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Chapter 4. Findings

4.4 Use of Reflective Practices


influence, though they admit that their own reflective skills improved as they gained experience.

In conclusion, three main aspects of the perception of RP by the participants have been identified. The cumulative definition might be formulated as follows:

Reflection is a cyclic process of retrospective analysis aimed at the improvement of practice and learned naturally.


more often and more confidently. This may be a result of their experience in writing various “reflective reports” required by the current system of professional development and participating in the “level courses”1 where such reports are part of the final grade.

Based on the analysis of the participants’ responses about the use of writing in the RP, the participants may be divided into three categories: people who do not write at all, people who have “my own working note book”, and people who use the section for reflection in the standard NIS lesson plan.

P8 illustrated the attitude of the first category of respondents, who do not take any reflective notes: “I don’t take any notes. My head is my reflective journal… when I face with problems, these problems do not leave me and, like, bad things do not require a good memory”. Such an attitude tends to be characteristic of younger participants who have little experience with the system of education where everything is required to be recorded in the written form and seem to perceive reflective writing as unnecessary extra work.

P2 expressed the perception of writing of the people who use an informal note book as follows:

I have my own note book, but it’s not a journal, it’s my working note book. In it, I take all kinds of notes, for example, if something bothers me in the behavior of my students … I take notes because I have to talk to the parents and want the

conversation to be detailed and evidence-based.

A vivid example of the perception and use of the reflective section of the standard lesson plan was provided by P4:

Of course, we do it … there is a good section in the lesson plan where we can make notes answering specific questions … for ourselves. It means that reflection can be recorded. And I do it. But very briefly. For example, I note down some key words.

The last two quotations belong to more experienced science and maths teachers who seem to value the role of writing in their RP but have limited time and, therefore, tend to write very brief notes.

1 level courses -teacher professional development system consisting of three levels and aimed at training in- service teachers in the modern theories of education (Center of Excellence, 2016).


P6 demonstrated an outstanding example of an attitude to reflective writing. She seems fascinated by writing and uses several forms of it supplemented with technology- assisted note-taking:

I like note-taking, usually, while having a lesson, I make some notes in my papers, I mean in my lesson plan. Something that really caught my eye, maybe the remark of a student … after the lesson, I just add some more notes and I try to find a solution for the situation, if it's really necessary, I mean, if I need to improve, to develop something or maybe I just think. I have a kind of a reflective journal, I cannot say, that I keep it regularly, but I prefer to write down some of the things that are really important … I also have a digital version ... I prefer a rather simple form, for example, an item that should be discussed or thought about and so on, then who or in what way I have just reflected on it … and then what is the solution … because it helps me a lot to keep them … logical in my preparing and planning for the next activity.

P6 emphasized that her use of writing is her personal feature that had not been taught or otherwise promoted externally. She also admits that other people may be comfortable reflecting without making any notes.

Overall, all the participants demonstrated an explicitly positive attitude to the role of writing in their RP. However, teachers of mathematics and science subjects tend to avoid writing more often or use it less consistently than teachers of languages and humanities. This may be explained by the fact that teachers of languages and humanities are generally more used to writing and have more developed skills in it. In addition, less experienced teachers do not use written reflection as frequently as more experienced ones, probably, due to the fact that they have not had a chance to understand its value for their teaching practice and professional development.

4.4.2 The content of reflection. Although the content of reflection appears highly diverse, two broad overarching themes may be identified in the responses of all the participants. P1 defined them as “emotional and work-related” reflection. Talking about the “emotional” reflection, the participants report that they pay attention to the

relationships with and among students, their development, their emotional and physical condition, involvement in the activities at a lesson. For example, P3 described this type of


reflection as follows: “Sometimes I make notes about specific children, for example, Alikhan understood everything today, asked some questions … How children participated in the lesson, whether they were active, whether they had enough time to complete all the tasks…”.

