Development of teacher functionality through Mindful Reflection of Teaching Moments

Leo Casey and Meera Oke National College of Ireland

As teachers we are on a journey of development, some even describe this journey as being transformational. Our functioning as teachers is dynamic and constantly being refined. Central to the ontogenesis of functionality of teaching is developing the skill and art of reflection. Reflection is viewed as an integral part of most initial teacher training education programmes. We ask our students to ‘reflect’ on their teaching experience and to submit reflective reports as assignment tasks.
In our experience as teacher educators, we have found that students often use existing frameworks in an unquestioning way and seem content with a surface-level understanding of their purpose. Part of the problem is reflected in student queries such as “How do we reflect?” and “What exactly are you looking for in our reflections?” The written piece is usually seen as a product, which serves as evidence of having engaged in the process of reflection.
We note that the process of reflection is under theorised and there are gaps in our understanding of what constitutes reflection and how to engage in reflection and demonstrate the process in a written form.
Based on the theoretical work of Vygotsky, more known for his contributions to understanding young children’s development processes, we propose reflection as a mindful process, initially guided, as a means of development of functionality for teaching.
We argue that the unusual and unexpected in teaching practice what – we call ‘Teaching moments’ – are energisers for learning and development drawing on parallels that Vygotsky (1989) discusses as ‘Dramatic Moments’ evidenced in children’s play.
To test this theory, we developed a guided approach to reflection known as Reflection through Mindful Awareness of Teaching Moments’ (Dramatic Moments). Mindfulness focusses awareness of experience (Kornfield and Siegel, 2021).
Having piloted the approach with 6 teachers from higher and further education, we have now refined the guidance and present it here. Essentially the approach involves three steps as (I) non-judgemental contemplation (ii) bringing the ‘teaching moments’ to our awareness (iii) documenting and noting the outcomes of the process.
The research is on-going, and the goal is to provide and disseminate a set of resources to support this approach to the practice of reflection.