Supporting Teachers' Learning: Reflection


Ezine: Reflective Teaching, Reflective Learning: Continuing the Conversation 

This ezine, which is introduced by Professor Ruth Leitch, provides access to a range of resources and supports for teachers engaging in reflection. You can access the ezine here.

Webinar on Reflection

This webinar, which is just over one hour long, was first broadcast by the Teaching Council in January 2019 and was jointly hosted with the Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT). During the webinar the themes of reflective teaching and reflective learning were discussed by the panel members listed below. The discussion was chaired by the Teaching Council's Director, Tomás Ó Ruairc. 

Panel Members

Dr Padraig Kirk, Director of Junior Cycle for Teachers

Professor (Emerita) Ruth Leitch, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen's University, Belfast

Bernie Tobin, Deputy Principal at St. John the Evangelist National School, Lucan, Co. Dublin

Dr Conor Mellon, Seconded teacher currently working in the Teachers' Learning and Research section of the Teaching Council

Anita McDonald, Post-Primary teacher at Ballybay Community College, Ballybay, Co. Monaghan

Webinar Timings

00:00 – 00:03 Introductions

00:03 – 00:10 What is reflection and why is it important?

00:10 - 00:21 Carving out a space for reflection in the current climate

00:21 - 00:28 What should policy makers do to embed reflection in the system?

00:28 - 00:38 Collaborative reflection

00:38 - 00:43 Student voice in the context of Brookfield’s lenses

00:43 - 00:46 How do we create a nurturing space for reflection?

00:46 – 00:54 School cultures

00:54 -00:57 Are policy makers too slow to change?

00:57 – 01:01 One thing we can do to embed reflection in/for our practice

01:01 - 01:02 Closing remarks

eBooks on Reflection

To access the ebooks below, registered teachers must be logged in to the Teaching Council’s online library here.

A step-by-step guide to accessing the online library can be found here.


Becoming a critically reflective teacherBecoming a Critically Reflective Teacher

(S.D. Brookfield) 

A practical guide to the essential practice that builds better teachers. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher is the landmark guide to critical reflection, providing expert insight and practical tools to facilitate a journey of constructive self-critique. Stephen Brookfield shows how you can uncover and assess your assumptions about practice by viewing them through the lens of your students' eyes, your colleagues' perceptions, relevant theory and research, and your own personal experience. Practicing critical reflection will help you… Align your teaching with desired student outcomes See your practice from new perspectives Engage learners via multiple teaching formats Understand and manage classroom power dynamics Model critical thinking for your students Manage the complex rhythms of diverse classrooms This fully revised second edition features a wealth of new material, including new chapters on critical reflection in the context of social media, teaching race and racism, leadership in a critically reflective key, and team teaching as critical reflection. In addition, all chapters have been thoroughly updated and expanded to align with today's classrooms, whether online or face-to-face, in large lecture formats or small groups. In his own personal voice Stephen Brookfield draws from over 45 years of experience to illustrate the clear benefits of critical reflection. Assumptions guide practice and only when we base our actions on accurate assumptions will we achieve the results we want. Educators with the courage to challenge their own assumptions in an effort to improve learning are the invaluable role models our students need. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher provides the foundational information and practical tools that help teachers reach their true potential.


New Educational Horizons

New Educational Horizons in Contemporary Ireland: Trends and Challenge

(P. Kieran & T.G. Grenham) 2012

Ireland is in the grip of a postmodern cultural deconstruction on many levels. The traditional ‘grand narratives' are increasingly viewed with suspicion and disenchantment as Ireland struggles to understand its evolving identity. There is a growing need for comprehensive interdisciplinary research that will facilitate teaching and learning in this rapidly changing cultural and societal context. This book brings a fresh approach to Irish educational debates, in which qualified educational specialists engage collaboratively in interdisciplinary reflection on their own teaching and learning. The volume addresses a multiplicity of key issues in Irish education (with a particular focus on the primary sector), including teacher formation, curriculum development, teaching and learning methods, educational policy, philosophy, history, religious education, ethics, special needs education and transformative education. The book aims both to critique new educational policy and practice and to identify the key challenges in providing innovative, imaginative and cutting-edge teaching and learning in contemporary Irish schools.


Action Research for TeachersAction Research for Teachers: A Practical Guide  

(J. McNiff & J. Whitehead) 2005

Assuming no prior knowledge of research methods and techniques, this book is the perfect companion for teachers at all levels undergoing professional development who need to enhance their formal reflection skills. Providing a detailed explanation of what action research is and its importance in terms of whole school development, this book invites the teachers to try out educational research for themselves and adopt an investigative attitude that will help improve and evaluate practice. It includes: Support and guidance that help you tackle key issues; 'Real-life' practical case studies that underline what action research is and how it can be effectively used.


