Essay: Reflective Practice and Professionalism

From the Archive. 

This is my Module 4 assignment for my Dtlls qualification. Its over 2000 words long, so I understand if you don’t read it all.

Afterwards you’ll see the feedback I received.

Your comments also welcome.

Be Seeing You


Reflect on your status as a professional in the Lifelong Learning Sector and how you manage your professional roles and responsibilities. Show how you have used theories of Reflective Practice to identify a specific area for development in your subject specialist teaching. Based on your own research into the subject specialism, design a new activity/ session that will engage and challenge your learners. Implement this activity/session with one group of learners and then evaluate its success and limitations.


In this essay I will provide a definition for what Reflection is and an understanding of the concept of both professionalism and dual professionalism. I will reflect on my own reflection process and my roles and responsibilities as a professional in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Finally I will evaluate three models of reflective practice and use those models to develop a part of my subject specialist teaching.
When discussing how reflective practice can be used to inform Continuous Personal Development (CPD), changes to subject teaching or to create a sense of professionalism, it is important to first have a useable definition of what reflective practice is; the etymology of reflection comes from the Latin reflectere which means,
‘to bend back’, meaning a remark made after turning back one’s thought on the subject, and dates from the 17th Century.
Available: Last accessed 25th Nov 2012.
or to use the lyrics of Michael Jackson;
‘If you want to make the world, a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a change.’
Michael Jackson (2012). Man in the Mirror. Bad 25th Anniversary Edition: EMI.

