Teacher Development through Reflective Practice
-BY TARU BUDHA
Generally, the term development refers to general growth or change. The concept of teacher development is thus a process of becoming better as it seeks to facilitate the growth of teachers, understanding of teaching and of themselves as teachers or individual persons. Development means a continuous process i.e. dynamic that involves the making sense and interpretation of one’s selves and experiences. Thus, education or learning is an ingredient for the teacher development. It is an ongoing learning about how to teach and to help the learners’ learning. The teacher needs to have an extensive repertoire of classroom skills and the judgmental skills to implement in the real classroom situation as required.
Pennington (1990, cited in Gnawali 2008, p. 219) states that every teacher needs professional growth throughout his or her career. So, the teacher development is necessary for dealing with the different new pedagogy or theories and practices that exist in the teaching system. Without learning, there is no possibility of professional growth of the teachers, and will lack the latest practices and principles of teaching. When the professional growth or changes stops the teacher will not be able to deal and tackle with the new practices and theories. Similarly, Underhill (1988) says that it is to keep learning always to keep alive a sense of challenge and adventure in one’s career, and to avoid getting into rut (p. 4). From this, we can understand that the teacher development brings changes in the teacher and this will enable the teachers to impart the knowledge better in the learners and also the teacher will learn himself or herself better. When the teacher stops growing or learning he or she will not be in position to sustain the career further and unable to help the learners learn in the teaching field. Therefore, the teacher needs to face challenges and it can help them in developing an understanding of different styles of teaching and teaching pedagogy and determine the learner’s perception of classroom activities of learning. It is a teacher who has to understand his roles according to the type of the learners he or she is teaching since demand of teaching way varies according to the context.
Change is inevitable in the life of the teachers as the adapting of changes or developmental outlook will help the teachers to deal better with the problems or changes they are facing within and around their work environment and enhance the capacity to deal with new techniques or strategies and enable the learners learn effectively according to demand of time and situation. Therefore, the aim of education is to enable the learners understand themselves where they are and what they are now. Until a teacher tries equipping herself or himself with such skills the goal cannot be achieved. For teacher development, there are many different ways or strategies that teacher can use for himself or herself. Among various strategies of teacher development, Reflective Practice is one.
Reflection means flash back of the teachers’ own daily classroom activities, practices and experiences for his/her professional growth. Ur (1999) says that the first and most important basis for professional progress is simply the teachers’ own reflection on daily classroom events. So, she gives emphasis on the personal progress through reflecting on own activities and practices that happened in the class and think when talking about personal reflection which will certainly lead towards change and growth in the teacher. According to Whitton et al (2004), “Reflection is a threefold process comprising direct experience analysis of our beliefs, values or knowledge about that experience, and consideration of the options which should lead to action as a result of the analysis”. This statement clearly states that the teacher’s professional growth is possible only if they reflect and analysis their actions and that will enable them to find other options for better teaching styles or behaviors. Supporting the idea of Whitton, Walkington (2005) further states, “Reflection is one’s own perception, beliefs, experiences and practices is a core activity for all the teachers pre-service and in-service, in schools and universities” (p.59). Therefore, personal growth is pre-requisite for either pre-service teacher or in-service teacher in order to teach effectively according to the demand of time and change of principles or theories so that one can survive and impart the ideas or knowledge by motivating the learners. Through reflecting, the teacher can not only teach and impart the knowledge but can interact with the learners and with their needs in learning process. When the teachers use reflective practice in their professional development they can improve their own teaching by reflecting on their own teaching experiences and daily activities in the classroom since the teachers can use the data gathered from the systematic reflection. Thus, teachers will make meaningful change in their profession. When the teachers try to reflect on the situation that he or she faced and ask themselves what needs to be done and are able to find the new way to deal with the situation and certainly brings changes.
