Teacher Reflection: The Development of A Typology

Oct. 24, 2008

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 14, Nos. 5–6, October–December 2008, 543–566
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this paper, a contribution is made to the discussion of reflection on the part of teachers. The discussion to date has shown that reflection must be broad and deep. However, just what constitutes broad and deep reflection and the relations between the two remain unclear. After consideration of the characteristics of broad and deep reflection, three domains of broad reflection are distinguished (i.e. the pragmatic, ethical and moral domains). Closed versus open approaches to deep reflection are also then distinguished which produces a typology of six reflection possibilities. The question is whether these six possible types of reflection all occur in the actual practices of teachers and, if so, just which functions the different types of reflection appear to serve for teachers. Stated more specifically, the following three research questions must be answered:
(1) Can the pragmatic, ethical and moral domains of reflection be detected in the practices of 11 experienced teachers?
(2) Can the open and closed approaches to reflection be detected in the practices of 11 experienced teachers?
(3) What role do the six types of reflection play in the practices of 11 experienced teachers?
Empirical support for this typology was gathered via interviews.


A total of 11 secondary teachers (nine males and two females) from the south-eastern part of the Netherlands who teaching different subjects participated in the study. The teachers had varying degrees of teaching experience (i.e. between 10 and 30 years) and were at different ages (i.e. between 35 and 55 years). The teachers were also all coaches participating in a teacher education program at the Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands).

The content of the interviews addressed actual difficult decision situations which the teachers had experienced, and application of the constant comparative method showed the teachers to indeed use the six reflection possibilities when they reflected upon the difficult decision situations. A clear preference for closed types of pragmatic and ethical reflection over open or moral reflection was shown. The conclusion is that the proposed typology can be used to map teacher reflection. Moreover, the present typology can be utilized to stimulate reflection on the part of teachers during not only their preservice education but also during their professional development. The results further suggest that the breadth and depth of teacher reflection are in need of development and that the relations between teacher reflection and their professional behavior should be examined in greater detail.


Updated: Feb. 18, 2009