To move from the teacher-centered model to the learner-centered one, you need to think about what you do in the classroom and how and why you do it. Reflective practice will allow you to consider these questions in a disciplined way. Reflective practice asks
- Which teaching model am I using?
- How does it apply in specific teaching situations?
- How well is it working?
As a teacher, you start with an initial theory of language teaching and learning, based on your personal experiences as a language learner and reading that you have done or training that you have received. In reflective practice, you apply your theory in classroom practice, observe and reflect on the results, and then adapt your theory to reflect what you have observed. Your classroom becomes a kind of laboratory where you can relate teaching theory to teaching practice.
Your theory provides a unifying rationale for the activities that you use in the classroom; classroom observation and reflection enable you to refine the theory and adjust your teaching practice. Concepts that you acquire through reading and professional development activities are absorbed into your theory and tested in the reflective practice cycle. The following figure illustrates how all of these elements interact both before you begin teaching and while you are an active classroom teacher.
This cycle of theory-building, practice and reflection continues throughout your language teaching career, as you evaluate new experiences and test new or adapted theories against them. Reflective practice enables you as a language teacher to become a lifelong learner.
We suggest that you adopt a reflective approach to the material presented in this website. Consider how the current model of language teaching influences the approaches, techniques and applications presented here. Try the ideas we suggest in your own classroom, and compare them with your own experience. Doing so will help you become more comfortable with the perspective on language teaching presented here and integrate it effectively into your own teaching philosophy and practice.
Resources for Understanding Reflective Practice
Farrell, Thomas S. C. Reflective practice for language teachers.
Open University. Learning to teach: Becoming a reflective practitioner.
Richards, Jack C., & Thomas S. C. Farrell. Teaching practice: A reflective approach. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Schön, D. The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books, 1983.
Wallace, M. J. Training foreign language teachers: A reflective approach. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Zeichner, K. M., & D. P. Liston. Reflective teaching: An introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996.
- Models of language teaching and learning
- Teaching portfolios
- Be Prepared: Survival Tips for New Language Teachers
Material in this section is drawn from the module “Beyond TA training: Developing a reflective approach to a career in language education” by Celeste Kinginger in Modules for the Professional Preparation of Teaching Assistants in Foreign Languages (Grace Stovall Burkart, Ed.; Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1998).