23 comments on “Remembering and reflecting – what’s the point of it all?

  1. Hi Jeremy,

    This blog post comes at a time when I have actually been doing a fair amount of reflecting on my reflecting, so it’s rather apt!

    On the Celta course I work on, we’ve been testing out journal writing (see here for more info on Anthony’s blog – http://teachertrainingunplugged.wordpress.com/).

    We’ve also been keeping journals as tutors, and this has been a wonderfully enlightening process so far. However, my problem with it is now making these thoughts on the paper into something tangible to work with. I want to go beyond the reflecting and do some action research. Reflecting is all well and good, in fact – it’s a brilliant and necessary step to take along the road of change and development, but it’s how we then use this to promote the changes we see are necessary that I now want to deal with.

    In beginning to write a blog and be on twitter, I have become much more reflective. This has shown up many different areas of interest that I want to work with (control being the main one at the moment). Next step – action research. But this is only possible thanks to the initial reflections!


    • Hi Jem,

      thanks for coming along.

      You put your finger on a constant refrain in my mind (I’ll go on about it in my replies to the comments below) which is that yes, reflecting and understanding are in a sense the easy part – it’s what you do next that matters but which is more difficult!

      It’s great that you have started up on Twitter and blogging. Those are two of my most productive ‘reflection’ channels.

      (I love your blog/twitter picture by the way: very reflective – your whole point, of course)


      • Hi Jeremy,

        I personally can’t believe I took so long to jump on the blogging train! So glad I came to my senses and took the plunge a couple of months ago. It’s amazing just having a forum to discuss, think, share and learn. I love it!

        (Thanks about the picture – I took it in the Alps in Italy last February just before I was almost run over by a snow plough!)

        Right, over to my blog to reply to you there too…!

  2. Dear Jeremy,

    Thanks for the post. I agree with you that being a reflective teacher is not just saying ‘oh, that didn’t go well’; it means being able to realize what did not go well (as well as the things that go well) and ‘changing it’. To do this, I have kept a journal where I take notes on my classes and then if necessary the alternative solutions to the things that I think must be changed. I think the key point here is to reflect on the alternative as well (otherwise reflection won’t be continuous).

    Another thing I have benefited from is having two posters on the walls of the classrooms I teach. One has a bulb pic on it and the other a star. There are some post-it notes available for the students so that they can let me know about what they think of the lessons any time they want, which gives me the chance to both get feedback from the students and reflect on my practice.

    And one last thing.. At first it seems too much work to keep a journal or find another way to reflect on your teaching but actually it saves you a lot of time and trouble so.. the sooner the better.


    • Hello Deniz,

      so pleased that you have come along to this blog.

      It’s great that you keep a journal. We all talk about reflective journals as really powerful reflective tools, but many people only do that: talk about it! It would be great (but intrusive) to see what a page(s) from yours looked like – but it would probably be in Turkish anyway (?), so no point for me)!

      Thank you, though, for reminding us about how consulting the students (your bulb and star) is a powerful spur for change. The more we listen, the more we are likely to modify what we do to keep them ‘happy’.


  3. Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for this timely post – I’m researching how teachers reflect through blogging for my MA dissertation at present and this kind of ‘reflection on reflection’ post is very useful indeed. 🙂

    I think there is an important ditinction to be drawn between remembering and reflecting. Just remembering has little impact on what we do; reflecting, drawing on those experiences and trying to learn from the successes, failures, proeblems faced and obstacles overcome can have a major positive impact on what we do.

    Personally, I try to be a reflective educator both through my blog and the lesson notes (I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘journal’) that I keep. The blog and the notes help me to both reflect and remember. I reflect on what worked and what didn’t and think about how to approach a similar situation differently in the future – and what Iw rite also helps me remember the activities done in class for future reference! I do on occassion find myself repeating the same mistakes though, even ones I’ve identified in my previous reflections. ‘Old habits die hard’ I guess. however, I also get a lot out of reflecting on why the same thing happened again or why I was unable to avoid the same issues as the previous time.

    It’s all an ongoing cycle – the important thing is to keep going and never think the time for reflection is over.