Though here it would be a metaphorical mirror, Geoff Petty (2009, p. 336) refers to the learning process as cyclic and indefinite and this is true of many views of reflective practice, a cyclical process, most commonly referred is Kolbs Cycle which we will critically analyse in the next paragraph along with Schon’s ‘Theory in Use’ and Brookfield’s ‘Critical Lens’, now that we have our definition of what Reflective Practice is.
With a working understanding of what reflective practice is, we can analyse three different models to ascertain their effectiveness with CPD, subject teaching or professional roles and responsibilities. The first model will be the experiential learning cycle, developed by Kolb as referred to by Geoff Petty (2009, p. 336) states that;
a Concrete Experience will be followed by Reflection on that Experience, followed by abstract conceptualism, then a plan of active experimentation which takes us back to concrete experience and on again.
Petty (2009, P. 336) believed that following this cycle would,
‘Maximise the learning that takes place from experience’
The cycle is clear and effective, if used, Abstract Conceptualisation requires teachers to become what Well (1986, p221) referred to as ‘theory builders’ cited (Petty, P.517), but many stop studying Pedagogy once they are qualified, resisting non mandatory CPD, or subject changes. Teachers can often be the worst students, but with systematic reflection being in personal time, commitment will always be minimal, unless teachers can be convinced of its effectiveness, and it will not be effective if not systematic. Petty (2009, P.519) believed that every Teacher has a theory about learning using this theory, perhaps unconsciously, in their teaching, citing Shön, who called this ‘theory in use’ Reflection improves your theory’s, helps you become more effective, able to solve problems, however Schön states;
‘Much reflection in action hinges on the experience of surprise’ The Reflective Practitioner, Shon, 1983. Cited by Bassot)
We ignore what we expected to happen, assuming that means it was positive. Wider reading like Holt’s ‘Why Children Fail’ or Friere’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppresed’, may not give you a bite size theory, but can change the assumptions made about Further Education Students, how we teach them and what our responsibilities to them are. Any discussion of Models of reflective practice would be incomplete without Brookfield, ‘How to become a Critically Reflective Teacher’ and the critical lenses. Personally I found ‘The Skillful Teacher’ easier to read and equally informative. The complication however is that the lenses are listed in a different order, so I will be using the former, more academic text. The lenses are;
The Autobiographical, the students eyes, our colleagues experiences and theoretical literature.
If used, all four lens can be very effective, however as we discussed regarding the issues with theoretical literature not being read, the other lens can be just as unused. If a learning establishment doesn’t value reflective practice, provide time and an environment for it, then the second and third lens become particularly ignored, feared or resented. Discussing negative experiences with colleagues can be felt as weakness, part time and sessional lecturers may worry it will cause a loss of work. The student voice is important, but if the information is used as a statistical stick to beat teachers with rather than a starting point of discussion, then even valid points can be ignored. Having looked at models of reflective practice and its effect on CPD, Subject teaching and teachers responsibilities we will now look at professionalism.
Professionalism as a concept is this paragraphs focus and Peter Scales described Professionalism as including;
‘the primary importance of student learning and the teaching process, maintaining loyalty to students and colleagues, expressing concern for academic standards, recognition of teachers as experts, and some elements of autonomy.’ (2011, p.27)
Teaching as a profession, requiring qualifications and membership of a governing body and the impact of values, beliefs and skills on professional effectiveness and the creation of Professional standards, is applying more pressure to Lecturers. Leading to what Woods described as ‘strategic compliance’ Shaun and Gleeson (1999) noted this in F.E. Both sources cited by Rushton (2012, P.86) with increased paperwork and inspections, activities undertaken without real commitment. People don’t behave professionally just because they are told to.
‘We joke in our staff room that teaching sometimes gets in the way of the paperwork’ anonymous. Cited by Rushton (2012, P.85)
Maynard and Martinez (2002) cited in Petty (2009 2nd Edition. P. 355) referred to the 5 D’s;
Denial, Displacement, Deference, Despair and Destiny.
With teachers feeling that reflection and improvement is unnecessary or impossible. Teacher’s are rarely given recognition as experts, Government policy is often about Curriculum and Assessment, as discussed by Black and Wiliam, with teachers as the problem that Education needs to planned around. Continued cuts to funding or changes in core curriculum are often picked up by Teachers as extra work, after school clubs or personal projects and this is assumed by Parents and Management, and by the teachers themselves, so that the learner is not disadvantaged, because teaching is a vocation. This contrasts against the ideals of professionalism that Scales discussed and is referred to by Brookfield as a;
Hegemonic Assumption: “a lie we tell ourselves to explain the extra unpaid work that we do” (1995, P.15)
I personally found this idea revelatory to my own outlook, especially as I personally went from being single and child free last academic year, to in a relationship and being step father to two children this year, the need to stay late is still present but the desire to do so, less. We can now look at the professional standards we face, the implications for CPD and our responsibilities when we consider the idea of F.E Teacher’s being a Duel Professional.
The Institute For Learning (IFL) comments that many in FE hold a Dual professionalism, both as a Teacher and as an expert in their subject specialism. We will now look at the consequences for Teachers with regards their professional roles and responsibilities and as Scales suggests the paradoxes that exist. An issue, which certainly applies to myself, is that many F.E Lecturers come to the role almost by accident, with no formal training in teaching, and after working for a significant time as a part time sessional member of staff are finally offered a permanent position. The establishment’s need for teachers to be flexible and available, conflicts with the specialism and many find themselves cancelling specialist work for the perceived reliability of teaching. Lifelong Learning UK, refers to five domains;
Professional Values and Practice, Learning and Teaching, Specialist Learning and Teaching, Planning for Learning, Assessment for Learning, Access and Progression. (2007 P.5)
