Understanding reflection in teaching : a framework for analyzing the literature

In the literature on reflection in teaching, authors frequently lament the lack of clarity in understandings of this concept, despite its wide acceptance as a phenomenon beneficial to teaching and learning. This dissertation reports a study of this literature that attempts to clarify the meaning of reflection and to establish a methodology for examining such a complex concept. Three analyses, each intended to explore the literature on reflection from a different perspective, comprise the study. The first is an analysis of the literature on reflection in three professional communities---continuing professional development, higher education and teacher education---to establish general themes in this literature. The second analysis examines definitions of reflection from the three communities, focusing in particular on processes and rationales of reflection. The third analysis explores a variety of critiques of reflection to determine predominant epistemologies and recurring themes in the literature. The merging of the results of the three analyses leads to a framework for understanding reflection. This integrative framework highlights the importance of underlying epistemologies as the bases for different understandings of reflection and shows the intricate interrelationships among four major themes in the literature: the processes involved in reflection, the rationales behind it, the context in which it occurs, and its connection to action. The framework also points to the link between the self and the reflective context, the possibilities of reflection in-, on-, for-, and as-action, the unclear connection between the cognitive and affective processes and the movement from internal to external rationales. The study contributes both conceptually and methodologically by making sense of the range of ways reflection has been understood and by providing a possible model for exploring a complex concept. It provides a consistent language for discussing reflection, demonstrates the complexities of the concept and the interrelationships of the themes contained in the literature, allows for the situating of individual works within the literature, increases understanding of the connection of reflection and action, and helps to position the concept of reflection within broader theories of cognition and social practice
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