    • Hi Dave,

      ‘the important thing is to keep going’ – well and but we don’t have much choice do we however difficult and painful that sometimes is!!

      But I am fascinated that you talk about blog writing as a form of reflection. That is certainly how I have used my (this) blog since I started it. Something nags at me and so I write about it in the hope that people will help me think better!

      But in teaching, as in life, it is possible to reflect, to understand and then (because most things happen ‘in the moment’) do what you’ve always done! But that doesn’t mean. does it, that we shouldn’t keep on reflecting more in hope than in expectation!


  4. You ask whether remembering is enough Jeremy. Sinead ‘O’ Connor has got a song called “Famine” about the Irish famine or the Great Hunger, “An Gorta Mor”, in which she sings “There has to be remembering and then grieving so that there then can be forgiving. There has to be knowledge and understanding.”

    On Remembrance Day in schools much is done to get children to reflect on what it must have been like and be like to be in wars, at a slightly older age this is often coupled with an understanding of why the wars happened in the first place. My feeling about Remembrance Day, based on how I experience it through friends, family and the media, is that the emphasis is less on understanding.

    In teaching I have been hugely influenced by Dick Allwright’s exploratory teaching in which investing time in understanding what happens in classrooms and reflecting on it is the main emphasis instead of ourselves consciously trying to change the way we teach or to having somebody else come in, explicity or implicitly,trying to change the way we teach.
    Trying to understand will involve reflection and this may then be transformed into doing things differently at a later time. So much of what we do is based on ritual and routine, change is difficult and often painful but if we focus on understanding in a reflective way this is probably already more than enough.

    It would be interesting to know what was/is going through the minds of those people who stopped for a minute or two in schools and supermarkets ,department stores or football grounds yesterday/today and tomorrow. Knowing about…yes….remembering….yes…but only really though reflection and understanding do we begin to become conscious of what we do, have done and why we do it.

    Bear in mind these dead:
    I can find no plainer words.
    I dare not risk using that
    loaded word, Remember,
    for your memory is a cruel web
    threaded from thorn to thorn across
    a hedge of dead bramble, heavy
    with pathetic atomies.
    John Hewitt

    • Hello Mark,

      thank you so much for your comments. And I am taken by your emphasis on understanding – because through understanding we may, perhaps, change. Though for me understanding is sometimes easy, but acting on it occasionally impossible!

      Yes, exploratory teaching can be painful; reflecting, understanding, changing. I guess my worry is that reflecting and understanding are OK to start with. It’s the resultant change that is difficult to achieve!

      I don’t know if you speak Spanish, but by coincidence this morning @pysproblem81 posted the following YouTube link on Twitter, a song by Leo Gieco called ‘La memoria’.

      I can’t believe that I hadn’t heard it before. Powerful, emotional and totally relevant to (part of) what I was writing about. Here’s a verse:

      La memoria despierta para herir
      a los pueblos dormidos
      que no la dejan vivir
      libre como el viento.

      My reply was to wonder what the difference is between memory and history – whether the historian is the perfect model of the reflective practitioner – and of course that gave me yet another excuse to reference the book below because it follows on from Leo Gieco’s song – and it fills me with a wondrous (but I hope not unattractive) pride


      Thanks for the James Hewitt lines


  5. I’m with you on the fact that the whole point of all this remembering we do really ought to be to initiate change and progress. I was really interested to hear about Dale Coulter’s reflective teaching journals and retrospective lesson planning at the TESOL France conference last weekend. He has written up some of his ideas, and reflections in this blog:


    (for those who haven’t read it already)

  6. Thanks for this post, Jeremy. As my colleague Jemma already mentioned, we’ve been journalling on our current CELTA course with our trainees. This has certainly given me more focus to my thinking about the events of the working day. I’ve noticed that while I started in a rather unfocused manner, I’ve started to concentrate on one issue in each entry: much in the way that you mention using your blog.

    What’s interesting is I’ve noticed that I catch myself more frequently (or at least, it feels like that) in what might be what Schon meant by Reflection in Action. Here’s a trivial example: I was working with my trainees during a post-teaching feedback session a few days back, we were having a conversation about something and I recall I was trying to get them to focus on something that I thought was important but was still evading their notice. I suddenly broke off what I was saying and asked “why am I standing up?”