The second and third domains apply to Duel Professionalism in relation to observation. A constant argument is the validity of an assessment when the assessor does not have your subject knowledge, the response being that teaching practice standards should be the same whatever the specialism is certainly true, however recommendations that fall into the third domain of specialism are often unhelpful. Meggison and Whitaker (2003, P.19) Cited by Scales (2011, p.4) identified seven paradoxes with CPD,
Compulsion or Voluntarism, Employer or Individual Responsibility, Teaching or Learning, Personal Development or Organizational Learning, Values Driven or Pragmatic Development, Journey or Exploration.
Many of these conflicts are often applied to the observation process, the recent shift to ‘No Notice’ Observations were met with open hostility until OFSTED changed its decision, but college observations remain this way and it is often viewed as a compulsory negative burden, rather than as an opportunity for reflection and growth. Having explained Reflective Practice and discussed Professionalism and Duel Professionalism, I will reflect on how this applies to me.
With a working hypothesis for reflective practice and professionalism I can now reflect on my own status. Malcolm Gladwell said,
‘It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something’ Cited by Scales (2011, P79)
I am what Richard St. John refers to as a ‘Workafrolic’, I enjoy what I do. I have a an approach which is Humanistic but I utilise behaviourist theory for behaviour management and in January I will reach my five year mark in teaching. Four of those years have been full time and so I am about half way through my ten thousand hours. My development as an educational professional has been hindered by the fact that I do not yet hold my teaching qualification. A peer, who started at the same time as me, was recently promoted to Teaching and Learning Manager. I never intended to become a Lecturer and when Cert Ed was first explained to be, essentially it was compulsory, I did not engage with it, and thus for a variety of reasons, took three years to pass the first three modules. I however have benefitted from this; the time has enabled me to develop and commit to the role, and the experience. Also I embrace the role of theory builder, the experiences I have shown me the relevance and I enjoy discussing with like-minded colleagues. I have benefited from having supportive Managers, so that when I identify gaps in my knowledge I have been able to complete extra training, and when opportunities arose they have put me forward, for example filmclub co-ordinator. Two activities I engage in to highlight areas of development are; firstly I update my CV every six months, removing anything that I haven’t done for five years, adding new elements where required, ensuring the CV stays at two pages often leads to gaps to be filled, secondly I research jobs of interest that I would be suitable for in about ten years, I then research what skills or experiences I would need to accomplish that role. This led to me becoming a Governor of a primary school. As a Level 1 and Level 2 Course leader, I am not only interested in my students successfully completing the course, but also that they complete the next level also; I have no interest in setting them up to fail. This led to me looking at potential additional courses which could serve as a Level 1.5 or 2.5, and research led me to the Certificate in Learning for Life, essentially a study skills course, focusing on team building, independent learning, cultural literacy and reflective practice. I now exclusively teach this on Level 2, where I use to teach Script writing and video production, so I have essentially lost my dual professionalism status. Although I use my experience to provide the students with a variety of alternate options for how to present work, my area of expertise and interest is now in Cultural Literacy. My own reflective practice is weak; I own a journal that I regularly fail to update and a blog that hasn’t been updated this year. I regularly ‘Reflect in Action’ (Schon) through teaching the same subject to more than one class means I often worry that the final class get a better lesson as it is developed with experience. Scale’s paradoxes also applies in that due to my focus on Level 1 and 2, I am fractured from the teaching team, centred on the Level 3 course, and often find departmental meetings have occurred without me. This has led to me pursuing my own educational goals, which ultimately are to focusing more on Level 1 and 2 deliveries, which I did through my subject specialist workshop.
I will now discuss my specialist workshop, how I came to decide upon it and then evaluate its effectiveness. Using Brookfield’s four lenses An area within Level 2 that needed focussing on was student research skills, not only for the successful completion of the course, but as previously mentioned, to ensure suitability for Level 3. Kolb’s cycle was effective in discussing previous experiences with students skills, and I decided to arrange a workshop session within the Learning Resource Centre (LRC), this would ensure that students would actually use the resources, but also by discussing the task with support staff, it meant students were not able to use computers and would have to focus on non-ICT secondary sources. To also develop my interest in students Cultural Literacy, I used, a student focused news site, to provide a current affairs hand out. Having set out my concept I then planned my experiment, using three different classes I then set them three tasks. One, to reflect on their existing knowledge or ideas on the issue; two, to conduct a small primary source vox pop on the topic; three, to summarise the information in the article to around 100 words. The length of the session was only an hour and so many of the students did not complete all three tasks, however I decided to give them extra time to complete rather then remove one of the tasks. Overall the sessions were successful, the LRC staff was happy to support and see the facilities used, students engaged in the topic and I got some interesting responses. Reflecting on the classes as they happened and afterwards, as Schon describes knowing in practice, I have changed the Level 2 timetable so that the workshop occurs every week, ensuring students engage in a diverse range of topics and stimulate some student’s interest. This ultimately is a responsibility of mine as their tutor, to lead them to their own thoughts, not tell them what those thoughts should be.
In conclusion, the models of Schon, Kolb and Brookfield have enabled me to analyse and utilise reflective practice to develop my understanding of my roles and responsibilities as a Lecturer within F.E. I have also used the academic work of Petty and Scales amongst others to describe Professionalism and Duel Professionalism and how that applies to me, my CPD and my subject teaching and finally I have developed my specialist teaching, developing a workshop which is beneficial to my students and their chances of success.


