Models of reflective practice (RP) for unreflective beginning teachers

We believe that these mentoring strategies will support you and a beginning teacher you mentor towards becoming reflective practitioners. These useful strategies can be further strengthened by introducing RP models, such as Kolb’s (1984) cycle, Brookfield’s (1995,2017) lenses and situated RP (Malthouse, Roffey-Barentsen and Watts, 2014). These models will provide some structure to the beginning teacher by which they can evaluate their own and other teachers' lessons and grade the reflective accounts of self-and/or others.

Model 1: Kolb’s learning cycle

Kolb's (1984) learning cycle has four-stages (Table 4.3). The first point of the cycle is an actual, or concrete experience (CE), where the beginning teacher does something. The next stage is reflective observation (RO), where the beginning teacher reflects upon what they have done. Abstract conceptualisation (AC) takes the form of the beginning teacher finding out more about what they have done. Frequently, this takes the form of reading some relevant literature to support or change their existing practices. Having done something, reflected upon it and found out more about it/read some relevant literature, the final stage is that of active experimentation (AE) where the beginning teacher plans for the next CE.

Table 4.3 Using Kolb's learning cycle to evaluate sample reflective accounts

Kolb's four-steps

(Adapted from Kolb, 1984)

Grade the given sample self-reflective teacher's accounts on teaching from most reflective to least reflective

Reflective account 1

Reflective account 2

Reflective account 3

concrete experience (CE)

reflective observation (RO)

abstract conceptualisation (AC)

active experimentation (AE)

The model is cyclical and can be employed as often as it is necessary (Chapter 6, p. 74) uses Kolb's four-stages of learning cycle to reflect on lesson planning).

This model could be beneficial for a beginning teacher, especially for those who value RP but are unable to reflect on their practices appropriately. You can support a beginning teacher to use RP approaches in their teaching practices by first sharing some sample in-depth and some superficial teacher’s reflective accounts with them. Next, ask the beginning teacher to grade the accounts from most reflective to least reflective, using Kolb's four steps as the four criteria for grading. This exercise could help the beginning teacher to understand what RP entails and assist them to begin the in-depth process of understanding reflection.

Model 2: Brookfield’s lenses

Brookfield (1995, 2017) recognised the importance of scrutinising assumptions. In order to do this, he advocated observing a phenomenon from a number of perspectives. He called this 'his four complementary lenses of reflective practice' (2017, p. xi). These lenses comprise the following:

  • • The point of view of the teacher
  • • The point of view of the learner
  • • The point of view of colleagues
  • • The point of view of theories and literature (Roffey-Barentsen and Malthouse, 2013, p. 8).

However, not all of these perspectives align to the practice of mentoring and so we offer a second set of alternative lenses:

  • • The point of view of the beginning teacher
  • • The point of view of the mentor
  • • The point of view of colleagues and/or pupils
  • • The point of view of theories and literature.

We believe that this model could help a beginning teacher, especially those who lack the ability to view self and others' perspective and those who do not value the importance of RP in their teaching practices. It is best if you can convince a beginning teacher you are mentoring to value the perceptions of others and the important role RP plays in their personal development. You can do this by asking them to:

  • 1. Observe some lessons taught by experienced science and/or non-science teachers, and evaluate those lessons. Encourage them to document why they think certain aspects of teaching went well or which they felt could be improved
  • 2. Next, ask them to converse with the observed teacher to record their perspectives on their lesson
  • 3. Finally, meet with the beginning teacher to discuss the perceptions of self (beginning teacher) and others (observed teachers). You can then ask the following guestions to support this discussion:
    • • Does literature exist in relation to their perceptions?
    • • In what way does it relate to their teaching and learning practices?
  • • How do their ideas relate to Brookfield's (adapted by Roffey-Barentsen and Malthouse, 2013) model?
  • • In light of the above, what are their perceptions now?

Model 3: Malthouse and Roffey-Barentsen’s situated reflective practice

This situated reflective practice model is anticipatory in nature, i.e. this model allows a person to reflect upon what they would do should a certain situation arise. Figure 4.1 represents an overview of this model (Malthouse, 2012; Malthouse, Roffey-Barentsen and Watts, 2015). You can use this model to support a beginning teacher who finds themselves in a situation in which they feel they have no control. You could introduce the five interlinked stages in Figure 4.1 to the beginning teacher you are mentoring to support them in reflecting their personal reflective account.

You could use the five-stages, presented in Figure 4.1, in the following ways:

  • 1. Identify a situation - Ask the beginning teacher to describe a difficult situation (such as struggling to properly complete the lessons in a 40-minute period).
  • 2. Relate - Having identified the situation, support the beginning teacher to relate the impact of such a situation to their professional development.
  • 3. Reflect - Encourage the beginning teacher to think about the likelihood of the identified situation (see above) and next steps.
  • 4. Plan - Allow the beginning teacher to formulate a contingency plan in the event of the changes actually occurring, which can be discussed with you if required.
  • 5. Act - The beginning teacher plan is acted upon. Together, you can review the action and ask open-ended questions to further incorporate the reflective process.

This model (Figure 4.1) is quite flexible and the situation can be reviewed at any stage. Further, it is not necessary for the model to be employed in its entirety. For example, if it becomes apparent that something needs to be done at the 'relate' stage, then it may be necessary to act without the need to 'reflect' or 'plan'.

Situated reflective practice

Figure 4.1 Situated reflective practice

(Source: Adapted from Malthouse (2012) and Malthouse, Roffey-Barentsen and Watts (2015))

Finally, Task 4.3 is designed to enable you to reflect on RP models in your mentoring practices. It also asks you to identify which model is most suitable for the beginning teacher you are currently mentoring.

Task 4.3 Mentor refection: Selecting a model of RP

  • 1. Ask yourself which RP model you prefer to use and why?
  • 2. Which model is most suitable for the beginning teacher you are currently mentoring? Why?
  • 3. Would you consider using different RP models for different beginning teachers? Why (not)?

Summary and key points

The key considerations that have been made in this chapter for you as a mentor concern what you are trying to achieve as a mentor and the different approaches you might adopt to develop reflective mentoring practices and to support a beginning teacher to develop RP, focusing on:

  • • The elements of RP that have been identified as including ourselves, other people, the environment and time
  • • An experience has no value unless it has been shared; reflection-in-action and reflec-tion-on-action can be ways of sharing
  • • Reflective mentoring involves a mentor-mentee relationship that is trusting, supporting and affirming
  • • Kolb's learning cycle, Brookfield's lenses and situated reflective practice were offered to enable you to support a beginning teacher to become a reflective teacher.

Keeping your answers, notes, discussions and reflections from this chapter will be helpful for you to reflect progressively as you work with a beginning teacher and as you read other chapters in the book.

Further resources

Bolton, G. and Delderf ield, R. (2018) Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development. London: Sage.

The newly updated fifth edition of this bestselling book explores reflective practice as a creative and dynamic process. This book encourages you to reflect thoughtfully on your role as a mentor to improve your own self-awareness, effectiveness and professional development.

Roffey-Barentsen, J. and Malthouse, R. (2013) Reflective Practice in Education and Training. 2nd edn. London: Sage.

This is a practical guide to RP for mentors and mentees in educational settings. RP is a key element of teaching and this comprehensive and accessible guide introduces and explains this area of practice for mentors and beginning teachers. It asks 'what is reflective practice?' and includes an explanation of the processes of reflection and tips on reflective writing.

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