    Sounds silly, but it suddenly hit my radar how I was using my body and space, and started questioning what my motivation was (to dominate attention, to establish hierarchy, etc?) Then I started thinking about how often I do this, which caused me to remember having the same conversation with myself in similar circumstances several course previously in the middle of an input session (to the trainee’s amusement…), and whether I want to continue this behaviour, and if not, how I could go about changing what up to then had been an unconscious behaviour.

    Somewhere in amongst all that, I sat down!

    I suppose this also relates to your question about making time for reflection or not. This reflection of mine (trivial though it was) did not take more than a few seconds. I’m sure that by becoming more mindful of such moments of reflection in real time, we can become more considered, deliberate and self-directed without becoming a slave to habit or sense of obligation: I suppose this is what is attracting me to Daoism at the moment.

    Thank you once again.

    • Thanks for coming along, Anthony – and for your comments.

      You remind me, suddenly, of a piece of reflection which i hope has changed my behaviour.

      I conducted post-diagnostic lesson feedback recently and started, I though, so well ‘What do you think your best qualities as a teacher are?/which of those qualities do you think I saw in your lesson?’ But then I went on and on and the poor teacher couldn’t take it all in.

      I realised this when i was cycling home, replaying the encounter in my head. I had commited the ‘way too much information’ feedback crime.

      So maybe you are right. It doesn’t take that much time!


  7. unpluggedreflections :

    Hi Jeremy,

    I personally can’t believe I took so long to jump on the blogging train! So glad I came to my senses and took the plunge a couple of months ago. It’s amazing just having a forum to discuss, think, share and learn. I love it!

    (Thanks about the picture – I took it in the Alps in Italy last February just before I was almost run over by a snow plough!)

    Right, over to my blog to reply to you there too…!


    Be careful of snowploughs!

    I look forward to more conversation over at your place!


  8. Hi Jeremy,

    I blogged about this notion of reflection alongside the issue of ‘planning’ (with a big callout to you and what I call the ‘Harmerian Talismans’ of ESA and EASA), so I hope you’ll forgive me if I make my contribution to this discussion in the form of a link to that post:

    Without reflection, we may be planning to stand still.



    – Mr. Raven

  9. I’ve recently turned to film version of the play Glengarry Glen Ross for inspiration on the matter of reflection. To be precise, I’m referring to the scene when Alec Baldwin gives his vicious “pep-talk” to the real estate salesmen. One of his mantras is “ABC – Always be closing.”

    I’ve reworked it to be “ABR – Always be reflecting.” I’m hoping that I can someday lead a PD session with a similar energy level and intensity exhorting the tired old teachers to start reflecting or hit the road.

    As for me, I do my classroom reflecting in recorded audio. I listen back to and also share it with the world as a sort of podcast thing. So far, folks haven’t been to interested in what I”m offering. But for me, the current semester which coincides with the start of this project has brought one breakthrough after another. I’m attributing it all to this very process!

    I guess I’m in all the way now.

    • Hi Scottio,

      I am sorry it has taken me a few days to reply to your fabulous comments. Very interesting!

      I love that you are doing audio recordings of your lessons – and yes, I am sure that this is incredibly insightful. Have you ever tried (I bet you have) just plonking a camera on a tripod in the back of your class and filming the lesson – and then watching it by yourself or perhaps with a trusted colleague? Would that be better or worse, I wonder?


  10. Hi Jeremy,

    About a year and a half ago I completed a dissertation which looked at reflective practice and the effects that it could/might have upon experienced EFL teachers’ classroom language within the setting of private academies. It was a very small scale project with 5 teachers initially involved in a classroom language focus group, of which 2 went on to review their use of classroom language both through video playback analysis and the use of teaching journals over a month long period to see what, if any changes had occured as a result of reflective practice.

