Critical Self-Reflection and Reflective Practice

The School of Education is committed to fostering critical self-reflection and reflective practice. We view the work of educators as a recursive activity that involves reflection on both personal knowledge and professional practice. As a faculty we recognize the importance of reflecting critically on our own educational endeavors and understanding the complicated nature of educational experience. We thus invite our teacher candidates and other school personnel to reflect on their own life histories and on the pedagogical and disciplinary knowledge that gives content, meaning, and intention to their practice.

We believe autobiographical work (Eisner, 1985, 1991; Connelly and Clandinin, 1987; Goodson & Cole, 1993; Goodson & Walker, 1991;Grumet, 1990; Kinchloe, 1991; Miller, 1990; Noddings, 1986, 1992; Pinar, 1994) helps educators explore their assumptions about educational practices and the students with whom they work as well as the diverse communities that influence that work. Such critical self-reflection enables professionals to understand their own role in jointly shaping what occurs in classrooms and schools (Britzman, 1998; Ellsworth, 1997; Freire and Faundez, 1993; Greene, 1978; Pinar, 1994; Schon, 1983) and helps practitioners remain attuned to their students’ and their own emotional and intellectual needs (Appel, 1996; Palmer,1998; Silin, 1995). Critical self-reflection requires that our educators not only become familiar with and experience various approaches to self-reflection but also learn the value, skills, and art of creating classroom and school cultures that value mutual respect, imaginative identification, and mindfulness of oneself and others (Banks, 1981; Palmer, 1998; Portuges, 1985).

We believe a professional also must reflect upon his or her own practice, rethinking it in terms of its intentions and its outcomes, as well as the actual felt experience of that practice (Eisner, 1991;  Jackson, 1986; Henderson,1992; O’Reilley, 1998; Shulman, 1987). Such reflective practice requires that our educators can make connections between the knowledge, research, scholarship, and methods constitutive of their particular discipline and their own practice (Eisner,1985; Shulman,1987; Willis and Shubert, 1991). Furthermore, we encourage our educators to reflect on the historical, political, aesthetic, and philosophical dimensions of their pedagogical and disciplinary knowledge, and we help them cultivate and sustain an appetite for and understanding of the research and scholarship relevant to their practice (Cuban, 1993; Henderson, 1992). Such work requires that our educators learn to research their own educational practice by articulating compelling questions about their practice, their students, the communities where they work, and their subject area, and by knowledgably and sensitively investigating these questions.

As a School of Education, we work to develop a culture of critical self-reflection and reflective practice. Through surveys, focus groups, and meetings at various administrative levels, the faculty in the School of Education elicit feedback from current and former students and faculty and reflect on that information to improve our own practices and programs. Faculty at the undergraduate and graduate levels offer their teacher candidates and other school personnel multiple methods for engaging in self-reflective practices and reflective practice. Understanding that the journey to knowing oneself and one’s discipline is intimately connected to knowing, educating, and helping others, the School of Education ensures that its graduates have engaged in critical self-reflection and know how to reflect critically on their own practices.


Our teacher candidates and other school personnel are prepared to:

  • integrate into their practice various methods of self-reflection to gain insight into themselves and their impact on student learning and well-being;
  • critically reflect on their own assumptions about their practices, the students with whom they work, the communities in which they work, and their own development as professionals;
  • use classroom observation, self-reflection, and research as sources for evaluating outcomes of their practices as a basis for experimenting with, reflecting on and revising practice; and
  • develop classroom communities where trust, mutual respect, mindfulness, and critical self-reflection are valued.


Appel, S. (1996). Positioning Subjects: Psychoanalysis and Critical Education Studies. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.

Banks, J. (1981). Multiethnic education: Theory and practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Britzman, D. (1998). Lost Objects, Contested Objects: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning. Albany, New York: SUNY Press.

Connelly, M. and J. Clandinin (1987). “Teachers’ Personal Practical Knowledge: What Counts as ‘Personal’ Is Studies of the Personal.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 19.6: 487–500.

Cuban, L. (1993). How Teachers Taught: Constancy and Change in America’s Classrooms 1890–1980. New York: Longman Press.

Eisner, E. (1985). The Art of Educational Evaluation: A Personal View. London: Falmer Press.

Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan.

Ellsworth, E. (1997). Teaching Positions: Difference, Pedagogy and the Power of Address. New York: Teachers College Press.

Freire, P. and A. Faundez (1993). Learning to Question: A Pedagogy of Liberation. New York: Continuum Books.

Goodson, I. and A. Cole (1993). “Exploring the Teacher’s Professional Knowledge.” Naming Silenced Lives: Personal Narratives and the Process of Educational Change. Eds. D. McLaughlin and W. Tierny. New York: Routledge. 71–94.

Goodson, I. and R. Walker (1991). Biography, Identity and Schooling: Episodes in Educational Research. London: Falmer Press.

Greene, M. (1978). Landscapes of Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

Grumet, M. (1990). “Retrospective: Autobiography and the Analysis of Educational Experience.” Cambridge Journal of Education 20.3: 321–26.

Henderson, J. (1992). Reflective Teaching: Becoming an Educator. New York: Macmillan.

Jackson, P. (1986). The Practice of Teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.

Kinchloe, J. and W. Pinar (1991), eds. Curriculum as Social Psychoanalysis: The Significance of Place. Albany, New York: SUNY Press.

Miller, J. (1990). Creating Spaces and Finding Voices: Teachers Collaborating for Empowerment. Albany, New York: SUNY Press.

Noddings, N. (1992). The Challenge to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Noddings, N. (1986). “Fidelity in Teaching, Teacher Education, and Research for Teaching.” Harvard Educational Review 56.4: 496–510.

O’Reilley, M. (1998). Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Boyton/Cook.

Palmer, P.  (1998). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pinar, W. (1994). Autobiography, Politics and Sexuality: Essays in Curriculum Theory, 1972–1992. New York: Peter Lang.

Portuges, C. (1985), ed. Gendered Subjects: The Dynamics of Feminist Teaching. Boston: Routledge & Kean Paul.

Schon, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.

Schon, D. (1991), ed. The Reflective Turn: Case Studies in and on Educational Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Shulman, L. (1987). “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform.” Harvard Educational Review 57.1: 1–22.

Silin, J. (1995). Sex, Death, and the Education of Children: Our Passion for Ignorance in the Age of AIDS. New York: Teachers College Press.

Willis, G. and W. Shubert (1991), eds. Reflections for the Heart of Educational Inquiry: Understanding Curriculum and Teaching through the Arts. Albany, New York: SUNY Press.

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