Reflecting on Reflecting

Part of any studies is reflection as it is key to understanding, for teacher training reflection is especially important as we are constantly learning a practice which is not ‘one method fits all’.

I have been lucky enough to have studied where reflective practice makes up a part of the course but before now I never really researched into reflective practice and just reflected instinctively. I never knew that there were theories behind reflection and that there were many different models of reflection before we covered it in class and it was interesting to see that my ‘natural’ way of reflecting is similar to the ‘Gibbs’ Method, a reflective cycle developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988.

On reading more about reflective cycles and models of reflection I found most modern cycles and models of reflection follow that which was developed by J. Dewey in 1933. The Dewey system covers five steps of reflection:

  1. A Feeling / difficulty
  2. It’s location/ description
  3. Possible solutions
  4. Development
  5. Further experimentation leading to acceptance or rejection

(Rushton & Suter, 2012).

Whereas the Gibbs cycle is a slightly easier to grasp cycle based on:

  • Do
  • Review
  • Learn
  • Apply

(Petty, 2014).

My ‘natural’ way of reflecting has always been about looking back at the event and exploring what happened, what went wrong/ right and what could be done to change that. I have however not needed to practice most of the changes I would implement to tasks I have reflected on before; so actually applying any development will be a new step for me.

In class we were also introduced to the Schön method developed by Donald Schön in 1983/87 in which he reflects ‘In Action’ and then ‘Post Action’. This method seems like it would be slightly harder to use as it could be difficult to find the time to reflect, and document the reflection in a class, however I assume this could be done right after the class and still achieve ‘in action’ reflection. Reflecting ‘post action’, once initial feelings have calmed and perhaps with the feedback off of observers also seems like a positive way of reflecting as your feelings may have changed and you can learn from the perspective a few days can give.

One form of reflection I found while reading was ‘Tripp’s critical incidents theory’ a reflective theory and method developed in 1993 which focused on the ‘professional practice of teaching’ (Rushton & Suter, 2012, page 29).

This method requires the teacher to reflect on one incident and ask:

  • Who was involved, where it happened, what happened and the reaction to it at the time.
  • Why the incident happened, looking at a wider context which could have caused the issues.
  • What can be learned from the incident?
  • What can be done to find a resolution?

I feel that this method may be useful if you have a particular incident in a class, like a particular student that has behaviour issues and you wish to focus an analysis on the issue to understand it further.


Over all I feel that I now understand more about reflective practice from the lesson we had and my further research and that I am now aware that there are different methods of reflection which I can use to help me reflect more effectively. I look forward to trying out one of these new, more structured forms of reflection as I continue my studies and though some may be harder to grasp, like with everything I am learning, I understand that practice is the best way to improve.


  • Bolton, G (2010) Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development. Third Edition. London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Petty, G (2014) Teaching Today: A Practical Guide. Fifth Edition. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
  • Rushton, I. and Suter, M (2012) Reflective Practice for Teaching in Lifelong Learning. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

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