Similarly Pennington (1992) relates development of the teacher to reflection where he views reflection as the input for development while also reflective as output of teacher development. So from this, we can clearly understand that when the teacher reflects it instills lots of input in the teacher for professional growth, and if the teacher practices that in the action gives output of the teacher’s growth and becomes able to instill good input in the learners as well. Therefore, the use of reflective practice enables, as a teacher is not only to experience but also to the new teachers to make his or her class effective which enhances the further development of the teachers. It enhances the discussion and evaluate their own practices as well as implication of different strategies or theoretical perspectives in the teaching learning process so that they can have deeper understanding of their own teaching style and techniques and finally greater effectiveness as a teacher to impart knowledge into the learners part and own self development. Practitioners engage in continuous cycle of self-observation and self-evaluation in order to understand their own actions and the reactions they prompt in themselves and in learners in reflective practice (Brook Field, 1995, Theiel 1999 cited in Cunningham, p. 17). In order to bring changes in one’s practice one has to do self-observation and self-evaluation which is essential for finding one’s weakness in the teaching learning and innovate new ideas to apply in the action. Without self observation and evaluation the teacher won’t understand how he or she acts or teaches in the class and understand the impact on the learners. Therefore, when they are curious or interest for changes or their personal growth the teachers certainly involve in observation and evaluation to think about his or her way of teaching and actions and to understand its impact on the learners so that he can think about other alternative ways to do teaching differently and effectively and interact with the learners in different way than he used to do in previous classes or days. If teachers don’t try to do instead of growth will lead into rut. Furthermore, Reflective practice occurs when teachers consciously take on the role of reflective practitioners, subject their own beliefs about teaching their own beliefs about teaching and learning to critical analysis, take full responsibility for their action in the classroom, and continue to improve their teaching practice (Farrel, 2007; Jay & Johnson, 2002; Valli 1997). Further, Dewey talks about the responsibility of the teacher (as mentioned in Pollard & Triggers, 1997). He said, “Responsibility means to consider the consequences of a project step; it means to be willing to adopt these consequences when they follow reasonably. Intellectual responsibility secures integrity”(p.13). Further Pollar and Triggs(1997) said that the Reflective teaching requires attitude of open-mindness, responsibility and whole heartedness(p.9). Therefore, every teacher has a responsibility to extend the boundaries of professional knowledge through reflective practice and systematic engagement in continues professional development from the very beginning to the end of their career to instill and impart the knowledge in the learners. Every teacher should do rigorous reflection which will enable them to discover their strength and weakness. So the teacher should be always open and whole hearted to take the responsibility. When they take on personal responsibilities for their own development, the teachers will be able to achieve better personal and perspective growth just like learners appear to make better progress while making their own learning decision. Further, Dewey talks about the responsibility of the teacher (as mentioned in Pollard & Triggers, 1997). He said, “Responsibility means to consider the consequences of a project step; it means to be willing to adopt these consequences when they follow reasonably. Intellectual responsibility secures integrity” (p.13). Further Pollar and Triggs(1997) said that the Reflective teaching requires attitude of open-mindness, responsibility and whole heartedness(p.9). Therefore, every teacher has a responsibility to extend the boundaries of professional knowledge through reflective practice and systematic engagement in continues professional development from the very beginning to the end of their career to instill and impart the knowledge in the learners. Every teacher should do rigorous reflection which will enable them to discover their strength and weakness. The teacher needs to be always open and whole hearted to take the responsibility. When they take on personal responsibilities for their own development, the teachers will be able to achieve better personal and perspective growth just like learners appear to make better progress while making their own learning decision. Valli (1997) further says that the teacher can look back on events, make judgments about them, and alter their teaching behavior in light of craft, research and ethical knowledge (p. 70). Because of reflection, the teachers will know how to monitor their own practices or activities in the classroom. They will be conscious of exploring and doing research on their practices and beliefs for a personal growth as a teacher.
So to understand herself or himself her/his teaching practice and other people, s/he needs a rigorous reflective practice. The teachers need to look back on their teaching behaviors and actions. According to Gnawali (2005), “Through reflection teacher can explore their selves and that of others. When teachers carry out systematic enquiry into themselves they will understand themselves, their practices and their learners (p.69)”. It’s true that the teachers and learner will be able to achieve their goal as well as adopt the changes for n their development if they carry out the systematic self inquiry. Similarly, Claxton stated (as cited in Bell & Gillbert,1996) that teachers must look outwards, to gain insight into the dynamic of their own stress; and they must look outwards, to understand better social forces that surrounds them(p.39). So for the development the teachers needs to see or understand not only within but also outside so that it will be easy for him or her to understand himself or herself and the learners as well. As the teachers need to be able to relate the classroom world to the outside world while learning and helping learners learning. Ruddock (as cited in Gnawali, 2008) on professional development stated “Not to examine one’s practice is irresponsible; to regard teaching as an experiment and to monitor one’s performance is a responsible act (p. 70)”.
Prabhu (1987, as quoted in Gnawali 2008, p. 70) conceptualizes the idea of professional responsibility as “equipping” which means providing teachers with pedagogical knowledge and skills for immediate use, and ‘enabling’ meaning helping teachers to develop ability to independently handle professional affairs. Training can ‘equip’ teachers with low inference skills but to ‘enable’ them with high inference skills teachers need to be involved in reflective practice”. Thus, the teacher needs to develop and equip with the new skills, theories and competences according to its new roles and time demand. It is most necessary to have quality education and a systematic process of continuous professional development to keep the teachers up-to-date with the new skills and strategies required in the teaching society. Without updating self the teachers will not be able to survive.
As Day (1999) states that professional development consists of all natural learning experiences and those conscious and planned activities which are intended to be direct or indirect benefit to the individual group or schools and which contribute to the quality of education in the classroom (p.4).Thus professional development cater both for the individual needs of teachers and for the institutional needs of the whole school (Bell, 1991). So through reflective practice the teacher herself or himself, the learners, and the schools will benefit from such a process of professional development or changes.
