ClassPoint Consulting
Author: Dr Ho Boon Tiong
Publication Date: 18 June 2007
Source: ClassPoint Consulting -

As teachers, we agree that reflection, in the form of conversations and codified narratives, is crucial for our professional development (Rust, 1999). Experience alone is not the best teacher. It is evaluated experience that can inform our practice. What is reflection? Listed below are two definitions of reflection:
  • "Reflection is the primary process of learning from action" (Butler, 2001, p. 1).

  • Dewey (1933) described reflection as a mode of thought that is able to transform a situation in which there is experienced obscurity, doubt, conflict, and disturbance of some sort, into a situation that is clear, coherent, settled and harmonious.
Schön's (1983, 1987) extended the notion of reflection by characterizing the nature of thought into 'Reflection-in-action', 'Reflection-on-action' and 'Reflection-for-action'. When we are reflecting while doing something, that is 'Reflection-in-action'. So, 'Reflection-in-action' is thought used in the process of making sense of complexity. After we have done something and we reflect on what we have done, that is 'Reflection-on-action'. 'Reflection-on-action' is thus the thought used to review the experience of making sense of complexity. 'Reflection-for-action' is also practiced after the action but it aims to engage the teacher in reflection to guide future actions.

Butler (1992) added another mode known as 'Reflection-to-action'. This is done before the action and it is useful in leading us to design the actions and be aware of possible reactions. Taken together, the four modes of reflection can be identified as:

Table 1: Four Modes of Reflection
Nature of Thought Description
Reflection-to-actionBefore action – it can lead to the design of actions and reactions
Reflection-in-actionDuring action – it can lead to modification of action and learning while carrying out the designed action
Reflection-on-actionAfter action – it can lead to retrospective evaluation and learning from remembered actions
Reflection-for-actionAfter action – it is used to guide future actions


Teachers can use the following checklist to gauge their own level of reflective teacher leadership. It is warranted to note that, at this point in time, this checklist has yet to be validated.

Table 2: Checklist of Reflective Practice
Instructions: For each statement, write the number that best describes the extent to which the statement reflects on you as a teacher.
Not at all 1   2   3   4   5   6 Always
  1. I am clear about the learning outcomes of the lesson.
  1. I am aware of current developments and innovations and their implications for teaching.
  1. I prepare my lessons before I teach them.
  1. After teaching a particular lesson, I find out what works and what does not work and make modifications to my lesson plan.
  1. I can adapt and/or generate new ways of teaching.
  1. I get feedback and try to improve my teaching.
  1. People tell me that I communicate clearly and that they can understand.
  1. I use current and innovative teaching strategies in my lessons.
  1. When teaching, I am aware of the classroom environment and constantly adjust to it.
An idea of your level of reflective practice: GRAND TOTAL  

45 – 54    Keep up with your reflective practice
36 – 44    You are an effective teacher in the making
27 – 35    Keep afloat, don't drown now!
18 – 26    Time for a break, go on a holiday
09 – 17    Remedial class recommended

All Rights Reserved. This material is not to be reproduced in any form without approval from the author.


Butler, J. (1992). Teacher Professional Development as Development of the Self: An Australian Case Study. Journal of Education for Teaching, 18 (3), 221 – 238.

Butler, J. (2001, January). Reflection: Images of the Self in Action. Paper presented at the 9th International Conference on Thinking, Auckland, New Zealand.

Rust, F. O. (1999). "Professional conversations: New teachers explore teaching through conversation, story, and narrative", Teaching and Teacher Education, 15 (4), 367 – 380.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books, New York, USA.

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Towards a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. Josey Bass, San Francisco, USA.

Articles Index   |   ClassPoint Consulting