Reflection in Action: 6 Tips for Cultivating a Reflective Mindset for Teachers

Reflection in Action: 6 Tips for Cultivating a Reflective Mindset for Teachers

John Dewey once stated, “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Teacher self-reflection is a crucial aspect of professional development, as it helps educators improve their teaching practice and enhance student learning. Reflection enables teachers to evaluate their teaching methods, identify areas of strength and weakness, and develop effective strategies to address areas for improvement.

The importance of teacher self-reflection

Improved Teaching Practice: Research has shown that teacher reflection can lead to improved teaching practices. For example, a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that when teachers engaged in self-reflection, they were better able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and, subsequently, were more likely to adjust their teaching practices to improve student learning outcomes.

Personal and Professional Growth: Self-reflection is a powerful tool that helps teachers develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Self-reflection helps teachers identify areas that need improvement and develop strategies to address them. By constantly reflecting on their teaching practice, teachers can implement new techniques and strategies to enhance their instruction and help their students achieve better outcomes.

Enhanced Student Learning: Teacher self-reflection ultimately benefits students. When teachers reflect on their practice, they are better able to understand their students’ needs and provide personalized instruction. Effective teachers are able to create a positive and engaging learning environment that fosters student growth and achievement. A review of the research conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation found that teacher self-reflection, when combined with other professional development interventions, can have a significant impact on student achievement. Specifically, the review found that when teachers engage in self-reflection, they are better able to personalize their instruction to meet the needs of their students, resulting in improved student learning outcomes.

Increased Teacher Satisfaction: Teacher self-reflection can also increase job satisfaction and reduce teacher burnout. A study published in the Journal of Educational Research found that when teachers engaged in self-reflection, they reported feeling more fulfilled in their jobs and were less likely to experience burnout.

As John Biggs emphasizes, “Learning new techniques for teaching is like the fish that provides a meal for today; reflective practice is the net that provides a meal for the rest of one’s life.” 

Hear about the importance of creating opportunities for teachers to experience solving classroom problems combined with reflection and guidance to deepen learning.


However, reflection is not a natural process for all teachers. If you are coaching teachers to become reflective practitioners or are a teacher looking to incorporate more reflective practice, consider the following tips to help get more comfortable with a reflective mindset: 

  1. Set aside time for reflection. Carving out time for reflection is crucial to ensuring that it happens. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, schedule a regular time for reflection and make it a priority.
  2. Focus on specific areas of improvement. Reflecting on one’s entire teaching practice can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on specific areas that need improvement. For example, if you want to improve your classroom management, reflect specifically on that aspect of your teaching practice.
  3. Reflect on positive as well as negative teaching experiences. Reflecting on positive experiences can help teachers identify their strengths and build upon them, leading to increased confidence and motivation. Moreover, it can help teachers create a balanced view of their teaching practice and maintain a positive mindset.
  4. Give yourself grace, be honest, and frame your thinking from a growth mindset, not criticism. Self-reflection can be challenging, and it is important to approach the process with a growth mindset. This means reframing your thinking from self-criticism to self-improvement.
  5. Use a reflective tool. Using a reflective tool can help organize your thoughts and provide structure to your reflection. There are various reflective tools available, such as journals, blogs, video software, or reflective prompts. Choose a tool that works best for you and use it consistently.
  6. Seek feedback. It’s important to have a supportive learning community to facilitate growth and reflection. Getting feedback from colleagues or students can be invaluable in the reflection process. Ask for feedback on specific aspects of your teaching practice and use it to inform your reflection and improve your practice.

Video to support teacher reflection

Video can be an incredibly useful tool for teacher reflection. By recording their teaching sessions, teachers can gain a deeper understanding of their instructional practices, identify areas of strength and weakness, and develop strategies for improvement. 

Here are some ways in which video can help with teacher reflection:

  • Observing Classroom Dynamics: Video recordings allow teachers to observe their classroom dynamics, analyze student interactions, identify patterns and issues, and determine how they can address them. This helps teachers develop effective classroom management strategies that promote positive learning experiences for students.
  • Identifying Areas of Strength and Weakness: By watching video recordings of their teaching sessions, teachers can identify areas where they excel and areas where they struggle. This reflection can lead to insights that allow teachers to improve their instruction and provide a more effective learning environment for students.
  • Analyzing Instructional Strategies: Video recordings enable teachers to analyze their instructional strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. By watching their teaching sessions, teachers can identify which instructional techniques are most effective and which ones need improvement.
  • Getting Feedback: Video recordings can be shared with colleagues or instructional coaches, who can provide feedback to help teachers improve their instruction. This feedback can be used to reflect on instructional practices and develop strategies to improve teaching effectiveness. 

A key component of professional development for teachers is self-reflection, which can result in improved student learning as well as personal and professional improvement. Reflection offers the chance to pause and consider the significance of work each day, which increases satisfaction and can lessen symptoms of burnout among educators. 

Want more tips for supporting teacher growth? Check out the eBook, Teacher Support Throughout the Career Continuum.