Aims Theory

This module is mainly practical and illustrative. However, the theoretical perspective is the well-known and widely adopted idea of ‘reflective practice’.

The development of reflective practice is an important aspect of professional development. Reflective practice refers to the process by which professional learning can become continuous. It is usually attributed to the influential work of Donald Schon, who distinguished reflection-on-action from reflection-in-action. The latter refers to the rapid, complex decision-making that must happen in busy professional contexts such as classrooms.

However, in this module we are concerned mainly with the former: reflection-on-action.

Reflection is usually thought of as a circular process such as this:



The process begins with ‘experience’. It also ends with experience.  This indicates a possible weakness. If reflective practice simply inhabits day-to-day experience it may fail to bring any new critical insight. Reflection can become too self-referential. It may simply become a technique to reinforce habitual practices.

Therefore, this module encourages critical reflection.

Critical reflection

To encourage and enable more critical reflection, we need to bring some theoretical resources into play, from outside day-to-day experience.

We need to make sense of experience, but we also need to ask some critical questions, and interrogate experience too. Critical questions help us see what lies beneath surface practices:

  • What is guiding and shaping experience?
  • How may we improve practice?

GeoCapabilities supplies a theoretical framework for asking some critical questions. The overarching question is: How do the professional practices we observe contribute to the making of a Future 3 curriculum?

We therefore need to ask:

  • In what sense is this lesson (or this sequence of lessons) helping students acquire powerful disciplinary knowledge?
  • How have the knowledge contents of the lesson(s) been selected, organised and sequenced?
  • In what ways have the students been engaged conceptually with learning materials?

Video case-studies

Ultimately, the purpose of critical reflection is to enable professional self-improvement. This can be uncomfortable. The purpose of the video case-studies is to ‘break the ice’. Before critical self-reflection it may be useful to reflect on someone else’s experience.

You will find the videos on the next page (Into Practice). Before viewing the case studies, some critical questions to think about can be downloaded here.