• reflection;
  • reflective practice;
  • reflective practitioner;
  • classroom teaching;
  • nursing education

Unravelling the unknowns of reflection in classroom teaching

Background. The use of reflection in education has emerged as an effective means of connecting theory with practice. However, the literature reveals limited empirical work on the conceptualization of reflection.

Aim of the study. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to understand more fully the meaning and use of reflection in teaching, and how reflection contributes to the development of teaching expertise in the classroom.

Ethical approval. The study received ethical approval from the Faculty of Nursing Ethical Review Committee, University of Manitoba. Issues related to confidentiality of information, and power relationships between the investigators were addressed. Students were reassured that no data were collected about them during participant observations in the classrooms.

Methods. The investigators were the sources of data. Data were collected using five different methods over the course of two academic years, including written autobiographies, critical incident journals, classroom observations, debriefing following classroom observations and research team meetings.

Findings. The data were analysed using content analysis, and four themes were identified (i) making connections, (ii) developmental aspects, (iii) influence of context on reflection, and (iv) influence of emotions on reflection.

Study limitations. The interpretation of the findings of this study should be used with caution given the qualitative design and small number of participants.

Conclusion. Participation in the study increased the awareness of the investigators' personal use of reflection. The process of studying our own use of reflection allowed us to step outside the performance treadmill to better understand, accept and reshape what we do over and over in the classroom. This study supports an examination of one's experiences as a means of understanding reflection and its use in the classroom.