teachers we hold certain assumptions as to what constitutes "good
teaching" and what is in the best interest of our students.
But as any experienced teacher will tell you, good intentions and
theoretical practices can be misconstrued. Take, for example, the
teacher who assembles her class into a circle to facilitate discussion
and promote an atmosphere of equality. While some students might
interpret this gesture as it was intended-to promote student-teacher
solidarity and encourage freedom of expression-others might find
it intrusive or as a sign of the instructor's inability or unwillingness
to "teach" the class. In Becoming a Critically Reflective
Teacher, Stephen Brookfield discusses how critical reflection
helps teachers understand why they teach in a certain way and to
assess the impact and perceptions of these practices. The heart
of the reflective process, according to Brookfield, is viewing teaching
from four different perspectives or "lenses": our autobiographies
as teachers and learners; our students' eyes; colleagues' perceptions;
and relevant theoretical literature.
first lens considers our experiences as teachers and learners.
This process unveils the assumptions and reasoning that shape
and influence our teaching. Later, these assumptions may be verified
through the remaining three lenses. In addition to videotaping
and peer observation, Brookfield describes several innovative
strategies that can be used with this lens. In the "Survival
Advice Memo," teachers imagine that they are vacating their
current job and must write a memo to their successor offering
advice. The memo reveals those aspects of teaching which a teacher
considers most crucial and those assumptions that are most influential.
Another exercise, the "Teacher Learning Audit" survey,
enables teachers to identify the skills, knowledge, and insights
developed during the previous semester or academic year.
second lens used in Brookfield's process of critical reflection
is our students' eyes. Assessment of student perceptions reveals
to what extent our assumptions about teaching or classroom
management correspond with those of our students. One technique
is the "Critical Incident Questionnaire," a single-page
form that asks them to focus on those aspects of the course that
were meaningful or had an impact on their learning during the
what moment did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
did you feel most distanced?
action that anyone (teacher or student) took did you find most
affirming and helpful?
was most confusing?
was most surprising?
addition, Brookfield maintains the importance of dialogue among
colleagues. Discussion of pedagogical matters frequently reveals
that concerns or problems are shared. Peer discussion not only
validates our trials and successes, but it also provides new perspectives
and insights into problem-solving.
theoretical literature plays a role in critical reflection in
helping us to understand our experiences by naming and describing
them. According to Brookfield, this can help prevent us from believing
that we are responsible for everything (good and bad) that happens
in our class.
theory of the four lenses, or perspectives, is a balanced and
insightful approach to critical reflection. Both experienced and
novice instructors should find Becoming a Critically Reflective
Teacher a useful tool in assessing teaching effectiveness.