external image coffeeandjournal.jpgWhat is Reflective Practice?
Reflection can be defined as a process of focussed and structured thinking that is conscious and active, rather than the free flowing of thoughts while general thinking. To make sense of what we see, learn, hear and experience we need to be able to 'reflect in' and 'reflect on' practice (Schon 1983, 1987 cited in Netwon, 2004).

Reflective practice involves documenting and supports gathering evidential data as a process. It can be completed by teachers alongside students and takes one of many forms that may include a handwritten journal, art diary, online blog, discussion forum, wiki or use of Web2 tools like Slideshare, Voicethread etc.


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What are the benefits?
Reflective practice...
  • directs focus
  • provides perspective
  • helps us learn from our mistakes as learning experiences
  • sparks new or more ideas
  • helps us help others


What does Reflective Practice Involve?
The total process has four main components:

  • Planning - What did I achieve?
  • Experience - What did I actually do during the process?
  • Observation- What did I learn? What skills have I now developed?
  • Reflection- How can I use this learning to make a difference?

There are no set rules for capturing evidential data or keeping a reflective practice journal. The medium you use, how often you write, how much time you spend and how rigorously you maintain an on-going journalling schedule are matters that relate to individual learning styles, values, personal choice and circumstance. The follow general guidelines may help you to establish reflective practice journalling as a regular and enduring habit:

  • Gather the necessary writing materials ahead of time.
  • Provide yourself with the proper writing environment. Find a place and space away from distractions.
  • Allow yourself regular writing times. Focus on developing a habit of completing reflective practice at the same time, every day or week.
  • Prompt yourself using reflective questions as stems. Keep a list handy.
  • Write because you want to write NOT because you have to. If you've had a 'tough day' or missed a few entries accept this as part of life. Know that your reflective journal will be there when you are ready and willing.
  • Create a positive feedback loop. You will find that as you learn more about yourself, reflective practice gains momentum. You may like to share insights and small successes with other like-minded people.
  • Emphasise process rather than product. An important purpose of documenting reflective practice is to express and record your thoughts and feelings. Concentrate deliberately on the process of writing.
  • Learn from your own experiences. After a few weeks or months of keeping a reflective practice journal, go back and re-read your early entries. Look for patterns and correlations and use the objectivity of time to review your life from a different perspective.
  • Have fun. Reflective practice journalling is its own reward. Once you get started your journal may just become that great friend - a silent partner who is always available and has the time to listen attentively.



How might I begin?
There are a number of ways to keep a reflective practice journal so choose one that really suits you.
  1. Purchase a small pad and keep a 'one-word journal'. While this may seem to some like 'taking the easy way out' it is a method that certainly requires alot of reflective thought. Do be specific about the vocabulary you choose and remember to elaborate on your definition of the word.
  2. Use a notebook and start a ONE sentence journal. "I like keeping a one-sentence journal because it's a manageable task, so it doesn't make me feel burdened; it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and progress - the atmosphere of growth; it helps keep memories vivid which boosts my happiness; and it gives me a reason to pause thinking lovingly about what I actually do" - Gretchen Rubin. If you plan to work smarter, not harder then one-liners will certainly do the trick!
  3. Write reflectively on coloured stickee notes and place them in the daily or weekly planner that you currently using for classroom practice.
  4. Get creative and start an art journal.
  5. Begin a wiki or blog
  6. Using web 2.0 tools like Slideshare or Voicethread (A day in a Sentence example)

Blogging as a Learning Journal - Sentence Starters
Ten Creativity Kick Starts
Idea Recording

What might I include in my Reflective Journal?
external image refect.GIFReflective sentence starters are excellent for moments when blank white pages stifle the writing process:
  • What I saw (or heard) today has inspired me to....
  • I can’t stop thinking about...
  • One thing I will remember in 25 year's time is...
  • I know I need to do ........so....
  • A great idea I now have is .....
  • Today I’m feeling .... and I think it’s because....



Prompts or entries that you could include:
  • a selection of thinking frames or graphic organisers
  • points or suggestions that you found especially interesting during your conversation/s with others
  • questions or wonderings that you have
  • words of wisdom that prompt reflective writing
  • notes from Meetings, readings or other materials as a result of a conference or course
  • thoughts that instinctively come to mind
  • photos, images or pictures that appeal
  • key words cut from phamplets or magazines
  • memorabillia ie: newsletter clippings, letters, cards, any snippets of information


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If you're the creative type, you may want to put together an inspirational toolbox and have on hand
  • stickee notes - a variety of shapes and sizes
  • coloured paper, homemade papers and a selection of coloured pens and pencils
  • scissors
  • calligraphy pens
  • highlighters
  • inexpensive scrapbooking materials

What's quality got to do with this?
It is worth thinking about the quality of reflective writing as being on a continuum from superficial writing that is largely descriptive to much deeper writing in which questioning is apparent and more complex. Neither is necessarily right or wrong – they are just different. Reflective writing is often ‘pitched’ according to the purpose for which the task is being done. The challenge for many of us is to ‘go beyond’ rewriting our daily planner and descriptive writing to profound reflection.

external image appraisal-01.gifQuestions that prompt critical insights or deeper thinking:
  • How might the nature of the task, issue or event influence the manner in which I have completed reflective writing today?
  • In what way might I have tackled an issue, task or event differently?
  • Is there another point of view that I could explore?
  • Are there alternative interpretations to consider?
  • Does this issue relate to other contexts that may also be helpful?
  • If I ‘step back’ from this issue, task or event, does it look different?
  • How have my feelings about the issue, task or event changed over time ?
  • Are there any ethical, moral, wider or social issues that I want to explore further?

How might a Reflective Journal Rubric help me?
While it is not advisable to use a rubric as a means of grading your reflective practice, you may find it helpful as a guide for developing deeper thought.
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Resources:
What is Reflective Practice.pdf