Reflective practice

Section subject: Models and practice of reflective practice.


Reflective practice is a cornerstone of the mentoring process. The mentor should work with the mentee to develop reflexive skills: self-examination; and reflective skills: the examination of wider issues.

The aim is to enable both mentor and mentee to reflect and think about dilemmas and contradictions inherent in different educational contexts.

Learning objectives

This section helps you to:

What is reflective practice?

Reflective practice is different for different people. Some have strong convictions about what it should be, whereas others have a more straightforward approach.

Here are two quotes from mentors.

‘I think that reflective practice is quite simply about mentees learning from their experiences. Experience + Reflection = Learning.’

‘I think that reflective practice involves taking part in an exciting, risky, yet transforming journey as it allows you to examine your received opinions and assumptions about what your practice is and how it should be.’

What does reflective practice mean to you currently?

RP models

Mentoring and coaching – reflective model
Rhodes, Stokes and Hampton (1994)

mentoring and coaching - reflective model

Critical reflection perspectives
Adapted from Brookfield, (1995)

critical reflection perspectives

Atkins and Murphy (1993) offer a model of reflective practice from the literature that involves a three-stage process:

Stage 1
This is triggered by an awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts.
Stage 2
This involves a critical analysis of the situation, which is constructive and involves an examination of feelings and knowledge.
Stage 3
This involves the development of a new perspective on the situation.

Gibbs’ view of a reflective cycle

Gibbs' view of a reflective cycle

There are two main types of reflective activity. Being reflexive is focusing close attention upon one’s own actions, thoughts and feelings and their effects. Being reflective is looking at the whole scenario: other people, the situation and place, and so on.

One way of reflecting on your practice is to keep a journal of important incidents and their outcomes. This can be used as a method of examining your feelings in particular circumstances, how you responded to the events and what you learnt as a result.

Constant questioning should produce new insights into how we react and develop as professionals.

The following screens contain a series of questions for you to complete with the details of an incident taken from your own experience.

This will provide you with an opportunity to practise your reflective skills.

1.Give a brief description of experience (in-house or externally provided) such as collaborating with other colleagues, observing other colleagues, attending a training event.

2.What ideas from the experience would you use in your own practice?

3.What are your strengths and weaknesses with respect to implementing these ideas in your own practice? There may also be other, wider issues here, such as the organisation’s readiness etc.

4.What sources of information could you use to help you implement these ideas in your practice?

5.What criteria would you use to assess their positive impact within your own practice?

6.How have these ideas caused you to adapt/change your professional practice?

7.How would you let others in your organisation know about any successes you have achieved?

8.What sources of information have you used?

One model that can be used to help develop reflective practice in a mentee is known as the DATA process: Describe – Analyse – Theorise – Act.

Process stage of reflective practiceReflection of the menteeRole of the mentor
DescribeClearly describe the issue and what I wish to do about it in order to improve.Share information based on observation/experience.
AnalyseIdentify those factors that contributed to the issue I have highlighted. These factors may be assumptions, beliefs or rules (real or imagined).Encourage the mentee to think about their previous experience. Carry out critical questioning of the learner’s assumptions.
TheoriseI must consider the factors that brought about the issue and develop a theory that would fit with a new or different approach.Propose possible theories or suggest other people who might offer advice. Work with the mentee to draw up a new theory.
ActI can put the new theory/approach into action and then employ the process again to analyse what happened in the modified situation or in the next occurrence of a similar situation.Support the action of the mentee and reassure them about their chosen course of action.

What assumptions about Sonia’s practice need to be explored and what possible activities might she undertake in order to inform her future practice and develop new approaches?

Final word

Reflective practice and becoming a reflective practitioner is a lifelong pursuit. We should never stop learning. This applies to both mentors and mentees. Mentors report that mentoring has forced them to be reflective about their own beliefs about teaching, students, learning, and teaching as a career. It also provided them with opportunities to validate the experience they have gained over the years. Mentors find that just as teachers learn more about their subject by teaching, so analysing and talking about teaching is a natural opportunity to deepen teaching sensitivity and skill.

Reflective practice involves a continual process of renewing your organising vision. Look at the things that provide direction, purpose, and meaning. Prioritise what is really important in your work and what informs the actions you take. This can help you to arrive at a set of critically examined core beliefs, values, and assumptions about why you do what you do in the way that you do it.

‘Nothing is ever finished. Struggles are never really concluded, sometimes we have to re-dream our lives and realise that life can be used to create more light.’
Okri , B. (1994)

You might like to reflect on the issues arising from this section and make some notes for the future.

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