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Reflective thinking and being a reflective practitioner can place initial fear into people. However, there is no need to doubt your ability to be reflective. You probably do it countless times a day without realising it!

What is reflection?

Reflecting is where you are organising your knowledge and emotions to achieve a further outcome. Daily you’ll do this by thinking ‘that went well/that did not work’ and stating why. When reflecting, you will need to be able to take constructive criticism, evaluate, analyse and assess. Reflecting deepens your learning the more you unpick the problem or issue, thus improving your professional development.

Why reflect?

There are so many reasons to be reflective in your practice, whether you are in senior or junior positions, work alone or as a team:

  • Produces greater outcomes for children
  • To increase self-awareness
  • To motivate yourself and others
  • To enhance decision making
  • To promote oneself and your service
  • To demonstrate your understanding and the needs of others
  • To develop practice/environment/setting
  • Develop critical thinking
  • To learn from others
  • Respond positively to change
  • To communicate
  • Promotes team work
  • Staff feel valued and respected
  • Talking through learning experiences demonstrates how you have evolved
  • You are teachers! It is part of your role, you care and are passionate
  • An Ofsted requirement to self-evaluate

How to reflect

There are several theorists who developed reflective thinking theories. Schon’s (1983) theory of reflection in action and reflection on action is a must for Early Years workers. As things are happening with the children, being able to reflect in action will ensure you are doing the best for the children at that moment. Reflecting on action, which occurs after the event, will ensure that next time you could possibly take different action to increase output.

When reflecting, Gibbs (1988) says to consider what happened, how it made you/others feel, evaluate what was good and bad, analyse the detail in order, conclude what else could have been done and then make an action plan of what you would do next time. These are questions often asked on self-evaluation forms and help you to realise the impact, if any, you made.

Driscoll (1994) simplifies reflection by using a triangle of  – What? So what? What next? You would detail what happened, what action you took, what you would do next time. This is an easy way of reflecting in your head.

What next?

Now you are confident at reflecting, you need to be able to put this information into action.

The children and families will benefit the most, as I’ve said above. However, being able to demonstrate this to Ofsted will serve your business well.

Although Ofsted do not require a written self-evaluation, there is still a great importance of being a reflective practitioner and how you evidence this. On inspection, Ofsted will want to see your evidence, whether it is verbally talked about or you have evidence to show.

Some people are happy and confident to be able to talk through the changes they have made, why and how this has impacted upon the children. Others prefer to record their reflections and refer to them on inspection day, ensuring they are not forgetting anything important.

There are many ways of recording your reflections, from written in various formats, to photographs. Whichever method you choose, it will be something that works for you. Remember that you are evaluating so it’s important to say why you have made changes and the benefits of these.

Hopefully this blog will have triggered lots of past reflections and you can see how you have been working through these. Reflecting never ends as we are constantly evolving with the children, families, staff, environment and legislation.

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