    The teachers’ journals were extremely interesting in terms of not only the personal foci of their entries, but also their reflections following on from the focus group discussions and individual playback sessions. Whilst one teacher seemed to have been made much more aware of his own practices, attempting to adapt and amend them during the following month, the other teacher proved unable to apply his stated beliefs to his own teaching, even with the aid of reflective tools. Although at times he identified areas that he believed could have been improved in terms of his language use and student teacher interaction, he nonehteless believed that given his level of experience it was unliekyl that this would change or even if he could be bothered to attempt it.

    It would indeed seem that, as the previous comments suggest, it is not just a case carrying out reflective practice but being open and able to, as well as desirous of subsequent changes within one´s practices as a a consequence of RP.

    In my own case, I currently keep an ongoing journal in relation to my role as teacher trainer within a private academy in southern Spain. This is my first year “going solo” so to speak as a first time DOS where the majority of my responsibilities lie in teacher development, motivation and support- and my journal is proving invaluable in terms of being able to reflect, plan and improve the ways in which I deal with situations, staff and clients. Korthagen’s work has always been close to my heart in terms of his humanist approach and the way he constantly strives for comprehension in reflection, not just in terms of how and why I react and behave the way I do, but also reflecting upon the same in all those around me in my working environment. His work amongst many others keeps me pushing myself to improve, as well as encouraging the team I work with to have a go to!


  11. Hi Jeremy,
    Thank you very much for this important post . Indeed ,we can not arrive at solution except after deep reflection. It is for this reason that I agree with you on the need for reflection. For me personally, I have been practicing reflection with my class and that is the reason why I start blogging.My method is whenever I faced any difficult situation or something beneficial ,I reflect on the situation and at times undertook research to come up with valuable solutions that were beneficial for my class.Then I write this as a blog post .These reflection and research are the main backbone of my blog posts as it contains situations I encountered .
    Saeed Mubarak

    • Hello Felicity,

      thank you so much for coming along and commenting on this blogpost – and apologies for not replying before.

      You dissertation (however small scale) sounds really interesting. I’d love to read it.

      But you have actually hit the nail on the head, I reckon. Reflecting is the easy part – or at least just thinking about things that happen to use. Processing it, working out what it means and how that might affect our future action? That’s much more difficult, I reckon. ‘I’ll never change, that’s just me’ is , as someone commented to me the other day, just a ‘cop out’. But I guess you need to WANT to think of change if reflection is going to mean anything. Hmm.

      I hope that your 1st-year DOS-ship is going well – I am sure it is. And that the journal really helps…


    • Hello Saeed,

      thanks very much for your comment. I think your processing (experience – think – share via a blog) is a very good example of Reflection in action. For me blogging is a form of reflection for sure.


  12. Dear Jeremy:
    Thank you for the post. I agree with you that the question is how to go from
    reflecting into taking action.
    I think that in order to take action we also need to consider (among all the other
    things) how our students’ brains construct new knowledge as we make interventions.
    In relation to this, I would say that some of the most important ingredients we must have
    are “patience, observation and then action”.
    Just some examples: patience (understanding) to pause and hear our students´ hypotheses before we give an answer or make a correction, patience(understanding) to expect different answers to the same question, patience(understanding) to know that not everyone learns at the same pace and that we may need to provide different scaffolds here and there, and so on.
    On evaluating a lesson, I would then add one more question to the list: Did I miss something on the learners´ side?


    P.S: Jeremy, I really enjoyed your conference and your music in Buenos Aires!!!!!

  13. Dear Jeremy,
    I am really glad I came across on your blog. I just want to share with some new experience I am gaining conducting the project with disabled students. The project has involved 8 students so far, 4 with Down Syndrome and 4 slighty handicapped and with neurosis. The therapists and psychologists were also curious about the results. I teach them once a week, unfortunately, but it is worth that. They make progress by remembering simple comments, numbers 1-10, they are able to introduce themselves and greet. Handicapped students,( I am sorry for saying like that, but I call them group B) are better than DS students. But the most surprising is the fact that If group B does not remember what to say or how to react and group A does mumbling a kind of answer they manage to uncode the correct answer.
    I am still interested what happens after one year
    Hope to find other teachers with similar fields of interests
    before I have started the project there were many people who asked “what for?” Just because they are also people 🙂

  14. Pingback: What’s the point of being a reflective teacher? | efl-resource.com

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