Reflective teaching is the teachers’ thinking about what happens in the classroom lessons and thinking about alternative means of achieving goals or aims; he sees it as a means to provide students with an opportunity to consider the teaching even thoughtfully, analytically and objectively (Cruickshank & Applegate, 1981; as cited in Bartlet, p. 171). It clearly states that the development of teaching techniques is the most important means to enable the teachers in improving their practice. Larsen-freeman (1983) said that awareness is the first step toward being able to change out teaching practice. Through reflecting on their own practice the teachers will be able to learn and bring certain level of awareness. Nunan & Lamb (1996) further states that “reflecting on one’s teaching and in the process, developing knowledge and theories of teaching, is essential component” in the lifelong process of professional growth. They further added that teachers “are capable of monitoring, critiquing and defending their actions in planning, implementing and evaluating language programs (p.120).we can understand from the that reflection provides teachers with knowledge and skills necessary for a lifetime of teaching. For professional development, the teachers need to learn new skills and knowledge and also to develop them continuously. The professional development of the teachers is a lifelong task and it should be therefore structured and resourced accordingly. Ur (1999) also talks about the awareness of the teacher. He said development doesn’t just happen with time, it happens with awareness. So there should be an awareness of a need to change. This means that awareness is a tool of change and improvement for the teachers. Gnawali(2008) said, “Reflection is the key to raising focused awareness and a pre-requisite for any altering of personal construct”(p. 70).
Richards (1990) see reflection as key components of teacher development. He says that self-inquiry and critical thinking can help teachers move from a level where they be guided largely by impulse, institution or routine to a level where their actions are guided by reflection and critical thinking. Similarly in an interview with Farrell (1995) Richards said that critical reflection is a response to a past experience and involves conscious recall and examination of the experience as a basis for evaluation and decision making and as a source for planning action. Reflection is thus a key component that enables to bring changes and growth of the teachers and in their teaching learning theories and practices in the classroom. Similarly, Ur(1999, p. 318) states that the teacher teaches or observes lessons and recalls past experiences then reflects, alone or in discussion with others in order to work out theories about teaching; then tries these out again in practice. Such cycle aims for continuous improvement and the development of personal theories of action. When teacher makes a self inquiry to understand the process that’s going around her/his and tries to keep himself or herself into consideration as objective; the teachers development will take place which will certainly help the learners in learning process. Therefore, it will encourage the teachers to innovate or produce and share their theories of teaching. Barlett(1990) in Farreell(1998) says that in order for teachers to become critically reflective, they have to “transcend the technicalities of teaching and think beyond the need to improve their instructional techniques”. The teachers can improve their teaching practices and change the techniques or ways of teaching styles if s/he does critical reflection of his/her work every day. Only then, the teacher will be able to deal according to the social and cultural context of teaching practices and principles. Thus for further skill development and personal growth the teachers needs to adopt any approaches in the teaching as through reflective practice.
Kelley talks about personal construct psychology. Each person constructs a representational model of the world composed of series of interrelated personal constructs, or tentative hypotheses about the world, with which past experiences is described and explained and future events are forecast. One can construe or understand another person’s construct system”(1969, cited in Bell & Gilbert, 1996, p. 46). As said above each person tries to make or construct his/her own sense of understanding and interpreting of himself/herself, about the learners and events on the basis of personal psychology. So they act according to their own sense and understanding and adopt the new changes in their teaching profession. Whereas Bartlet says, “A teacher’s action are influenced by intentions in the social setting and by the beliefs and chains of reasoning that are held before and after the occurrence of the action”(p.173). So teaching through reflective inquiry requires deliberation and analysis of our own ideas about teaching as a form of action based on the basis of our changed understanding. This doesn’t mean that externally imposed directions bring changes in the behavior. Hence teachers need to reflect to explore their potential of acting or teaching according to their own beliefs and experiences in the classroom. Therefore, reflection is in fact an important part of the effective and meaningful teaching as it motivates the teachers in being more aware of their views or theories and tries to analysis them and restructures or generates new ideas or styles if possible to do. So the teachers will be able to deal with new and various problems that might occur in classroom situation if they engage themselves in learning for their development and familiarize themselves with the new innovative techniques and strategies. According Head and Taylor (1997) said, “Teacher development is a reflective way of approaching whatever it is that we are doing as teachers and at whatever level of experience we are doing it”(p12). Therefore, being a teacher one needs to reflect on the experiences or activities what they are doing for their growth.
In short, by developing knowledge and understanding the setting practice and the ability to identify and react to the problems the teacher can become effective teacher. Teachers can deal with needs and different issues of the learners and demand of time if he reflects his daily teaching learning activities for his professional growth. To deal and survive in their professional filed the teachers need to grow and bring changes in their behavior and style. Reflection is flash back that the teachers need to mediate for their development.
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