Reflective Practice Approaches

Reflective Practice Approaches
Written & Researched by: Ivan Teh RunningMan

This article will briefly explain the 4 types of Reflective Practice Approaches. Reflective Practice is defined as 'the ability to reflect on an action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning'. It's generally practiced in professional development circles, by Adult Educators. Reflective Practice Approaches are methods for people to learn from their own professional experiences.

Source Credits

Practising reflection enables you to recapture your prior experience, to think about and evaluate it, comparing the actions you took, with the intended purpose, and the eventual results. The 4 types of Reflective Practice Approaches are as follows.

  • Stephen D. Brookfield - 4 Lenses Of Critical Reflection

  • Max Van Manen - Types Of Reflection

  • Donald Alan Schön & Martin Rein - Frame Reflection

  • Kenneth M. Zeichner & Daniel Patrick Liston - Dimensions Of Reflection


Stephen D. Brookfield - 4 Lenses Of Critical Reflection

In the 4 Lenses Of Critical Reflection, Stephen D. Brookfield describes 4 various perspectives to be adopted for reflection, allowing for a variety of viewpoints. This approach offers great breath in reflection.

Source Credits

Self / Autobiographical - An introspective examination of your personal history. It seeks to uncover beliefs and intentions underlying your decisions and actions taken in any learning environment as an Adult Educator.

Learners / Students - The perspective of the student; seeing situations through your learner's eyes. As the Adult Educator wields influence over the class, a consideration of their honest opinion will serve to confirm or challenge the existing power relationships. It could serve as a check for authenticity; have you been true in your intentions?

Peers / Colleagues - Critical conversations between fellow Adult Educators. This is invaluable because it offers an external perspective and opinion for events and situations. Through their own experience, they may be able to help you identify your blind spots.

Theoretical / Academic - There is value in critically reading theoretical literature. With academic research, the Adult Educator is able to inform their practice using formal sources of information, which provides a common language and comparision for describing learning and teaching actions. It can trigger deep thinking, and new ways of seeing things.


Max Van Manen - Types Of Reflection

In the Types Of Reflection approach, Max Van Manen describes 3 levels of reflection.

Source Credits

Type 1 Anticipatory Reflection - The Adult Educator plans, decides on a course of action, and anticipates the future consequences of his / her action, in a structured manner. (Before)

Type 2 Active or Interactive Reflection - The Adult Educator makes immediate decisions as the event takes place, reacting and changing his / her action as a result. This involves a degree of removing oneself from the events that are happening in the present moment. (During)

Type 3 Recollective Reflection - The Adult Educator considers past experiences, and gives new meaning and deeper insight to these experiences. This will enrich the professional practice of the individual. (After)


Donald Alan Schön & Martin Rein - Frame Reflection

In the Frame Reflection approach, Donald Alan Schön and Martin Rein focus on the problems which the Adult Educator may encounter on the job. The goal is to uncover the assumptions of the problem by framing and reframing it, thus leading to discovery of a more significant rationale. This is also the most abstract method of all the Reflective Practice Approaches.

Source Credits

Firstly, the problem is defined in a problem statement, in relation to the specific situation encountered (Framing). Secondly, the problem is restated in a different manner, using an andragogical point of view to build a new problem statement (Reframing). Finally, an action plan is developed to address the new problem statement.

Example: Framing the Situation - "I cannot give the Slides to learners as the organisation has a policy of not doing so". Reframing from a Educational Point Of View - "When Slides are not provided, learners are distracted because they are busy copying material instead of listening to me". Action plan - "I will suggest to the organisation to provide Slides, but will need to explain to my colleagues how to use it to complement my presentation".


Kenneth M. Zeichner & Daniel Patrick Liston - Dimensions Of Reflection

In the Dimensions Of Reflection approach, Kenneth M. Zeichner and Daniel Patrick Liston describes 5 levels of reflection. This approach offers great depth in reflection.

Source Credits

Rapid Reflection - An immediate and instinctive response to a situation. The Adult Educator makes independent decisions, adapting and reacting to the current situation on the go.

Repair - The Adult Educator pauses to carefully consider the situation, weighing several options, before proceeding. This is a thoughtful response to adapt his / her behavior in response to the events.

Review - This is a period of time taken to reflect on the situation. This may entail journaling, or a discussion with others to think through and process an event.

Research - This entails reflection in a structured, systematic manner. Data, which is collected over a period of time, is carefully processed, and is usually focused on specific issues.

Retheorise And Research - The situation is re-defined in the light of information that has been obtained from the previous levels. There is also engagement in long-term reflection while looking at what others have done; being informed by academics and theories. The Adult Educator begins to re-examine his / her own assumptions and theories.


In conclusion, the various Reflective Practice Approaches offer a variety of methods in which a Adult Educator may critically examine situations, and improve upon their professional practice. Some offer breath of data, while others offer depth of data. Some may be performed quickly and immediately, while others may only be performed carefully or over a period of time.


Source Attributions:

John Dewey, "How We Think: A Restatement Of The Relation Of Reflective Thinking To The Educative Process", published by D. C. Heath and Company, December 1985. ISBN-10: 0669200247. ISBN-13: 978-0669200249.

Donald Alan Schön, "The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action", published by Basic Books, September 1984. ISBN-10: 046506874X. ISBN-13: 978-0465068784.

Stephen D. Brookfield, "Becoming A Critically Reflective Teacher", published by Jossey-Bass, October 1995. ISBN-10: 0787901318. ISBN-13: 978-0787901318.

Max Van Manen, "Reflectivity And The Pedagogical Moment: The Normativity Of Pedagogical Thinking And Acting", published by Journal of Curriculum Studies, Volume 23, Issue 6, Pages 507 - 536, September 2006. DOI: 10.1080/0022027910230602. Retrieved 03 June 2016, from

Donald Alan Schön & Martin Rein, "Frame Reflection: Toward The Resolution Of Intractable Policy Controversies", published by Basic Books, June 1995. ISBN-10: 0465025129. ISBN-13: 978-0465025121.

Kenneth M. Zeichner & Daniel Patrick Liston, "Reflective Teaching: An Introduction (Reflective Teaching And The Social Conditions Of Schooling), published by Routledge, August 1996. ISBN-10: 080588050X. ISBN-13: 978-0805880502.