The Feedback I received:

This is an excellent insight into your own perceptions of your role and professional values. You have carefully structured the content to fully meet the assessment criteria but also provide an interesting discussion underpinned by theory and practice. Your personal development is evident and your critique is embedded well within the essay. The depth of your knowledge is indicative in your reading and research to support your views. Clear links to your role and practice including the subject specialist project where it is good to see the impact of reflective practice.

 You discuss the reflective models of Brookfield, Schon and Kolb by highlighting the impact of ‘in’ and ‘on’ action including the element of surprise; explaining the cyclical reflective processes on your classroom practice and interpreting the four lenses approach.  You explain the process of reflecting as both tutor and learner drawing on your own autobiographical experiences and other perspectives.                                                                                                                      

The discussion around professionalism is very good and relates well to the LLUK professional standards– it is good to see the direct references to the standards in your essay. You consider the concept of the ‘dual professional’ and discuss how your role as a personal tutor has changed your perception of your own subject knowledge. I also note the tensions you highlight about how to maintain the personal and work life balance whilst being fully committed to improving professional standards and skills.

You clearly recognise the value of CPD in developing a knowledge base for your teaching role by attending courses such as DTLLS as you manage your career change and up-skill in relevant areas whilst trying not to diminish your subject specialist skills. I am interested to hear more about your journey to qualifying as a teacher.

The structure of the essay is excellent and you signpost the reader well through the introduction; the main body content flows well and you summarise the key points to conclude.  I am pleased to see that you have read around the subject and draw on a variety of texts – well done Steve.



Content wise this is a well written essay however for future essays review the paragraphs by wrapping the text up into essay style but otherwise this is a thoughtful and well researched essay.

 Thank you for your lively contributions in the group sessions and congratulations on achieving ‘outstanding’ during the STE – I thoroughly enjoyed observing you teach.


Dr Barbara Bassot (2011). Reflective Diary. London: Matador.
Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (1998) Inside the black box. Kings College London
Stephen Brookfield (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. London: Wiley Imprint.
Stephen Brookfield (2006). The Skillful Teacher. 6th ed. London: Wiley Imprint.
Geoff Petty (2009). Evidence Based Teaching. 2nd ed. London: Nelson Thornes Ltd.
Geoff Petty (2009). Teaching Today. 4th ed. London: Nelson Thornes Ltd.
Ian Rushton and Martin Suter (2012). Reflective Practice for Teaching in Lifelong Learning. London: Open University Press.
Peter Scales Et al (2011). Continuing Professional Development in the Lifelong Learning Sector. London: Open University Press.

Sector Skills Council. (2007) New Overarching Professional Standards for Teachers, Tutors and Trainers in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

Michael Jackson (2012). Man in the Mirror. Bad 25th Anniversary Edition: EMI. Last Checked 25.11.12