Over the years I’ve become more interested in the power and impact of reflection in not only learning and development, but also in teaching and leadership. An attribute of my model of high-impact leadership programs focuses specifically on reflection and the value of incorporating those activities into leadership programs. Reflecting on your own practice can have a positive effect.

Attribute 8 of the Grounded Theory Model of High Quality Leadership Programs is: Students engage in reflection activities: Connecting leadership theory, their experiences, and themselves. Having a practice of reflection about your practice while you are practicing is pretty meta indeed. It’s also where your own learning and development can be fostered.

We’ve created a guide to help you learn more about what is a reflective practice, and how you might apply reflection into your practice as a leader, teacher, or professional seeking to have a greater impact and get better at what you do…or even do it in a different, new, or better way. We used our AI tool to help put this guide together. We hope it’s helpful and catalyzes reflection on your practice.

Reflective Practice Learning Guide

Reflective practice is a systematic approach to review your own professional actions or decisions, typically after the event, to improve and understand the ways you operate. Popularized by Donald Schön, an influential thinker in developing the theory and practice of reflective learning, this process is used extensively in various fields, particularly within education and learning development. Let’s delve deeper into this concept.

The Origin of Reflective Practice

Donald Schön, an American philosopher and professor, developed the concept of reflective practice in the 1980s. His work focused on how professionals could enhance their skills and knowledge by thoughtfully considering their actions and experiences. His book “The Reflective Practitioner” is regarded as seminal work in the field.

The Importance of Reflective Practice

Reflective practice enables professionals to understand how they use their knowledge in practical situations and how they combine action and theory. By critically evaluating your actions, you can identify areas for development and subsequently improve your professional practice. It allows learning from your experiences and promotes continuous personal development.

Reflective practice is crucial for teachers. It aids in understanding the dynamics of the classroom and allows for modification of teaching styles based on student needs.

Components of Reflective Practice

Reflective practice encompasses several key elements:

  • Reflection-in-action: This involves thinking about what you are doing while you are doing it. It helps in making decisions on the spot and adjusting your actions as required.
  • Reflection-on-action: This is reflecting after the event. It allows you to look back on a situation or experience, evaluate your actions, and consider what you could do differently in the future.
  • Critical reflection: This is the deepest level of reflection. It requires examining one’s underlying beliefs and assumptions, questioning their validity, and potentially changing your practices based on new understandings.

Examples of Reflective Practice

Let’s consider some examples to understand reflective practice better:

  1. A Social Worker: After a challenging case involving child protection, the social worker reflects on the process they followed, their decisions, and the emotional aspects of the case. This reflection helps them identify areas of improvement for future cases and manage their emotional well-being.
  2. A Nurse: Post a procedure, a nurse might reflect on their actions and decisions, especially if the outcomes were unexpected. They might critically evaluate their actions, consider alternate approaches, and discuss with peers to expand their understanding and enhance future practice.
  3. A Business Leader: After executing a business strategy, a leader could reflect on the outcomes and the process, considering factors such as team dynamics, decision-making, and external influences. Such reflection can lead to more informed future strategies and enhanced leadership.

Reflecting on Teaching Practices

Reflection in teaching is especially important due to the diverse and dynamic nature of education. Reflective teachers regularly examine their pedagogical strategies, classroom management skills, and communication methods, among other things.


Self-evaluation is a critical aspect of reflective teaching. Post a lesson, teachers can ask themselves questions like, “Did the students grasp the concepts?”, “Was the pace of the lesson appropriate?”, or “Were my instructional strategies effective?” This exercise helps identify strengths and areas of improvement.

Peer Observation

Teachers observing each other’s classes and providing feedback can be an invaluable source of professional development. They can reflect together, share insights, and identify better teaching strategies.

Student Feedback

Reflecting on feedback from students provides teachers with unique perspectives on their teaching styles and effectiveness. This can lead to changes in instruction methods, lesson planning, and classroom management, ultimately improving the learning experience for students.

Teaching Portfolios

Teachers can maintain a collection of their work, including lesson plans, assignments, student work, and self-reflections. This portfolio can be used for self-reflection and for sharing with peers for feedback.

Professional Development Workshops

Workshops and seminars allow teachers to reflect on their teaching practices in light of new pedagogical research and theories. They can adapt and improve their practices based on these reflections.

Reflective practice, be it in teaching or any other profession, is an ongoing journey. It’s not about reaching a final destination but about being open to learning from every experience. This commitment to continuous learning and improvement is what makes reflective practice a powerful tool for personal and professional development.

Reflective Practice Conclusion

Learning happens from the experience and the reflection. What reflection activity might you do right now? Perhaps it is a reflection on your own practice of reflection. We enjoy leading groups of people through practice reflection experiences in our reflection workshops. Just reach out to learn more. The concept of retrospectives from the Agile world seem to do a good job of helping groups reflect on their practice and project. You can find templates for retrospectives to help your team reflect on the projects they engage in.