3 Types of Reflection to Enhance and Improve Your Teaching

By Phil Kitchel posted 05-10-2022 06:00 AM


By Thomas J. Diana, Jr.

During your teacher preparation program, you were probably introduced to the term reflection. It’s not a new concept in education; it’s been researched and investigated since the advent of teacher preparation programs (Schön, 1983). However, as you make the transition to your own classroom, your reflection on your classroom practice will undoubtedly shape your teaching career. Teaching is complex work with both significant challenges and great rewards.

Developing yourself as a new reflective practitioner will be critical for a long and successful career in education. Reflective teachers are effective teachers because they know what and how they are going to teach. Just as important, though, is that they know why they decided to use the teaching methods they chose. These teachers then actively review their teaching and assess its effectiveness, with video technology often helping with this process.

The Importance of Reflection for New (and All) Teachers

Since you are new to the teaching workforce, you need to purposefully study your classroom practice and evaluate student learning. Taking an in-depth look at how your students are learning and how you are teaching will develop your knowledge about students and student learning (Mitchener & Jackson, 2012). This process takes more than just a few weeks!

  1. Reflection-for-Action

As a new teacher, you’re probably most familiar with this type of reflection. Effective teachers are active participants in the development of their lessons and units and seek to create classroom experiences that will help students to understand the content. You spend time analyzing alternatives to simply “covering the content” and meeting the learning standards as well as finding ways to help students develop a conceptual understanding of the content. You’ll spend substantial time reviewing the content, developing ways to relate the content to students’ personal lives, and creating activities that are student centered and differentiated to various learning styles. Your teacher preparation program often stresses this type of reflection, and new teachers have experience with this during lesson and unit plan development. Questions you may ask yourself while you prepare for your teaching include:

“How can I best meet the needs of all my students in this lesson?”
“How can I break the content into manageable parts?”
“How will I assess student learning during this activity?”
  1. Reflection-in-Action

Reflection-in-action is the purposeful examination of your teaching during your actual instruction. Effective teachers do this every lesson. You’re making important decisions during classroom instruction and, most often, you’re basing these decisions on what you’re experiencing in a spontaneous, intuitive manner. Questions you may ask yourself during the lesson include:

“Are the students engaged in the activity?”
“Are my lesson objectives being met?”
“Are the students learning?”

Effective teachers use the results of their reflection during the lesson and make changes before the lesson ends—on the fly—even if it means deviating from the lesson plan you spent hours crafting. New teachers too often feel the need to stick to their original plan and “cover the content” but, if students are not engaged in the learning, you need to make immediate adjustments. By reflecting-in-action, and reacting appropriately, you’ll be able to help students learn more effectively.

  1. Reflection-on-Action

If you are familiar with the teacher performance assessment exam edTPA, then you have experience with reflection on your teaching. More informally, teachers often do this at the end of their lesson, during their free period, or on their drive home from work. Effective teachers evaluate their lessons and activities and whether they were successful and how they can be improved. A more formal process may take place with journaling and mentor teacher observations. Teachers who reflect on their teaching critically analyze their past lessons to improve their teaching and student learning. One key to reflecting on prior lessons is writing down your ideas. Even small changes like, “Don’t use groups of four for this activity!” or “Stop the video at 10 minutes!” are extremely important for next time. These may seem minor, but they’ll help you improve your teaching and ultimately enhance student learning. Questions you may ask yourself while reflecting on your teaching include:

“How did the activity go?”
“What changes would I make next time?”
“What can I do tomorrow to follow up on today’s activity?”

As you already know, a day in the life of a teacher is extremely busy; however, spending more time actively reflecting on your practice will lead to more effective teaching.

Using Video to Enhance Your Teaching

Taking classroom videos can help you reflect and improve upon your teaching. Reviewing video is a surefire way to see what your students see, hear, and experience during your lessons. For most new teachers, watching themselves on video can be awkward and sometimes embarrassing, but being able to watch your teaching practices will help you to critique the experience in your classroom. Questions you may ask from watching your video:

“How do I sound?”
“Is my speech clear?”
“Are my students on task?”
“Were my instructions clear for the activity?”
“Do I do anything annoying with my voice, gestures, posture, and so on?”

As a newly hired teacher, you are the future of the profession, and the benefits of using the three types of reflection as well as video will ensure a successful start to your teaching career.

Mr. Diana is an Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Utica University. Currently, he is the Counselor of the Alpha Delta Phi Chapter which was installed in 2008. His research and scholarship activities focus on science teacher development at both the preservice and inservice levels.

For more information on reflective teaching please see the following:
Reflective Teaching: An Introduction, by K. M. Zeichner & D. P. Liston (Routledge, 2013).


Mitchener, C. P., & Jackson, W. M. (2012). Learning from action research about science teacher preparation. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23(1), 45–64.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic books.

1 comment



07-14-2022 09:45 AM

This is an awesome article with so much good information! I have been teaching for 20 plus years and I reflect often but to have questions pin pointed this way is so good. I will definitely use these and may type them on labels to put in a small notebook to write my reflections. Thank you!