The Reflective Practitioner – Learning Through a Lens


The reflective practitioner is a force to be reckoned with! Seriously. Is that you?

The power of reflecting on your practice is easily underestimated but it is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal; it is also one of the cheapest!

What is reflective practice?

You know how when you are working you notice what the children do, how they do it, what they say and how they say it? Have you looked at yourself in this way? It might not feel as easy because it’s not something we are used to but it is possible and, importantly, powerful.

When observing children you are aware of the skills they demonstrate, the words they use and the focus they give to their play, what skills are you using to support those children? What words do you use and how focused are you on that situation?

Is everything you have done today, yesterday, last week, been completed to the best of your ability? Be critical, what didn’t get your attention? What skills did you underuse? What communication was ineffective?

Got something? Good – we learn so much by noticing the areas we need to develop.

‘So, is that it then Fiona, just notice stuff?’ Nope, there are some tools that can really help you and make a difference to the way you reflect and the impact this reflection will have on your practice. I’m going to share one with you for now….ready?

Reflective Lenses

This is my personal favourite. It enables me to see how I do things from the perspective of those around me, not just how I see it.

Stephen Brookfield identified this approach fairly recently (2005) but it has been adopted by many in the education field as a useful tool. I’ve broken it down for you and made it relevant to you.

The idea is to look at your practice from different viewpoints to help you to see yourself in the way others might.

Lens one – your own viewpoint – how did you do there? What worked? What didn’t work? Why? How can you improve what you did in the future?

Lens two – The children’s viewpoint – how did they experience your input? How did they respond to your words? How did they react to your involvement in their play?

Lens three – Your colleagues viewpoint – how did they see what you did? How did they respond? Did they comment on what you did? Would they have learnt something from you?

Lens four – The early years approach* you use – how does what you did fit with this approach? Is it a good fit or could you do more to work more closely to this approach?

You can write your reflections down, I find that really useful, but even thinking it through in your head, alone, or something that takes a bit of courage, discuss it with a friend or colleague. Make sure if you do this, you listen to their viewpoint carefully – this can give you real insight.

Why bother?

If this sounds like a lot of work believe me when I say it is not! More importantly, time spent reflecting is never time wasted; you will always learn something about yourself.

As well as learning about you, if you try out the things you discover, your colleagues and children will really thank you. The benefits to those around you will be huge and this includes when something doesn’t work!

So, what now?

Have a go! Really, just try it, take 2 minutes and think about what you did really well today; it feels good doesn’t it?

Oh, and don’t just do it once, keep doing it because, as with any skill, you have to practice to get good at it!

I’m off to reflect on this blog post now….

*By approach I mean the ethos of the setting you work in, the curriculum you follow, the underpinning theory to your practice. E.g. ‘In the Moment Planning, Montessori, Play-based, child-led, etc

Further reading:

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