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If Reflective Practice is to become anything more than random navel gazing, it is advisable that the reflective (teaching) practitioner employs a particular process or model.



One of the simplest approaches to take is to consider:

  • what worked well?

  • why?

  • what did not work well?

  • why not?

  • what will I do the same next time?

  • what will I do differently next time?


Alternatively, tutors might wish to consider:

  • what knowledge, skills or abilities are necessary to deliver a specific learning experience.

  • to what extent do I possess those skills?

  • what do I need to do to develop or enhance those skills?

  • how will this affect the way I present that learning experience?

  • what problems might this entail that I need to anticipate and overcome?

(This approach is based loosely on SWOT analysis.)



Rolfe's framework for Reflective Practice can be (over-)simplified as:

  • What? (Describe the situation.)

  • So what? (Theory & knowledge building.)

  • Now what? (How to improve the situation.)


Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D. & Jasper, M. (2001) Critical Reflection for Nursing and the Helping Professions: A User's Guide. Basingstoke. Palgrave Macmillan.

Critical Reflection for Nursing and the Helping Professions: A User's Guide

Rolfe, Freshwater & Jasper

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Roth (1989) summarises Reflective Practice processes as follows:

  • Questioning what, why, and how one does things and asking what, why, and how others do things

  • Seeking alternatives

  • Keeping an open mind

  • Comparing and contrasting

  • Seeking the framework, theoretical basis, and/or underlying rationale

  • Viewing from various perspectives

  • Asking "what if...?"

  • Asking for others' ideas and viewpoints

  • Using prescriptive models only when adapted to the situation

  • Considering consequences

  • Hypothesising

  • Synthesising and testing

  • Seeking, identifying, and resolving problems



Roth, R. A. "Preparing the Reflective Practitioner: Transforming the Apprentice through the Dialectic." Journal of Teacher Education 40, no. 2 (March-April 1989): 31-35.




Peters (1991, pp. 91-95) describes a process called DATA that consists of four steps:

  • Describe

  • Analyse

  • Theorise

  • Act

First, the problem, task, or incident that the tutor desires to change is described. The tutor identifies the context in which current practice takes place and the reasons for changing it.


Next, through analysis, factors that contribute to current practice are identified.  An important part of this stage is to identify the assumptions, underlying beliefs, rules, and motives governing teaching and learning.


The third step of the DATA process involves theorising about alternative ways of approaching teaching by taking the theory derived from the previous step and developing it into a new one.


Finally, the tutor will try out the new theory.




Peters, J. (1991) "Strategies for Reflective Practice" Professional Development for Educators of Adults. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. no.51 ed. Brockett, R. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass




4 Critical Lenses


Brookfield (1995) suggests that we employ four “critical lenses” through which to view and reflect upon our practice.  These are:

  • our own view (which he refers to as autobiography);

  • that of our students;

  • that of our fellow professionals;

  • and the various theoretical perspectives propounded in educational literature.

 Despite the fact that teachers’ personal experience runs the risk of being dismissed as “merely anecdotal”, Brookfield, whilst conceding that “all experience is inherently idiosyncratic”, asserts that our autobiographies are “one of the most important sources of insight into teaching to which we have access.” (1995 p.31)


Examining our own experiences as learners as well as teachers helps us “to uncover our most deeply embedded allegiances and motivations as teachers.” (Brookfield, 1995; p.32)


However, in considering any particular learning experience, tutors should not merely be asking what "worked well" for themselves (often constrained to considerations of classroom and lesson management) but should also be asking whether or not the learning experience was a profitable one for their students (with regard to achievement of learning outcomes).  Additionally, tutors should consider whether the learning experience was inclusive and motivational.


“This is why, in my opinion, the most fundamental metacriterion for judging whether or not good teaching is happening is the extent to which teachers deliberately and systematically try to get inside students’ heads and see classrooms and learning from their point of view.”  (Brookfield, 1995. p.35)


Talking to colleagues about what happens in our classroom (all too rare an occurrence) may help to throw new light on our experiences; not necessarily because it provides a solution but because it may help us to realise that what we thought were our own idiosyncratic failings are in fact shared by others who work in similar settings.



“Studying theory can help us realise that what we thought were signs of our personal failings as teachers can actually be interpreted as the inevitable consequences of certain economic, social and political processes.” (Brookfield, 1995. p36)



Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.  San Francisco: Jossey Bass

Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher


Stephen Brookfield


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Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.


Learning by Doing


Graham Gibbs


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Useful summary of Theories of Reflection