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A response to Finlay's (2008)'s article Reflecting on Reflective Practice

One Size does not fit all.

I agree with Findlay who suggests that different models are needed at different levels for individuals within an organisation relevant to that organisation to use in different contexts. However we have to be careful that they do not turn into checklists which then become less reflective and more mechanical. If an organisation chooses to use only one model then I believe the way to avoid this is by people working with colleagues in groups of 2-3 when critically reflecting on their practice. The models need to ensure that general insight, personal growth and professional development occur as a result of this personal reflection.
The New Zealand Teaching as Inquiry cycle supports Schon's idea of reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action.
This learning inquiry takes place both during and after teaching as I monitor my students’ progress towards the identified learning outcomes and reflect on what this tells me. I use this new information to decide what to do next to ensure continued improvement in student achievement and in my own practice.

Before I read this article I never really gave credence to the importance of my affective skills needed for sound reflection. Together with cognitive skills they combine in the process to avoid superficial responses to the critical, questioning and challenging elements of critical reflection. Put forward for consideration by Findlay is the suggestion that you also run the risk of the reflection becoming self-justified, colluding with existing practice and rationalising it. Atkins and Murphy's model supports this deeper level of reflection.

In the New Zealand Teaching as Inquiry cycle this is not explicitly mentioned therefore it could be seen as not as important. The way to overcome this is to not work independently, but work with other colleagues to support one another in our inquiries and nurture critical reflection. We all have basic beliefs and assumptions that guide our thinking and behaviour and we need other people to provide us with different perspectives and to share their ideas, knowledge, and experiences to challenge us in our reflections. This is particularly important for new teachers who have little experience to draw upon and may initially also need a more explicit model like that of Atkins and Murphy to go alongside the Teaching as Inquiry model.

In Findlay's article Loughran points out that in order for change to happen good reflective practice is done through practical experiences and practice. This endorses the coaching that happens in my school across departments, as teachers watch a colleagues lesson and later sits with the colleague to reflect on that lesson. The coach is also supported by a professional from outside the school who assists the coach to learn how to work collaboratively with the colleague and bring the skills of listening, questioning and paraphrasing to the conversations about practice and to make meaning of classroom observation data. This coaching is cooperative and reflective, not just telling or following advice. The power is that the locus of control for the learning needs is with the teacher.

Models should be used to trigger broader reflection not just be an end in themselves.

Atkins, S. and Murphy, K. (1993) ‘Reflection: a review of the literature’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 18, pp. 1188–1192.Atkins, S. and Murphy, K. (1993) ‘Reflection: a review of the literature’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 18, pp. 1188–1192. Retrieved from:

Finlay, L. (2008) Reflecting on reflective practice. PBPL. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum Retrieved from:

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Comment by Lorraine Makutu on June 21, 2015 at 17:39

I also agree with Findlay in terms of needing different models in order to develop reflective models which allow there to be growth in individuals. There are however so many variables to consider when reflecting about your practice including the purpose for the reflection. 

As educators we often find differentiated learning caters for individual needs, therefore there is always differentiated learning for different styles of learning too. Dewey's (1933) consideration around reflection being directly from the experienced situation and making reflection purposeful and resolving problems resonates in some ways to my own situation and how this needs to impact on student outcomes and inquiring into teaching.

Dewey also conceptualised reflection as starting with experience and stressing how we learn from 'doing', ie. practice. However, I also feel I resonate with the work of Schon (1983) where the implicit knowledge can be used alongside the experiences of the practitioner. The combination of the two types of reflection: reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action is evident within our school dependent upon the experiences and the purpose for the reflection. In terms of our teaching or our strategic plan, we would be able to inquire into our practice, revise and then rework the plan to engage students within their learning for better achievement. The ongoing cyclic plan we follow for our organic inquiries is always reviewed twice a term for teachers which is for better levels of achievement for our students and our staff in order to improve student outcomes. 

Gibbs' (1988) Reflective Cycle seemed quite simple and evolved from Kolb's experiential learning cycle. It was easy to follow and is similar in some ways to the NZ Curriculum or the Teaching as inquiry model. All our students follow a system for inquiring into their learning therefore it becomes more prevalent as to why there is a need to follow up with different ways to reflect.

In this article, there were two areas which captivated me more than any other as there is much research about Reflective Practice with some debate but all very similar in ideas however, I found the Pedagogic Concerns to be one of more interest especially where 'developmental readiness' and the extent to which forcing students to reflect became possibly counterproductive. I feel it only becomes counter productive if it is tokenism or perhaps a surface feature to fill a gap as opposed to being purposeful reflection which has been taught well. After all, how many of us were taught the importance or significance of reflection? 

The practical means by which Loughran did point out with reflective practice happening within experiences and experiments eg. Science Fairs, Business Plans for Merchants of Mangere. These activities all endorsed and becoming part and parcel of learner learning cycles. As Lorraine V mentioned 'Coaching' becoming more apparent with anyone being the teacher as is the case on many occasions in our school. Classroom observations and appraisals being done by buddy teachers, tutor teachers, mentors, senior management, facilitators of learning which can be specific to any chosen area of need. 

The second area of interest in this article I found was the section which talks about Presenting reflective practice(s) with care. It speaks about how the concept of reflective practice needs to be given with some care to motivate students to want to engage the process. I especially find this encouraging when trying to do research around 'gathering student voice'. The key I have found is also engaging not only the pedagogy behind the reflections, but also the use of more than one way or more than one tool to gather that information. Students I have worked with have also always asked the why question which is always prevalent to new learning. 

This has become important with leading change in the school and our pedagogy around having student voice. I like how Lorraine V also summed it up with Models should be used to trigger broader reflection not just be an end in themselves. 

Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on 'Reflective practice'. Retrieved from:

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum Retrieved from:

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