Objectivizing Reflective Practice: Critiquing the Qualitative Method

The method described in steps 1 and 2 is qualitative. It attempts to do no more than elicit opinion regarding defined aspects of a particular experience shared by teacher and learner. For extra validity, the questions/headings/other prompts used to produce this information would be theoretically based and/or made specific for the purpose of addressing a particular issue that either the teacher had identified in his own performance or had been reported by a student, a colleague, or other expert observer.

To make use of the information gathered in the first steps, the reflective practitioner has somehow to reconcile, explain, rationalise, philosophise, or theorise, areas of convergence and divergence in the two sets of information obtained. This is a highly qualitative task, and thus comes both encumbered with the weaknesses of that approach and fortified with its strengths.

Depending on the reflective practitioner’s diligence and the value he/she envisages in its outcomes, the thoroughness of the comparison/contrast exercise can vary. Also, since the qualitative way is likely to provide richness in detail, it is also therefore more time-consuming for the feedback provider, and if repeated regularly may become burdensome and treated as a chore. Moreover, the teacher has to select carefully who the feedback provider will be. As said before, the qualitative method is inseparable from such hazards.

A quantitative approach may be a superior option, especially if the teacher wishes to obtain a more generalised view of his/her teaching, which will, in turn, be more generalisable as a result: averaged, aggregated information gives a strong indication of pattern and reduces the result's sensitivity to subjectivity bias. Since the purpose of objectivizing reflective practice is precisely that, a quantitative method may constitute a more philosophically consistent approach.

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