Reflective Teaching in Early Childhood Education

Reflective Teaching

  Reflecting on your Teaching in the New Year

This holiday season, the best gift I received was a beautiful, fabric-covered journal.  Over the past couple of week, I contemplated how to make the best use of the journal, as well as the opportunity it affords me to reflect upon and record my thoughts. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

As an educator, its important to understand that learning is a lifelong journey, and how important it is to strive to instill your innate love of learning in the children you influence. It’s also key to recognize that regardless of the number of years you spend teaching, or the degrees or credentials you earn, you will never truly possess every answer to every question.

“Progress, not perfection” is a beloved manta of mine, and it’s this very thought that motivates me to use my journal to record each of my thoughts and experiences in my journey as an early childhood professional during the upcoming year. My New Year’s resolution is to strengthen my reflective thinking and teaching skills exactly as the esteemed Mr. Dewey had advocated.

As an educator, it can be beneficial to engage in reflective thinking and consider your experiences, both past and present, as you endeavor to understand their impact on your teaching and your relationships with your colleagues and school community. The reflective teacher realizes there will always be opportunity for growth and improvement in his or her practice, and actively seeks ways to strengthen his or her skills.

While reflective thinking is considered to be a critical skill, it’s important to remember the intent of reflecting on our work is not merely to find criticism or fault in your work. Instead, you are determining how you might benefit from additional support, experience, or expertise to grow as an early education professional. It’s also very important to recognize what you are already doing well and to highlight your accomplishments and successes.

Reflective teaching strategies are diverse, and there are a myriad of methods you can experiment with and utilize!  Because there are no “right” or “wrong” ways to engage in reflective thinking, you can find the method that works best for you! Reflective thinking can be done publicly or privately, independently or in collaboration with your fellow teachers.  If keeping a journal doesn’t work for you, check out these other methods from Mia MacMeekin, which she has included in her “Reflective Practice” infographic.

I’ve included a few for you here:

“See” – Look at yourself through the eyes of your students.  Self-evaluate how you are doing through their eyes.
“Partner” – Partner with someone to hold you accountable as you try new things in your classroom.
“Blame” – Play the Blame Game.  Are you blaming someone else for your classroom practice?
“Cartoon” – Use any artistic medium to capture what has happened in the classroom.
“Blog” –  Start a blog.

These are just a few ways you can engage in reflective thinking and teaching.  I would love to connect with fellow early childhood educators and hear about your experiences! Follow my “Reflective Teaching” board on Pinterest to find other creative and easy ways to engage in reflective thinking, or you can connect with me on Facebook or Pinterest.

Best Wishes for success in all of your professional endeavors in 2015!


This post was written by Katie Walsh, an early education instructor at Penn Foster College.

The top photo is courtesy of Walt Stoneburner under Creative Commons Licensing.