Book title: Reflective Practice for Teachers
Author/Editor(s): Maura Sellars
Publication date: 2017
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
Reflective Practice for Teachers by Maura Sellars provides a deep look at reflective practice and helps readers understand how it can strengthen your teaching.
Sellars begins by stressing the critical nature of a teacher's role and how their beliefs and attitudes affect their choices in the classroom. She reminds us that reflection is grounded in our experience and that we should examine our own biases, and use research and critical theory to assess the validity of these.
The chapters are organised as a model for reflective practice in teaching. They build on research and evidence about the learning process and the nature of intelligence, and positive mindset. The book then winds down with a very practical look at understanding diverse learners, differentiating instruction, and evaluation/assessment practice. Throughout, the author provides strong research and an established body of evidence, with current perspectives from research.
This makes the book a great guide for pre-service teachers beginning their careers, and a refresher for anyone in the business of education. Sellars’ approach assumes little prior knowledge, but her tone and style also make this informative and affirming for experienced educators. Her use of current and established research also makes this a great resource for school and district leaders who work with teachers to build reflective practice.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
While the information is helpful for anyone interested in reflective practice, the book is designed for pre-service educators. The final chapter, for example, provides a clear preview of what it is like to start teaching. While this could prove intimidating for a novice teacher, Sellars reminds her audience that this is not meant to discourage, but to illustrate that preparation outside the classroom is central to effective teaching.
She writes: ‘It is the professional reflection, planning, and commitment that allows you to support students’ learning outcomes productively in your classroom and to promote positive professional relationships that have the potential to engage and motivate even the most reluctant learners and begin your career as a teacher of quality.’ (Sellars, p.287)
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
It is clear the author has deep respect and care for teaching. Her tone is firm but consistently informative and supportive, and she pays lots of attention to the learning processes of children and early-career teachers.
Each chapter contains guiding questions to consider as you begin, scenarios to illustrate key concepts, questions for further reflection and resources for continued study. The format models a reflective approach to reading and considering the ideas presented, but is also practical and informative about educational pedagogy and instructional practices that maximise student learning.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
Each aspect of the book is thoroughly researched. The author shares research in every chapter to help readers understand the evidence for the topic being discussed, for example, positive mindset, recent work on multicultural perspectives in education, and varying approaches to classroom discipline. She mixes thoughts from established researchers with current perspectives that are refining approaches and providing fresh understanding.
Rather than present a tired history of the research on the topic of reflective practice, the author makes it relative and timely for new teachers. In her review of the research, Sellars also provides a careful analysis and explains the cautions to consider when applying the research. She presents these perspectives with a keen sense of responsibility to build the reader’s awareness of the potential research shortcomings.
Sellars also provides suggestions for further reading, encouraging the reader to learn more on the topics presented in each chapter, signalling that teachers should see themselves as continuous learners and reflective practitioners.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
While I cannot say the ideas presented are new to me, I can whole-heartedly say this is a book I will use with the teachers and administrators I work with to give them a strong understanding and research base around developing reflective practices.
It has also made me think more about the role of self-reflection in the teacher evaluation process. Sellars presents the theme of self-evaluation from the perspective of teachers considering how they gather and use evidence of their students’ learning. One of the chapter’s reflection questions asks, ‘How do you think assessment for learning can be incorporated into your own notion of effective practice?’
Through the discussion of ‘assessment for learning’ compared with ‘assessment of learning’, I could not help but think that teachers’ evaluation rarely incorporates self-reflection or opportunities for teachers to show what they have learned or how they have grown over time as professionals. The question made me wonder how we can strengthen this aspect of the teacher observation and evaluation cycle.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
In her introduction, Sellars shares a key frame that sets the tone for the rest of the work throughout the book by saying: ‘It appears all theories acknowledge that teacher reflection is, of necessity, based in experience.’ (p.8)
She then presents a dilemma facing education systems now with the move to standardised practices: ‘Standards for teachers and students have the potential to deny educators the opportunities they need to develop their personal pedagogies which are the product of ongoing efforts to marry content and strategies together in a manner that is personally meaningful for both teacher and students.” (p.29)
It is this thoughtful frame of what reflection is and how it is developed, that makes the book continually provide new experiences, pedagogies, scenarios, and questions to challenge readers as they develop their own union of content and strategy. This makes the book a compelling read for educators.
7. Please add any additional comments.
Thinking through the lens of checking our bias and understanding our own beliefs about learning to benefit from the process of reflection, the author presents many opportunities to gain deeper understanding of the research and theory behind learning and intelligence while asking questions to help practitioners situate this with their own experiences and belief structures. If the purpose of reflection is to view oneself with an eye toward gaining deeper self-awareness and understanding of why we make the choices we do, the author has created a resource that provides the research, experience and the questions that force us to look more deeply at ourselves and our beliefs.