TESOL France: Tom Farrell on reflective practice

Blog - hancockmcdonald.com/blog/1

The mid-conference plenary from Tom Farrell was a reflection on reflective practice. To begin with, Tom distinguished reflection-in-action – split second reflections made during the course of an activity; reflection-on-action – evaluating an action after the fact, and reflection-for-action – evaluating options for possible future improvements. These distinctions underpinned the main thrust of the remainder of Tom’s presentation , which could be summed up as follows: collect data, analyse it and make changes. He insisted on the importance of data rather than gut feeling. You may, for example, positively evaluate a lesson on the basis that the students seemed to be happy, only to discover that they were happy only because there was a long weekend coming up.

Tom went on to outline 5 phases of reflective inquiry: identify the problem; intellectualize it; collect relevant data; use reasoning to identify possible solutions and finally monitor the results of these solutions. He illustrated how these would work with reference to analysing teachers’ classroom discourse.

Among the observations Tom made during his talk was one which was particularly relevant for us, the writers of this review. He said that one of the best ways of reflecting was keeping a journal - writing things up after the fact. Writing this review is probably just as beneficial for us, the writers, as for you, the reader! Tom illustrated this with a quote from EM Forster: ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say?'


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