Teaching and Learning through Reflective Practice

Teaching and Learning Through Reflective Practice: A practical guide for positive action

(T. Ghaye) 2011

Now in its second edition, Teaching and Learning through Reflective Practice is a practical guide to enable all those involved in educational activities to learn through the practices of reflection. The book highlights the power that those responsible for teaching and learning have to appraise, understand and positively transform their teaching. Seeing the teacher as a reflective learner, the book emphasises a strengths-based approach in which positivity, resilience, optimism and high performance can help invigorate teaching, enhance learning and allow the teacher to reach their full potential. This approach busts the myth that reflection on problems and deficits is the only way to better performance. The approach of this new edition is an ‘appreciative' one. At its heart is the exploration and illustration of four reflective questions: What's working well? What needs changing? What are we learning? Where do we go from here? With examples drawn from UK primary teacher education, the book reveals how appreciative reflective conversations can be initiated and sustained. It also sets out a range of practical processes for amplifying success. This book will be a must have for undergraduate and PGCE students on initial teacher training programmes. It will also interest practising teachers, teacher educators and those on continuing professional development courses.


Curriculum Action ResearchCurriculum Action Research: A Handbook of Methods and Resources for the Reflective Practitioner

(J. McKernan) 1996

A handbook of research techniques for teachers, this book documents the historical development and changing nature of action research in the curriculum and aims to encourage teacher development through curriculum inquiry. It describes 57 action research tools, ten of which are new.


Enhancing Practice through Classroom ResearchEnhancing Practice Through Classroom Research: A Teacher’s Guide to Professional Development

(C, McDonagh & M. Roche & B. Sullivan & M. Glenn) 2020

Offering updated references, questions for reflection, the latest case studies, and current advice relating to data protection and storage, this second edition of Enhancing Practice through Classroom Research provides an accessible introduction to understanding and improving teaching and learning through a process of reflection, research, and action. Divided into five parts, this self-study action research approach emphasises the positive aspects of enhancing practice and reflects how this can lead to higher levels of teacher autonomy and agency. With the addition of a chapter dedicated to the links between action research and well-being, this book provides a step-by-step guide to beginning your own research and covers topics such as: Identifying an area of professional concern or interest Exploration of educational values Developing a better understanding of practice Thinking critically about educational practices Finding a research methodology Drawing on the authors' new experiences of working with second level, third level, and postgraduate educators, as well as their work designing postgraduate programmes in the field of critical reflection and self-study action research, this friendly guide provides a straightforward approach to classroom research. It is the perfect resource for all student and practising teachers looking for support in classroom research, as well as those wanting to pursue effective professional development or further studies in an area of interest.


Developing Reflective PracticeDeveloping Reflective Practice: A Guide for Beginning Teachers

(D. McGregor) 2011

This student friendly practical guide helps you get to grips with reflective practice in teaching, using theories & case studies.


The Teacher's Reflective Practice HandbookThe Teacher’s Reflective Practice Handbook: Becoming an extended professional through capturing evidence-informed practice

(P. Zwozdiak) 2012

What do we mean by reflective practice? What does it involve? How can it help you develop as a teacher? The Teacher's Reflective Practice Handbook is an essential source of advice, guidance and ideas for both student and practising teachers. Helping you to translate pedagogical knowledge into practice, this Handbook guides you through studying your own teaching for personal development, evaluating your lessons through classroom research, and enhancing the quality of pupil learning. It offers an innovative framework which serves to prepare you for the challenges and complexities of the classroom environment, and supports the continuing improvement of your teaching. Underpinned by key theoretical concepts and contemporary research within the field of education, chapters help you to: systematically evaluate your teaching through classroom research procedures question personal theories and beliefs, and consider alternative perspectives and possibilities try out new strategies and ideas to maximise the learning potential of all students enhance the quality of, and continue to improve, your teaching. Including a range of reflective tasks, links to online resources, exemplification material and further reading to help you develop your own thinking, The Teacher's Reflective Practice Handbook is an accessible guide which supports the facilitation of reflective practice through self and peer assessment, problem-based learning and personal development planning. The multi-dimensional framework enables you to build a meaningful, personally relevant portfolio of evidence-informed practice.

Articles on Reflection

To access the articles below, registered teachers must be logged in to the Teaching Council’s online library here.

A step-by-step guide to accessing the online library can be found here.

