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Reflective Teaching – A Tool for Teaching & Skill Enhancement for Teachers

Dr Kiran Gupta, Associate Professor,

School Of Education and Humanities, MRU

 

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”         

John Dewey, Philosopher and Educationist in 1916.

 

There is no doubt about the fact that every teacher dreams and strives to be an effective teacher and feels thrilled when her students exhibit changes in their behavior related to the topics being taught. Though all of us possess the capability to fathom whether our teaching has been effective or not, this capability is subjective and teachers are likely to under or overestimate one’s teaching capabilities and ignore the reaction of students.

 

They may just make a mention about their classroom experiences and rarely think deeply about them. With the result, most of us fail to cash upon our strengths and improve upon our weaknesses with regards to our teaching.

 

So, what should a teacher do to achieve this aim of being an Introspective, Reflective and more effective teacher? The answer lies in the concept of Reflective Teaching.

 

Reflective teaching takes place when the teacher not only teaches but jots down what all has been done during his or her teaching session. Teachers also value their  students’ feedback on the whole teaching-learning process as well. By being reflective on their teaching the teachers facilitate their own professional development. The teachers analyze the effectiveness of what they have taught, plan corrective measures and implement these in their next session of teaching, all with the aim of becoming more effective teachers. It has to be conducted continuously and regularly to make it result oriented.

 

The process of reflective teaching starts from the classroom. After the session of teaching, the teacher needs to do the following:

  1. Gather Information on their teaching sessions with respect to material taught (Teacher’s Perspective) and response of the students (Student’s Perspective) can be done privately or in collaboration with professional colleagues. The teacher can use various tools for doing this task.
  • Critical and unbiased analysis of the session.
  • Noting down the positives and negatives of the talk from her and students’ perspective
  • Planning and noting down the corrective steps to be taken.
  • Implementation of these steps in the next session of teaching to reassess the effectiveness of the same through the same steps.

 

  1. Teacher diary/journal: The teacher can jot down the key points pertaining to his/her own perceptions on the teaching session. The students’ responses and reactions can also be considered to bring positive changes in the teaching in future. However, it has its limitations too with regard to two aspects:

Firstly, it is not humanly possible to recall exactly each and every detail of the classroom session with regard to the teacher’s communication, students’ responses as well as their behaviors and reactions.

Secondly, it also requires sincere efforts and commitment from the teacher to document immediately after the teaching session. And with the jam packed teaching schedules, teachers may find it difficult to pursue.

  1. Viewpoints of colleagues: Another source of getting feedback on teaching could be other teachers who could convey the relevant feedback to the teacher on their teaching session immediately. This may be Just by observation or through note-taking. It could be related to the overall session or a particular aspect as desired by the teacher. Though there are chances of a clash of viewpoints with regards to different aspects of teaching learning process. Learning process which may lead to more vagueness instead of the clarity about the areas which require to be addressed.
  2. Audio/Video Recording: Another significant tool to facilitate reflection are the recordings- both audio and Video of teachers’ teaching sessions. This tool provides assistance in getting genuine feedback to the teachers. This tool helps in getting insights on teacher’s interaction in the class and its relevance for the students too. How much time does a teacher allocate for student interaction? How do they respond to a student’s questions? Video recordings can be useful in showing a teacher the aspects of her non-verbal communication For example, how does a teacher use the skill of stimulus variation to keep the interest and attention of the students intact.

Video recordings have an added advantage in catching the mischiefs of rowdy students which the teacher fails to notice.

  1. Feedback from Students: Students’ responses and perspectives can be recorded with the help of questionnaires which would prove to be an authentic source of feedback.
  1. Analysis: After getting the information and feedback, both positive and negative, the teacher needs to analyze it without bias and with an open mind. This can be done as follows:
  • Think: Think about the patterns that occurred in the process related to different areas of her classroom teaching and how to bring variations in them if required.
  • Talk: Just by talking about what she has discovered – to a supportive colleague or even a friend – she may be able to come up with some ideas for how to do things differently.
  • Read: Read websites for teachers, magazines, journals and books where she can find useful teaching ideas on a wide range of topics which can be integrated in her teaching learning process.
  • Ask: Queries could be solved by coming in contact with other learned teachers through websites or magazines. Or ask for a session on an area that interests her with a local teachers’ association. Or have a short stint of in- service training to get updated on the latest with regard to the teaching and learning process.

 

  1. e) Reflective Discussions: As a part of CPD program, training videos showing examples of real teaching practice of other teachers can be developed by the institution. These can then be shown to a small group of teachers encouraging free and frank discussions. This tool can be used without being conscious of one’s mistakes and flaws. Reflective discussions are a very useful tool for analysis and CPD.

 

  1. Implementation of corrective measures derived: Implementation: of corrective measures derived from analysis is the next step of being reflective. It means a teacher has to repeat the steps namely collecting information, analyzing it and then applying it in their teaching in the next session.

 

  1. Benefits of Reflective Teaching:
  1. Professional growth: Reflective practice is the key to professional improvement. Of course, the teachers’ professional development will be hindered or stagnated if they just take it as a mechanical activity without any thought on the whole process conducted by them. Once the teacher gets insight on both positive and not so positive points they certainly develop.
  2. Confidence booster: Teacher’s confidence level goes up once he/she becomes aware of their responsibility towards their profession and students.as how to proceed with their teaching fruitfully.
  3. Keeping up-to-date: Reflective teaching is a means to make teachers remain abreast with the latest in every aspect of teaching-be it the content knowledge, teaching methods and so on. Which in turn makes him a sought after professional too.
  4. Innovation and New Ideas: Reflective practice makes teachers creative also as they start aiming at the best.
  5. Understanding learners: Students’ needs and capabilities are taken care of by the Reflective Teachers. They are able to empathize with the students.
  6. Developing reflective learners: There is no doubt about the fact that Reflective Teaching produces Reflective learners, who, then, proceed independently on the path of success.
  7. Humility: Reflective teaching makes the teachers humble as it is a means to be aware of their strengths and shortcomings. Accepting one’s shortcomings is the first step towards attaining this quality. Rectification of one’s mistakes and implementing it honestly takes you a step ahead. A humble teacher will always be a better teacher and a better teacher will always be a respected teacher. Self-reflection acts as a constant reminder to teachers that they are not perfect, to stay humble and continue working hard to achieve better results.

 

For the Students: The students get the advantage of easier and better grasp of the subject and increased interest in learning. It not only produces Reflective Teachers but reflective learners too.

For the Organization: Educational institutions, where reflective Practice is encouraged have an edge over others with regards to improved teaching learning processes. The image of the Organization becomes the joint responsibility of the management, teachers and Students. The overall atmosphere is more congenial because of better understanding between teachers and students. And of course, better teaching brings greater reputation.

 

IV        Summary:

  1. Reflective Teaching is a process of self-improvement by the teachers, for the teachers.
  2. It involves honest appraisal of one’s teaching process, taking corrective measures to rectify the shortcomings and reaffirming the steps found useful, implement and reassess the same during next session.
  3. Its implementation is a win -win proposition for teachers, students and the organization.

In order to make it objective and not subjective, every teaching institute can make it an integral part of the curriculum rather than leaving it to be practiced by individual teachers.

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