Reflection and self-evaluation

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Timing is an important part of reflective practice.

Donald Schön (credited with highlighting the importance of use of reflection in professional practice in the early '80's) introduced two types of reflection that can be defined by their timing.

Reflection on action

This involves looking back on something that has occurred and considering the actions, thoughts and outcomes and what you would do differently if a similar situation occurred again.

Reflection in action

This involves thinking about a situation whilst it is occurring and changing your actions as a result of this reflection during the event.

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Consider the following example:

An example of each might be a car going into a skid on ice. During the skid instead of continuing the way you were you might think ‘no, I must turn the wheels in the other direction’ (reflection in action)

Later if you find yourself hugging a lamp post you might be thinking about what could have been done differently. (reflection on action)

  • Can you think of your own teaching examples of reflection ‘in’ and ‘on’ action

Self evaluation

The overall aim of self evaluation for teachers is to monitor and adapt what they do to improve learning for their students.

Through this aim self evaluation and reflective practice are interlinked and self evaluation often involves reflecting on action but may also include reflection in action. The ability to do this second type of reflection increases as professionals become more experienced.

“Donald Schön (1983) suggested that the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning was one of the defining characteristics of professional practice.” (Atherton, 2005, reflective practice, para 2).

Find out more

The following links provide some good starter readings into reflective practice.

What is reflective practice? For both learners and teachers - links to a variety of resources

What is reflective practice?

What is critically reflective teaching?

Reference: Atherton, J. S. (2005). Learning and Teaching: Reflection and Reflective Practice. Retrieved from