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We All TALK About Reflection - but How Do You TEACH It?

"Reflection, in the words of a layman, “... simply means thinking about something,” but for some, “it is a well-defined and crafted practice that carries very specific meaning and associated action.” (Loughran, 2002)*


New “teachers-to-be” will lack actual hands-on experience. So, we must start with teaching students to think in a reflective way—even though they may first be reflecting on plans as opposed to reflecting on actual experience.



Where do we begin in teaching preservice teachers reflection?


We start by having them reflect on their work in a consistent and constant manner. Eventually, reflection will become part of their teaching process as they actually experience working with children.


A 7-part approach to teaching reflection


Using scenario-type assignments—like those provided in MindTap Education—students should be encouraged to consistently follow a structured approach:


  1. Plan: What would you do “if” _____?
  2. Apply: Back up the plan with theory. What do we know through research of why we do things this way?
  3. Execute: Carry out the plan; or project what might occur
  4. Assess: What worked? What didn’t? What could you change?
  5. Ask: How would this impact a child’s learning or development?
  6. Reflect: How could this experience make you a better teacher?
  7. Scaffold: How could you continue to build on your knowledge with this plan?


Think. Plan. Be flexible.


Getting preservice teachers to ALWAYS think in this manner on EVERYTHING they do when teaching is crucial in my opinion.


First, preservice teachers need to have the knowledge to back up their actions. This will help them build confidence and hone their ability to make sound decisions.


Secondly, they need to learn there isn’t a right or wrong approach. Always back up your plan with theory, then think flexibly and make adjustments as needed to ensure the plan effectively supports a child’s learning.



Share YOUR best practices


Like others in the Cengage Faculty Community, I’d love to hear how you teach reflection to your preservice teachers. Please join the conversation and share your methods in the comments.



*Loughran, J. John. “Effective Reflective Practice: In Search of Meaning in Learning about Teaching,...


Sandy Owen, Professor and Program Chair
Early Childhood Education Department,

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College


Great article! I especially appreciate the 7-part approach, including the questions accompanying the parts. I can see how this approach can be beneficial to preservice teachers. I have used this in another way in my classroom with students and in a different field. I teach students who will have future careers in the medical field, specifically providing administrative medical- and computer-related training for students seeking future administrative support positions to various medical professionals, ranging from supporting physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals, as well as supporting managers, CEOs, etc in the medical field. Interestingly, I have used chapter reflections for the past several years with similar prompts in the classroom to provide an experiential learning experience for students. I prefer to have students reflect in a written format on a classroom discussion board in a learning management system, regardless of the delivery format of the course (traditional seated, hybrid blend, or online). I have found that providing the opportunity for students to write (rather than have to immediately come up with their thoughts in the classroom), allows the students more time to reflect and compose their thoughts. In addition, by writing on a discussion board, students can review their own posts and can read other students' posts over the course of the semester, strengthening the learning opportunities. Students post their chapter reflections in relation to what they have covered in a particular chapter. These chapter reflections have allowed students the opportunity to review what they have covered, assess individually what they wish to explore more, ask themselves why they believe the information to be relevant, reflect upon how this information applies to themselves as a student and future employee, as well as reflect upon how this information can benefit them as they work with future medical professionals as well as work with patients. Overall, I find that students write very well, both in grammatical format and in content. Students have commented that they once disliked having to post on discussion boards, but that they now have grown to like posting on my discussion boards. Thus, mission accomplished! I appreciate your sharing this article. I will review my own discussion board prompts, comparing mine to your 7-part approach. I will likely edit my prompts to strengthen them! Thanks again!



Glad you found this helpful! When I was researching the topic of reflection I did find a lot of information related to the medical field - which fits with reflection being an important part of the "helping professions".  One thing I've found is that by teaching our students to respond in this manner they are also carrying it over into all their work - even if I don't specifically ask for a reflection! That's a great sign to me - they are getting the process.

I have noticed that my students discussion board posts have begun to have more substance to them and are including references to the articles posted. The important key is to have them read and take the time to think it through --which is so important in the fast paced world of our students.

Although the scenario assignments are not visible to all - I do post a summary  ( online classes) of the class work after each assignment - to share what the students have done.

Your comments have helped me to continue to "reflect" on my practices too!