Reflective Teaching, a Guide for FL Teachers’ Practice

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Reflective Teaching,

a Guide for FL Teachers Practice

Teaching has been considered a complex task in which a sort of knowledge is negotiated between participants, in other contexts they are named teachers and learners. This type of relationship is directly influenced, shaped, and determined by teaching assumptions or approaches that teachers or institutions follow. In this sense, it sounds quite logical that making decision about what methodological principle apply is a relevant duty. The result should correspond to a panoramic view that answer to the expectations and needs a certain community has about teachers role; that is why foreign language teachers must develop a critical thinking in classroom and teaching practices. One of the most relevant features that cope with the requirements mentioned above is reflecting teaching whose concern with teachers awareness of a need to change, innovate, and adjust to the circumstances (Pennington, 1995:706) allow them to make improvements and accurate decisions. Similarly, this approach guides them to the main personal duty which is the search of mechanisms that improve their teaching practices based on the idea that successful learning can only be result of accurate teaching. Jack Richards has described this idea as:

an approach in which teachers and student teachers collect date about teaching, examine their attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, and teaching practices and use the information obtained as a basis for critical reflection about teaching

Considering it, the continual examination of teaching performance proposed in Reflective Teaching allows educators to improve their teaching practices by receiving feedback from their experiences; in this sense, Reflective Teaching has a significant impact on FL teachers.

Since all the assumptions, from which reflective teaching is shaped, are based on the pressing need of building a bridge between theory and practice by adopting a critical-reflective attitude, FL teachers will greatly improve their performance. Wallace (1991) states that critical reflection triggers a deeper understanding of teaching due to the fact that it involves examining teaching experiences as a basis for self-evaluation and decision making to provide a source of change. Thus, educator will be conscious about their strengths and weaknesses in order to actually work on them. Besides, adopting this approach means for FL teachers to have the chance to clarify how and why teaching takes place, to know if learners are truly learning what teachers expect to, and to know what occurs during the learning process. Richards clearly condenses that idea by standing that much of what happens in teaching is unknown to the teacher [] they are often unaware of the kind of teaching they do or how they handle many of the moment-to-moment decisions that arise (1996:6). Moreover, critical reflection gives teachers a certain power and degree of responsibility which is determined by the level of autonomy and control exercised during the practice in order to consider and evaluate these experiences and move towards successful educational process.

Besides, gathering information is a fundamental issue that provides data for teaches to examining their performance. Murphy has identified six topic areas for reflective teachers in order to explore in their task for making experiences more meaningful (2001). The fist area regards to communication patterns in the classroom. By exploring this aspect, teachers can better understand how the dynamics of the communication process works in the classroom; likewise, reflective FL teachers may establish the relationship between teacher-learner, learner-learner, and teacher-learners through applying this reflective principle. The second area, deals with the importance of understanding these sorts of reactions that lessons brigs about and the learners responses to those purposes for analyzing this issue. In third place, teachers decision making appears as fundamental aspect because of teachers lack of awareness about what deeply happen in the classroom enterprise and his/her need to realize about it. As it is cited above by Richards, teachers most of the times are not conscious about the type of teaching they are implementing or how they cope with every decision that arise at moment of teaching.

Furthermore, the affective climate of the classroom is the fourth topic area proposed by Murphy for a reflective teaching view. The reasons to include this element are quite logical. The role of affectivity in FL learning has been deeply accepted and praised by humanist and constructivist practitioners because affectivity in classroom can interfere in a positive or negative way in the FL acquisition. Then this a topic in which teachers may concentrate their reflections in order to facilitates the learning process. The other area that can be study is the instructional environment due to the fact it may condition and limit teachers performance according to methods and instructional purposes they use. Finally, the sixth area that FL teachers should examine is the one related to professional development what is concerned with profession engagement. In fact, it is important to consider it because this represents the teachers inners motivation and goals towards their careers, that is to say, teachers self improvement.

So far, it has being showed why to appeal to reflective teaching in FL classroom settings and on what topic areas teachers may focus the process of a reflective practitioner. When talking about this particular cognitive activity, reflection, it is conveyed the idea of critical retrieving of experiences to analyze, measure, contrast, consider, and exam the experiences in order to give teachers the possibility to enlarge and improve their understanding of teaching and their occupational hazard as well. Even though Parker argues that while experience is a key component of teacher development, in itself it may be insufficient as a basis for professional growth (cited by Richards, 1996), the fact of questioning about past experiences allows not only teachers but also learners to receive feedback. Thus teachers can modify, change, shape, or adapt the further experiences and at the same time, answer to the challenge of a reflective practitioner breaking out the monotony some teachers fall in.

Following this idea, some current approaches that contribute to reflective practice are: technical rationality, reflection-in-action, reflection-on-action, reflection-for-action, and action research. The first principle to be considered is the one regarding to technical rationality, which consists of examining teaching behaviors and skills after the class occurs. VanMannen (1977) has defined this process as the focus of reflection on effective application of skills and technical knowledge in the classroom focusing on the cognitive aspect of teaching; many beginning teachers start to examine their skills from this perspective in controlled situations with immediate feedback from teacher educators (Fuller 1970). The beginning teacher tries to cope with the new situation of the classroom, instantaneously connecting the formal knowledge with the practice itself. For FL teachers this issue permits them to reshape their development for future experiences.

The second notion of reflective practice refers to reflection-in-action (Schon 1983, 1987). For this to occur, fist at all, FL teachers have to posse a kind of knowing-in-action which is similar to seeing and recognize a face in a crowed place without listening, and putting gradually separate features together. In this sense, this knowledge or information is only observable and unable to be verbal. Schon (1987) says that people can sometimes make a description of something implied (understood) but not expressed, this subject is the center of professional practice. From this point, reflection-in-action is derived. Then, when thinking about what we are doing in the classroom while we are doing it (Schon 1983, 1987), a sequence of moments happens in order to reshape teaching performance: firstly, the situation occurs spontaneously as a response of a mechanic act, as it occurs in knowing-in-action; secondly, this pattern produce an unexpected outcome what calls the attention; then this surprising event leads to reflection within an action; so the structure of knowing-in-action is questioned by means of critical thinking; finally, this reflection carries out new actions which will explore other happenings. As a result there is a reshape of responses.

Reflection-on-action is the third principle of reflective practice. This notion of reflective teaching deals with the fact of thinking back on what teachers have done in order to discover how their knowing-in-action (the knowledge that teachers come to perform their work spontaneously), may have contributed to an unexpected action. These elements previously mentioned are quite important due to the fact they produces an enriched reflection for teachers, as a consequence FL educator will be capable to face teaching/learning situations and overcome them successfully.

The fourth notion of reflective teaching is called reflection-for-action. That consists on the desired outcome of the previous two types of reflection (reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action) (Killon and Todnew 1991:15). For this reason we can infer that the main concern of this issue is to take the initiative of acting rather than reacting to events, and to guide future action for having more practical purpose. From this aspect, FL teachers have several opportunities to reflect through a range of different activities that will help them to become more responsible in their professional field.

The last principle of reflection is action research. McFee (1993:178) clearly conden