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An appendix as a resource for teachers by emphasizing the importance on reflecting on actions and decisions as a teacher, using example stories and reflections.

The experience in reflective teaching is that you must plunge into the doing, and try to educate yourself before you know what it is you’re trying to learn.
- (Donald Schön, 1987)

Donald Schön, a philosopher and educational researcher, makes an important observation: learning about teaching often means making choices and taking actions without knowing in advance quite what the consequences will be. The problem, as we have pointed out more than once, is that classroom events are often ambiguous and ambivalent, in that they usually serve more than one purpose. A teacher compliments a student’s contribution to a discussion: at that moment she may be motivating the student, but also focusing classmates’ thinking on key ideas. Her comment functions simultaneously as behavioral reinforcement, information, and expression of caring. At that moment complimenting the student may be exactly the right thing to do. Or not: perhaps the praise causes the teacher to neglect the contributions of others, or focuses attention on factors that students cannot control, like their ability instead of their effort. In teaching, it seems, everything cuts more than one way, signifies more than one thing. The complications can make it difficult to prepare for teaching in advance, though they also make teaching itself interesting and challenging.

The complications also mean that teachers need to learn from their own teaching by reflecting (or thinking about the significance of) their experiences. In the classrooms, students are not the only people who need to learn. So do teachers, though what teachers need to learn is less about curriculum and more about students’ behavior and motivation, about how to assess their learning well, and about how to shape the class into a mutually supportive community.

Thinking about these matters helps to make a teacher a reflective practitioner (Schön, 1983), a professional who learns both from experience and about experience. Becoming thoughtful helps you in all the areas discussed in this text: it helps in understanding better how students’ learning occurs, what motivates students, how you might differentiate your instruction more fully, and how you can make assessments of learning more valid and fair.

Learning to reflect on practice is so important, in fact, that we have referred to and illustrated its value throughout this book. In addition we devote this entire chapter to how you, like other professional teachers, can develop habits of reflective practice in yourself. In most of this chapter we describe what reflective practice feels like as an experience, and offer examples of places, people, and activities that can support your own reflection on practice. We finish by discussing how teachers can also learn simply by observing and reflecting on their own teaching systematically, and by sharing the results with other teachers and professionals. We call this activity teacher research or action research. As you will see, reflective practice not only contributes to teachers’ ability to make wise decisions, but also allows them to serve as effective, principled advocates on behalf of students.

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Source:  OpenStax, Educational psychology. OpenStax CNX. May 11, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11302/1.2
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