| Parts | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Part 1 | Top^
Introduction to reflecting on teaching and learning
Much of this Web site and its activities relies on and promotes a notion of development through Reflective Practice.

This acitivity provides you with some information about reflection.
It also gives you the chance to make a couple of entries in your journal.

Reflective practice is a thinking process associated with professional practice. It relies on being able to observe or note aspects of your professional practice and spend some time thinking about them or in other words reflecting.

Reflective practice usually results in one of several outcomes

  1. You become conscious of the particular practice you are observing and upon reflection decide that it is a good practice. Because you are more conscious of the practice you are then able to use that practice in other situations. This is called affirming your practice.
  2. You become conscious of the particular practice you are observing and upon reflection, even though you think it is currently a good practice, the act of reflection allows you to become better at it.
  3. This is called improving your practice. You become conscious of a particular practice and decide upon reflection that it is not a helpful practice and you try to change it. This is called disconfirming your practice.


What is observation?
A starting point for reflecting on professional practice is beginning to observe what it is you do when you undertake your professional practice. This can be thought of as like being the camera operator for a documentary about you and your profession. Making observations is like taking extensive camera footage.

Reflective Practice was first though about by John Dewey, one of the most significant thinkers about education in the 20th century.

You can read more about John Dewey at the following web site


Just thinking at this stage
what are five things you can observe in the situation you are in at the moment?
What are five things you can observe about yourself in this situation?


Making sense of observations
Once we have observations we can then begin to make sense of these. Often this is done with reference to "common" sense or experience. People rely on their own knowledge and access to theories that have accumulated over time. In professional life it is also worthwhile to access contemporary knowledge about the particular observations and this can help us to make sure our practice is always in line with current thinking. Contemporary knowledge can be accessed through a range of sources including professional development, professional journals and specialist (hard or electronic) books and resources.


What types of knowledge did you draw on to make sense of your observations?


The Learning Cycle
David Kolb, an educational writer, presented John Dewey's concepts on reflective practice in the form of a model that he described as - The Learning Cycle.

  1. Experiencing or immersing oneself in the "doing" of a task is the first stage in which the individual, team or organization simply carries out the task assigned. the engaged person is usually not reflecting on the task as this time, but carrying it out with intention.
  2. Reflection involves stepping back from task involvement and reviewing what has been done and experienced. The skills of attending, noticing differences, and applying terms helps identify subtle events and communicate them clearly to others. One's paradigm (values, attitudes, values, beliefs) influences whether one can differentiate certain events. One's vocabulary is also influential, since without words, it is difficult to verbalize and discuss ones perceptions.
  3. Conceptualization involves interpreting the events that have been noticed and understanding the relationships among them. It is at this stage that theory may be particularly helpful as a template for framing and explaining events. One's paradigm again influences the interpretive range a person is willing to entertain.
  4. Planning enables taking the new understanding and translates it into predictions about what is likely to happen next or what actions should be taken to refine the way the task is handled.

Source : http://www.css.edu/users/dswenson/web/PAGEMILL/Kolb.htm


The Reflective Practitioner
Teachers, as one of many professionals, use Reflective Practice to improve their teaching practice.

In contemporary times the author Donald Schon has adapted many of Dewey's ideas into a concept called The Reflective Practitioner.

You can find additional information on The Reflective Practitioner Here or use google.

Donald Schon's Presentation "Educating the Reflective Practitioner"


Using Journal work to Reflect on Professional Practice

One of the ways we can document our observations of professional practice is through the use of a journal. A journal is a written notation of what you have observed.

The observations can be observations that you are making on your current life.

There are many different ways of keeping a journal. In this course we are using what is called guided reflection. Guided reflection involves being directed to particular issues and writing about them. A journal can also include your reflections on your observations or just notes.

In this project we will be using an online journal to keep our notes. record reflections on the observations we have made. You can log on hereJournals

Click to logon to your journalJournal Entry
Now try logging on to your journal. You could start your entry with the words…..
When I think back on my own experiences of learning……


Making sense of your observations

Whenever we make observations we are also making sense of those observations. We make sense of them by drawing on bodies of knowledge. Often that knowledge is our 'common sense' or experience. Sometimes the bodies of knowledge can be theories about learning or teaching.

Click to logon to your journalJournal Entry
What are the bodies of teaching and learning knowledge that YOU use to make sense of your professional (teaching) observations?

Part 2 | Top^

What do I need to know about myself as a teacher?

At any given point in time, our understanding about ourself can be influenced by a range of factors.
Some of these include:

Biography The events in our life that have had an impact on the way we are at the present.
CognitionThe processes we use to understand a situation
InformationThe stimuli that prompt us to action.
AttitudesThe beliefs and emotions we have towards particular situations and ourselves.
ValuesConsiderations about worth, usefulness and importance.
PerceptionThe stimulus created in our sensory organs.
CultureThe interaction of the location we live and the people we live with the rules that govern them.
MotivationThe different drives we have.


A competency model of learning

Competency is a term that means ability.
Another way of thinking about competency is an expression of what we have learned.