Teachers' Critical Reflective Practice in the Context of Twenty-first Century Learning, L.Benade, 2015

This article is based on a project that has used multiple New Zealand case studies to engage teachers and leaders in interviews to explore their experiences at the futures-digital-reflective intersection. Critical theoretic and critical hermeneutic approaches inform the exploration of the relationships between reflective practice and twenty-first century learning by analysis and comparison of educational theoretical discourses with voices from a group of principals and ex-leaders on the one hand, and teachers, on the other hand.

Taking teachers' continuous professional development (CPD) beyond reflection: Adding shared sense-making and collaborative engagement for professional renewal, K. McArdle & N.Coutts, 2010

While reflection continues to be promoted as a central feature of teachers' continuous professional development (CPD) activities in Scotland and elsewhere, a wider debate across professions and national boundaries has opened as to how reflection might be re-conceptualised to restore its social and critical dimensions. This paper seeks to contribute to this debate, arguing that drawing ideas from the literatures on both reflection and communities of practice provides a sounder foundation upon which to build CPD activities that are likely to support professional renewal than that provided by either concept by itself. The paper concludes with a set of design principles for CPD activities

Reflecting to Conform? Exploring Irish Student Teachers' Discourses in Reflective Practice, pp 267-280 Journal of Educational Research, O.McGarr & O.McCormack, 2014

A new model of reflective practice for student teachers on school placement was implemented into a teacher education program. The model aimed to encourage critical reflection that challenged hegemonic assumptions and power relations. In contrast to this, the analysis of the student teachers’ reflections revealed a desire to fit in and conform. The authors explore possible reasons for these low levels of critique and examines the normative effect of cultural practices on student teachers’ reflections.

The Reflective Teacher: The Value of Reflective Practice for Preservice and Classroom Teachers, pp307-311, International Journal of Learning, C.Richardson, 2005

The opportunity to reflect allows teachers to link current preferences and practices to past experiences and become aware of long forgotten or previously unacknowledged events that have impacted on why and how they do what they do; to, in essence, identify the paradigm from within which they teach. The author will briefly trace the genesis of reflective practice and highlight, through the use of personal and student reflections, the value of reflection for educators.

Defining Reflection: Another look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking, pp842-866, Teachers College Record, C. Rogers, 2002

This article examines four criteria that characterize John Dewey's view of reflective thought: reflection as a meaning-making process; reflection as a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking with its roots in scientific inquiry; reflection needs to happen in community, in interaction with others; and reflection requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and others.

Critical reflection in the professional development of teachers: Challenges and possibilities, pp67-85, CEPS Journal, M. Saric & B.Steh, 2017

The article starts with a short overview of the different definitions of critical reflection in the context of teachers' professional development and then underlines some empirical research findings on the problems that teachers and teacher educators face when putting reflective practice into practice, especially at the deeper and more complex levels of reflection. Employing an analysis of the obstacles, the authors develop some guidelines on how to support teachers in their attempts at making critical reflection part of their teaching practice. It is crucial for this encouragement not to overlook the principal purpose of teachers' critical reflection; to contribute to new insights, knowledge reframing, and the introduction of such changes in teaching that will support students' learning and the development of the community for the better learning, work, and life of all its individuals.


Reflective Practice with Professor Brendan Cropley (Emma and Tom Talk Teaching, 13/11/20)

Listen here

Professor Cropley is a professor of sport coaching and an educator. Cropley emphasizes that becoming a reflective practitioner is a journey, and reflective conversations can support teachers on that journey. He talks about how to support teachers who have little or no experience in critical reflection, and how the person who is listening to the reflector can encourage them to think more deeply. Cropley discusses the need to select a reflective approach/model/framework that suits both our individual and collaborative purpose. He outlines the impact of reflective practice that moves beyond a description of our teaching and interactions into the realm of understanding ourselves and our practice better. Reflective practice is instigated through questioning, and the quality of the reflective practice is a factor of the quality of the questions we ask. The podcast provides down-to earth advice for anyone engaged in reflection, whether as an experienced teacher or someone who's new to the profession.  

Reflecting on Professional Learning

Feedback received from teachers during Cosán workshops pointed to the need for accessible information on the concept of reflection. Here you will find a video on models of reflection commonly used in education contexts and videos on tools to support reflection on professional learning.

Having accessed these resources on reflection, you may wish to access this workshop guide which has been designed to facilitate a school-based workshop on reflection with particular reference to reflection on professional learning in the context of the Cosán framework.

*The Teaching Council provides registered teachers with free access to an online library in order to enhance their access to educational research, thereby supporting their professional learning. The Teaching Council does not accept responsibility for the accuracy or integrity of journals, articles, ebooks, citations and related webpages or material accessed via these resources. The inclusion of these resources does not imply Teaching Council endorsement of any products, services, views or information described or offered in any such articles, ebooks, citations and related webpages etc.