Reflective Writing: Final Comments

The use of reflective practice as a method of improving teaching quality has a dangerous collateral effect. Teachers spending time observing, commenting on, critiquing, and analysing their own teaching are undermining the originating premise of teaching itself. Learner and teacher are not mutually exchangeable roles. In a formal educational setting, one individual is paid to facilitate the learning of another individual or individuals. If the teacher extends the logic of reflective practice to the teaching scenario, the learners’ ignorant guesses and assumptions assume the quality of the teacher’s formally learnt or experientially gained knowledge. What then is the teacher and what then is the learner? If the subjective is as worthy as the objective, nothing need be taught to anyone.

No teaching is necessary if the learner is spontaneously autodidactic and self-pollinating with quality knowledge. If this statement strikes you as ridiculous, then you must ask how its sentiment differs from the rationality behind reflective practice. In reflective practice, the reflective practitioner is asked to give their impressions of what they did, how they did it, how they felt about it, what they will do next time, and so on. How is this superior to the teacher spending the same time and effort expanding his/her subject knowledge and mastering proven-good, empirically-backed pedagogic methods that prioritise the learner and his/her progress?

The quality of everything the teacher does should be determined by what measurable benefits are obtained by learners. Reflective practice encourages teachers to look at self primarily and learner secondarily. Businesses do not reap profits by providing other than that for which the customer will pay; hence successful businesses focus primarily on the customer and secondarily on the reconfiguration of their systems, and all adaptations accord with what best delivers value to the customer. In a free market, value to customer is the determining factor of business success. In education, the same logic should apply. Value to learner is the determining factor of teaching success, hence focus should be on the learner more than the provider. The teacher can legitimately look to self for one purpose alone - to ascertain how s/he might serve the learner better. The teacher's feelings about a situation might become worthy of consideration when all outward factors have been eliminated as causative of inadequacy in the learning experience. To begin internally is absurd. The subjective is not the equivalent of the objective, and suggesting otherwise sets a precedent that is philosophically hazardous and pedagogically reckless: the subjective is not the superior of the objective - reflective practice implies their equivalence; the self is improved not by introspection and monologue but by achievement of objectively set standards of performance.

Educationalists cannot lose sight of their customer. When they do, they cease to be educationalists and have instead become navel-gazers, full of self-knowledge but greatly distanced from the title of “teacher”.

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