Three major categories of learning

  • Cognitive learning
  • Psychomotor learning
  • Affective learning

The output from Cognitive learning is what we know - our knowledge.
The output from Psychomotor learning is what we do -
our skills.
The output from Affective learning is what we feel -
our attitudes.
These attitudes can be traced back to our belief systems or paradigms.

Part 3 | Top^

What do I need to know about students in order to teach them?

In the teaching learning situation the student is a critical participant. The student is the person who will learn, the person who has thoughts and feelings like each one of us, the person who has likes and dislikes, who laughs and who cries, who has views and opinions, who agrees and disagrees, who loves and maybe who hates. Each student is an individual person - and we as teachers need to reflect on that reality.

Here we view the student from just three of the many possible perspectives by which a student can be thought about, namely,

  • " the make up and individuality of a student
  • " students' different learning styles, and
  • " the different ways that students can be helped with learning.

What is a student?
What is a student? This is a fundamental question for us as teachers. Imagine being asked to explain fully what you understand the word "student" to mean. What would you say or state? How comprehensively would you be able to explain the work? How would you start and in what logical order would you approach the task? This is your challenge and by the end of this Session hopefully you will at least have developed a whole set of questions that you would like answered about, "what is a student?"

Click to logon to your journalJournal Entry
Write in your journal ,as many ideas as possible that come to your mind when asked the question, "What is a student?"


Development of Self Concept

The self-concept develops through

  • Reflected Appraisal is where a person is told by a significant other, such as a teacher or a parent, that they are valuable and their work is valuable.
  • Social Comparison is when we make comparisons between ourselves and others whom we believe to be similar, or comparisons are made for us between ourselves and others. Through these comparisons we internalise that we are as 'good' as others.

Source: Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. Towne, N. (1983) Interplay Holt-Saunders
What impact can this have on self-esteem?

Click to logon to your journalJournal Entry
Please make an entry in your journal on what must teachers do about student self-esteem?

Part 4 | Top^

Considering the ideal teacher?

What is your image of a teacher? Most likely you can look back across years of schooling and studying and from that experiential base you have a fairly solid view about what is a teacher. Some of your teachers may have impacted on you significantly, for good or bad, while some teachers can barely be remembered. As you were a developing as a person your whole approach to learning, to schooling and to finding your place in this world, would have been influenced greatly by your teachers. Consequently your image of a teacher will be shaped by that experiential base.

Indeed we need you to think more deeply about, what is a teacher? How certain are you that your image of a teacher is fully adequate? How sure are you that your image of a teacher embraces all that is known about what a teacher should be like, or should do in the role of helping students learn and develop? This Module Four will challenge and hopefully extend your thinking about what it means to be a teacher - particularly a teacher in this year and beyond.

There are many perspectives from which we can approach a Module on The ideal teacher but we have chosen the following questions to focus our approach.

  • " What is a teacher?
  • " What does a teacher need to know?
  • " How can a teacher become more effective?
  • " How should a teacher start to think about teaching?


Approaches to Teaching

There are many ways of looking at approaches to teaching.
One way of thinking about this is the difference between teacher centred and student centred teaching.

Teacher-centred approach
What is this approach like for the teacher?

  • Teacher decides what is to be learned.
  • Teacher decides when is to be learned.
  • Teacher decides how the learning occurs.
  • Teacher sets the classroom timetable.
  • Teacher sets the grouping of students.
  • Teacher sets the room arrangement.
  • Teacher sets the room displays.
  • Teacher decides the learning resources.
  • Teacher sets the classroom rules.
  • Teacher determines the consequences.
  • Teacher decides the classroom discipline.
  • Teacher decides the evaluation of learning.
  • Teacher works to motivate students.

Student-centred approach
What is this approach like for the teacher?

  • Teacher decides only some of what is learned.
  • Teacher provides the conditions for learning


  • Teacher enables students to choose:
    • what they want to learn
    • when they learn (timetable-wise)
    • who they learn with
    • how they learn.

  • Teacher is a facilitator of learning, a guide.


  • " Teacher encourages the development of self:
        • self-reliance
        • self-evaluation
        • self-responsibility
        • self-motivation
        • self-organisation
        • self-discipline
        • self-understanding
  • Teacher works to enable students to become wise and good decision-makers.
  • Teacher gives equal weighting to cognitive and affective domains.
What are the advantages of each approach?

Teacher-centred approach

  • Easier to manage for the teacher.
  • Teacher has a greater sense of control over what is happening in the class.
  • Some students prefer a teacher-centred style.
  • Set curriculum can be monitored more effectively.

Student-centred approach

  • Teachers find more students enjoy learning.
  • Curriculum is more meaningful, relevant and integrated for students.
  • Learning is more motivated.
  • Classroom discipline is more positive.


Problem-solving approach
Another approach to learning, and one along a quite different direction to teacher-centred and student-centred approaches, has become known as the problem-solving approach. In a problem solving approach students are presented with specific authentic, practical or hypothetical problems or sets of problems to solve.

