways of teaching concepts
    • Classroom management
    • Donning a new role – from teacher to mentor/administrator
    • Enhancing the quality of staff meetings
    • Igniting curiosity in students
    • Taking classes online and still being in touch with all the students
    • Conquering own fears
  • Reflective writing
    This requires teachers to write about their dilemmas and challenges. They then share it in a group. Everyone listens to each other attentively as they read their writing out loud. Those who have taken part in this process mentioned that it is transformative and it needs to be institutionalised for increased benefit. A lot of teachers are of the view that it should be a core part of the teaching process as it helps the teacher to re-engage.
  • T-cards or reflection cards
    A deck of such cards contains thought provoking questions or pictures that can be used as prompts with a group of other teachers, or even with students. A lot here depends on your imagination or what you want to reflect on. It can be associated with the picture or the question at hand.

Some of the assumptions about reflective teaching are:

  1. Reflective teachers are more knowledgeable about pedagogy
  2. We can learn a lot about teaching from self-inquiry
  3. Much of what happens during teaching is unknown to the teacher
  4. Experience isn’t enough to grow as a teacher

These may or may not always apply depending on the case to case basis. Along with reflection, documentation is also critical. Not many teaching learning scenarios in the Indian context have been documented well. Also, for sustained reflection practice, there has to be some amount of churning or nudging. It needs to be a systemic requirement in the schools and in other learning set ups.

Stay in the loop…

Latest stories and insights from India Fellow delivered in your inbox.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: