#ELTchat ‘Reflective Practice in ELT: The What, Why, and How’

This is a summary of the #Eltchat from 23/11/2011 at 2100 (GMT). The theme of the chat was ‘Reflective Practice in ELT: The What, Why, and How’. The chat was moderated by Shaun Wilden (@shaunwilden) and Marisa Constatinides (@Marisa_C), who, as always, played their part in a stimulating debate, which touched upon the things we do as teachers after we leave the classroom before entering it again.

A Definition of Reflective Practice

We narrowed down a definition for Reflective Practice fairly early thanks to @JoHart

For me Reflection = mulling over what worked, what didn’t, why & how to improve

Reflective practice: How and When to start?

There was some debate about when is the best time to start reflecting, the general consensus was that, little by little, there is no reason why it cannot be immediately after qualifying.

  • Ok, how long before you can really start to reflect? Should you do so straightaway as a new teacher? @harrisonmike
  • Start small, build it up. For a new teacher reflecting on the little things is important. Reflection-light @dalecoulter
  • I don’t see why not … new teachers should set themselves realistic goals and learn to reflect on lessons @reasons4
  • Great to bring reflection into your teaching from an early stage, but isn’t there too many other things think/worry about? @JoshSRound
  • The rest won’t get “thought about” without reflection. @AnthonyGaughan

How do we reflect?

All the tweeters who took part in the #ELTchat have their own preferences when it comes to reflection. The variety of ideas for ‘how’ suggests that Reflective Practice has no pre-defined structure and can be adapted to the style of teaching; it is not a one-size-fits-all.

  • I think different styles of reflection suit different teachers, just like learning styles for Students @theteacherjames
  • Some teachers have a preference for blogging and twitter as the lynchpin for their reflection:
  • Just an obvious one but aren’t blogs and Twitter just the best sites for reflective practice in ELT? @inglishteacher
  • Reflection is the reason I started my blog, so I definitely agree! @theteacherjames
  • I bookmark webinars I’ve attended, make notes, blog (sometimes) keep an (occasional) reflective journal @esolcourses 

The sharing of ideas was also prominent in how practitioners reflect, firstly in the staff room:

  • I find the most stimulating reflection takes place in the staffroom-bouncing ideas off each other @LeaSobocan
  • How many of you work at schools where “reflective conversations in the staffroom” are the norm? @AnthonyGaughan
  • Agreed but does it also need help to have someone to discuss it with? @Shaunwilden
  • In fact, peer pressure in most staffrooms is AGAINST reflection, I agree, in sum it’s all about moaning @Marisa_C @jemjemgardner
  • So a sharing culture (whether blogging or not) encourages reflection? @Marisa_C
  • #ELTchat forces me to reflect (in a good way!) by challenging me & questioning my values, based on my experiences. @theteacherjames
  • Yes! Sharing & non-judgemental is essential @JoHart
  • Encouraging team teaching can encourage reflection #eltchat – 1 way management can maybe help? @cerirhiannon
  • Sometimes I risk something in class, reflect then write & colleagues say what they think…Invaluable @hartle

Sharing, also in terms of the students and the teacher provided some insight into how we reflect:

  • I think asking students is important as they often see a lesson completely differently from you @Shaunwilden
  • Why not ask what students think of lessons? Could it work anyhow? I asked Students to write short twit-like notes – opinion and areas to improvement @AlexandraGuzik

 Teachers also spoke about their preferences for written reflection or spoken or thought-based reflection:

  • E.g is reflection journals. Think it’s a brilliant idea, but wouldn’t work for me. Couldn’t keep a diary! @theteacherjames
  • Not writing down – no record – how can you keep track of development? @dalecoulter
  • Especially if you have a poor memory like me! I HAVE to write things down, reinforce the idea and provides a record @chrisjw133
  • I think it’s possible, continued internal conversations @cerirhiannon
  • I guess bottom line is has to be “post event” but the form, the precise when and how can vary to suit people, circumstances @cerirhiannon
  • I think reflection needs to come from within – be something you feel you need to do – for it to work – peers can help, but can’t do it for you @cerirhiannon
  • I think usually people have to be taught to reflect (I use journal templates with questions to start students off when 1st using reflection) @JoshSRound
  • Does structured peer mentoring aid reflection? Does your school do it? @pysproblem81
  • When teaching 25-30 contact hours a week I kept a logbook. Wrote quick notes at end of each class used them to recall & plan for the next class @cerirhiannon

So what does these thoughts or written accounts consist of?

  •  Teach – reflect – put reflection into practice – reflect – reflection into practice @cerirhiannon
  • Stop-recall-alternate-evaluate? @AnthonyGaughan

The conversation then turned to new teachers and reflective practice in training, the problems during and after training :

  • How many teachers move from course reflecting into their first jobs though?  @Shaunwilden
  • The question is how do teachers who haven’t gone through such training can be helped to find tools for reflection and CPD @Marisa_C
  • I was just thinking that and it is a hard skill to learn in 4 weeks with everything else anyway @Shaunwilden
  • Doesn’t mean teachers are given a space for it in their first job > reflection doesn’t need too much time @eannegrenoble
  • I think many institutions don’t have a ‘micro-climate’ that encourages reflection @Marisa_C
  • Perhaps training sessions on how/where to do it, ideas / advantages etc. @jemjemgardner
  • I think all Celta does it set out the ground rules for good practice but that is off the point @reasons4
  • Hopefully those on their own will look on the web and then find a support network @Shaunwilden

Back planning

Ideas then focused on how we plan a lesson in a reflective way. The trend seemed to be that most experienced reflective practitioners plan their lessons after the lesson, preferring to learn from what happened to move forward. How teachers ‘back-plan’ and why they do it.

  • I worked in a school where they asked for lesson plans in advance. Better if they wanted them after & asked me how it went. @theteacherjames
  • What is your own best way of reflecting on your current/past practices? #Eltchat // through lesson plans, after the lesson @Marisa_C
  • Current way – plan, reflect on what might work -post-plan reflect on what did/didn’t work – talk to colleagues/blog @cerirhiannon
  • Reverse planning, that’s what I’ve really started to do now. Outline, then fill in the details later. @theteacherjames
  • My lessons are never tightly planned but then I sit and think why things did or didn’t work after @cerirhiannon
  • With long term objectives clear – back-planning becomes the only way to go @eannegrenoble
  • Shall we have properly planned aims b4 lessons and roughly planned procedure? and then write down the proper way it worked?  @AlexandraGuzik
  • Make a plan – see how you deviated from it, why? @dalecoulter
  • Definitely Student friendly and Student centered – maybe lesson plans are a little teacher-centered if we are honest?! @shaznosel

In the dying minutes of #ELTchat the topic moved onto evaluation and measuring progress in reflective practice. It is a shame we did not have the chance to look at this topic in more detail. I think this is the link between reflective practice and long-term development, especially for the newer teachers starting off in the ELT world.

  • Reflection leads to new insights…these then should be put into use – to what extent do u measure how much this happens? @JoshSRound
  • I review my journal. Create mini action research projects and include them in my teaching. @dalecoulter
  • This is the essence of the experimental practice on DELTA courses – shame it’s only one  assignment @Marisa_C
  • How do you evaluate what you do? Learning outcomes? Learner reactions? Learner reflections? Or just your own? @Marisa_C

A big thanks to all those who took part for a very stimulating #ELTchat. See you all next time

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