The “work-related” reflection is reported to cover the progress of students, the quality and effectiveness of lesson plans, student achievement as a result of a term or a year, the performance of the curriculum, the educational innovations. For instance, P4 stated that she uses “reflection to solve the problems in the understanding of the subject”

and notes down “the difficulties that students have answering a certain question”.

On the whole, teachers reflect on a wide range of subjects, from student behavior in a particular lesson to the quality of the curriculum. Although there is no distinct difference in the content of teacher reflection depending on a subject, there is a clear tendency among younger participants to focus on children and their behavior, while more experienced ones include curriculum and method-related issues in the range of the themes of their reflection.

An explanation for this may be an assumption that less experienced teachers have not had an opportunity to embrace all the complexity of the educational process and the

interconnection of its elements, such as, for example, the connection between the curriculum and short-term lesson plans, and focus on their own immediate difficulties, such as, for example, student behavior.

4.4.3 The role of administration and colleagues. The key figures who affect the RP of teachers were reported to be the school administration and the colleagues who teach the same subject and belong to the same department. As for the role of the school

administration, the general perception is quite neutral though most of the participants admit that generally the administration encourages reflection. Most of them spoke about the requirement to fill out the reflective section of the lesson plan and “to be a reflective


teacher” though without indicating any specific documents or measures taken by the administration to encourage reflection. For example, P2 describes the role of the administration as follows:

Our vice-principal always tells us to take notes, to have an observation flow sheet.

Even if this is about formative assessment. In general … I think the administration thinks positively about reflection. When they observe your lesson, they ask you to analyze your own lesson. To identify two positive and two negative moments. Isn’t this all reflection?

As for the role of colleagues, all the participants highly appreciate the opportunity to discuss their professional issues with their colleagues who teach the same subject in the same grade (e.g. Maths in Grade 7). Most of them reported that their class is divided into two groups taught by two teachers and the teacher who works in the other group is their

“closest friend and partner” (P1) with whom they reflect together. For example, P6 reported the following:

First of all, with my colleague we are teaching the same classes, and that's why I think it's important to share our ideas after the lesson and to ask her about her opinion or about something that goes wrong or goes right. And together we are a really good team, because we can find any solution and sometimes our teamwork creates really fine items of the...I don't know, worksheets or something that really helps them to work.

Moreover, all the teachers who teach one subject in one grade plan lessons together and share resources and lesson plans. The participants reported that in the process of this collective planning, they “discuss what worked and what didn’t before and improve the lessons and then save them in a shared server” (P2). Also, regular department meetings were admitted to be an opportunity for collective reflection. For example, P8 observed:

I try to discuss especially global perspectives. There are some difficult parts and sometimes I ask questions. First of all, I ask how the lesson went with others…with other teachers, then I share my experience and they share their experience, and I reflect upon this. So I compare my teaching practice and their teaching practice.

What they have… what they had on their lessons and my own lesson, then I compare and try to come to some conclusion.

Overall, collective reflection is evaluated as an important tool promoting

professional development by more experienced teachers. This may have been caused by the fact that these people have already been within the NIS system, where opportunities for


collective reflection are arranged, for some time and have had a chance to use the support of their colleagues. P4 even observed that “the school has created a reflective environment for teachers where it is impossible not to reflect”. Saying this, she, probably, meant that the school policies require a teacher to be reflective and a system of collaboration with

colleagues and mentoring are being promoted. As for the new teachers, they mostly rely on their mentors to guide their reflection. For example, P3 reported the following:

I discuss my lesson with my mentor … she is an experienced Physics teacher. First we plan a lesson together. She approves my plan and then observes my lesson.

After the lesson she may tell me how it might have been done better …After I have conducted a lesson, we reflect together.

To conclude, it is hardly possible to identify a clear pattern in the use of RP by the participants though most of them use writing in one form or another but not on a regular basis and discuss their teaching practice with colleagues, preference being given to peers who teach the same subject in the same grades and mentors in the case of less experienced teachers. In addition, the content of their reflection may be roughly divided into two categories: the emotional and psychological aspects of teaching and the quality of curriculum delivery by teachers and mastery by students.