Click to logon to your journalJournal Entry
Thinking back on what you have been reading and thinking about teaching and learning,
please make an entry in your journal on what you think makes a good teacher?

Part 5 | Top^
Ways about thinking of teaching

Teaching within a culture

The students learning and the teachers teaching just do not occur in settings that, to all intents and purposes, look the same across all learning environments. Every learning environment is different, just like every student is different and every teacher is different.

Every learning situation is idiosyncratic with its unique character determined, in part, by the general locality, the economic base of that locality, the profile of the people who live in the locality, and the nature of the prevailing community spirit.

The culture of a community, whether it be a remote community or a metropolitan suburban community, influences greatly the nature of the happenings within a learning institution. No learning institution functions in isolation from the community in which it is located. No teacher can work away in a classroom and believe that they are in no way being influenced by the community. The connections between classroom, university and community are inextricably interwoven and the adept teacher is one who takes time to "read" that community as he or she strives to be effective.

So, it is important to recognise the culture of your students, you, your institution and the community in which you are teaching.


"Teaching in a Philosophical Context"

Philosophy is the science or the study of thoughts.
Every educational approach is driven by a particular philosophy.

Teaching practices are underpinned with a variety of philosophies. You might ask the question:

  • What are the foundational thoughts about this approach?

Or break the question down into more specific questions:

  • What does this approach suggest about learning?
  • What does this approach suggest about teaching?
  • What does this approach suggest about the students?
  • What does this approach suggest about the teacher?
  • What does this approach suggest about assessment?

So the philosophical context for your teaching is important.


The philosophy of a student-centred approach?

This particular approach was one that was articulated in the 1960's in a state school system in the United States.

  • The emphasis must be upon learning, rather than teaching.
  • A student must be accepted as a person.
  • Education should be based upon the individual's strong, inherent desire to learn and to make sense of his environment.
  • All people need success to prosper.
  • Education should strive to maintain the individuality and originality of the learner.
  • Emphasis should be upon a child's own way of learning - through discovery and exploration - through real rather than abstract experiences.
  • The development of an individual's thought process should be primary.
  • People should perceive the learning process as related to their own sense of reality.
  • An individual must be allowed to work according to his own abilities.
  • The teacher's role must be that of a partner and guide in the learning process.
  • The development of a personal philosophy, basic set of values, is perhaps one of the most important of human achievements.
  • We must seek to individualise our expectations of a person's progress as we strive to individualise the learning experiences for each person.
  • The environment within which students are encouraged to learn must be greatly expanded.
  • The school should provide a structure in which students can learn from each other.
  • To provide a maximum learning experience for all students requires the involvement and support to the entire community.
  • Schools should be compatible with reality. Learning which is compartmentalised into artificial subject fields by teachers and administrators is contrary to what is known about the learning process.

This philosophy of a student-centred approach is presently driving teaching in Australia.

Part 6 | Top^
More ways about thinking of teaching

Teaching within a Belief System

The term paradigm indicates a belief system. Belief systems are the strongest foundation to practices.
The teacher has belief systems about themselves, their students and the subjects they teach.
Students have belief systems about themselves and their teacher and the nature of schooling.
Uncovering one's belief systems is called critical reflective practice.

Critically Reflective Practice
In part 1 we talked about reflective practice as making sense of one's practice in the light of the bodies of knowledge.

In this module we take that concept one step further endeavouring to understand the different bodies of knowledge that inform our understanding of given situations. This is called critical reflective practice.

The term critical is used in this phrase to indicate a deep form of thinking rather than censuring or finding fault, as the word sometimes means. This deep thinking involves exploring the belief systems or basic assumptions that underpin a particular body of knowledge.

The teaching/learning paradigms
Any practice is can be evaluated in terms of the range of belief systems - or paradigms - that influence that practice

With teaching and learning:

  • The teacher has beliefs about themselves, the students, the curriculum and the context in which they are teaching.
  • The students have beliefs about themselves, what they are learning and the value and nature of schooling.
  • Other stakeholders linked to a students' education also have belief systems.


The Self Fulfilling Prophecy

A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when we make a prediction or formulate a belief that proves true because we have made the prediction and have acted on it as if it were true. Identifying the four basic steps in the self-fulfilling prophecy should clarify this important conept and its implications for interpersonal perception.

  1. We make a prediction or formulate a belief about a person or situation (For example we believe that a group of students is below intelligence)
  2. We act toward that person or situation as if the prediction or belief is in fact true. (For example we teach the group of students without any expectations of their achievement)
  3. Because we act as if it were true it becomes true. (For example the students fail to achieve because we have not indicated our expectations that they will)
  4. We observe our effect on the person or the situation and what we see strengthens our initial belief. (For example we conclude that the students are in fact low achieving students)

Source: De Vito, J. (1988) Human Communication. The Basic Course. Harper and Row Publishers, New York.


The activities on this page are sourced from: Hill, G. (2004). EDP 1101 Guide, Reflecting on teaching and learning. Perth, Edith Cowan University.

Now move on to Activity 2