Reflective practice in early childhood education – growing as educators and learners

Reflective practice in early childhood education has been described as a process of turning experience into learning. That is, of exploring experience in order to learn new things from it. Reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of experience and engaging with it to make sense of what has occurred (Boud, D. 2001).

What is Reflective Practice?

Reflective practice supports you in making sense of a situation. It enables childcare professionals and teachers to grow and develop their own working theories, philosophy and pedagogy. For any educator, your reflections, both individual and team, provide valuable data and evidence of your developing pedagogy and professional growth.

male teacher engaging in reflective practice

As a teacher, manager, mentor and early childhood education facilitator, I believe we often use reflective practice throughout our working day. These daily reflections include anticipation of, during and after events. Reflections, or more importantly recording regular reflections is often an action that is overlooked due to the many demands placed on busy early childhood professionals.

Getting to the crux of true reflective practice – it’s more than just looking back! It’s about taking the time to think about values, assumptions and beliefs. It’s all very well to reflect by saying: “Well, we tried … and it didn’t work!”. What I have observed to be good reflective practice, is for early childhood educators to make time to work through these questions:

    • What role have you played in this?
    • What you did and why?
    • How does this reflect the principles, and goals of our curriculum and our philosophy?
    • What would you do differently to support a better outcome?
    • What does this say about your teaching strategies and our role as educators?

Some educators may need support to strengthen their skills for deep reflective practice. This will allow them to truly unpack the inconsistencies between espoused beliefs and practices (what we think we do) versus actions in practice (what we really do). Reflective practice in early childhood education can support a greater understanding of who we are as teachers and how our own values and beliefs impact what we do and why.

Reflective Practice in Storypark

Using a reflection plan with goals within the Storypark planning area is ideal for assisting teachers in clarifying their ideas, musings, and evidence and can support deeper reflection. Sharing these reflections with fellow educators, colleagues and/or someone who is removed from the situation can provide external perspectives. It can be helpful as there is little benefit from being too insular and relying on just your own interpretations. The role of a “provocateur” can be a valuable one. A plan can be completely private or you can invite a mentor, manager or colleague from within your early childhood centre.

The evidence we gather in a plan or teacher story can provide a rich source for reflection. Yes, we have the stories we craft and create but we also have the data found within the reports area of your early childhood centre’s Storypark account and within your portfolio area. The learning tags you use provide learning trends that can highlight the learning you have focused on and recorded over any period of time. If you have used the learning tags to highlight the MAIN learning, then you will be able to create a picture of your own pedagogical focus.  Also highlighting your lens on learning – what does it illuminate for you?

Reflection Models

Some examples of reflection models to support the creation of your own reflective practices:


Brookfields (1995)


Clements, E. (1999)


Greenaway (1995)

Our autobiographies as learners and teachers: Consider your own experience as a learner, with reference to your own education and learning. The analysis of your own learning styles will help to uncover your assumptions and beliefs about how people learn.

Our students’ eyes: Consider the view of children. You may like to consider looking at the reactions of children to an activity you provided, you can also collect examples of video, and photographic evidence to support this section.

Our colleagues’ experiences: An opportunity to get an insight into a particular experience by engaging in dialogue with colleagues through staff meetings, face-to-face conversations, email, skype, online etc.

Theoretical literature: Access literature or call on theory supporting your incident, activity, thinking and wonderings.


As the title of this model would suggest, reflective practice using the spiral model is never-ending. Below are the stages that the spiral model offers.

Act: Your teaching practice involves action.

Select: You select an action that has impacted you during the day.

Name: You describe the action.

Reflect: You reflect using the aspects of the action, as well as considering values, beliefs, knowledge, assumptions, other influences on the event, theory and the context of the event.

Research: You refer to theory to support your reflections.

Plan: You develop a plan as a result of the reflection.

Act: You implement the plan.

Monitor: You return to the beginning of the spiral and the process continues.


Plan: What have I learned? 

What do I currently do?

What other knowledge will help me deepen my understanding?

What questions should I ask to get the information I need?

Do: Why have I taken this approach?

Who or what influences me?

How have my understanding and actions changed or remained the same as a result?

Review: What conclusions have I reached?

What ideas have influenced me and how?

What other ways are there to understand and interpret these theories, ideas, and concepts?

How have my understanding and actions changed or remained the same as a result of my learning?



Smyth, J (1987)



Melenyzer, Nettles, & Wyman (2000)



Campbell, Peters (1991)


Describe: What did I do? The purpose of this question is to describe the action without judgments.

Inform: What does this mean? The purpose of this question is to inform yourself about the theories that influence your actions, and includes a search for the framework and patterns of principles underpinning reflective practice.

Confront: How did I come to be this way?

The purpose of this question is to confront the key assumptions underlying practice and includes an examination of the broad historical, social and cultural context

Reconstruct: How might I do things differently? The purpose of this question is to reconstruct or modify reflective practice and includes consideration of alternative views and generation of goals for future action.


What? What happened? Describe the scenario, the moment, the wondering, the thought?

So what? What does this mean for me?

What has happened to influence my thoughts at this point? i.e. context, culture, conversation, readings etc

Now what? What might I do differently?

How might I change, enhance or develop this scenario? What further actions might I take?


Describe: Describe the aspect or situation that represents some critical aspects of your work – for example, context, your practice, how you feel etc.

Analysis: Consider why this aspect or situation operates as it does. Consider your own values and assumptions that support it.

Theorise: Look at alternative ways of approaching your reflective practice by taking the theory you uncovered at the analysis stage, and deriving a new theory from it or attaching it to a new or different theory

Act: In the final stage you put the new theory into practise or try out new ways of doing things. Your goal is to make your new practice consistent with the theory you have arrived at through reflection.

Want to know more about using:

Learning Tags:

Learning Trends Reports:

My Portfolio Report:



OʼConnor, A. & Diggins, C. (2002). On reflection: reflective practice for early childhood educators. Lower Hutt: Open Mind Publishing.

Campbell, Melenyzer, Nettles, & Wyman (2000). Portfolio and Performance Assessment in Teacher Education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Peters, J. (1991). Strategies for reflective practice. Professional development for Educators of Adults. New directions for Adult and Continuing Education. R. Brockett (ed). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. In English, L. M. and Gillen, M. A. (Eds.) Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education. New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education No. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 9-18.

Sharon Carlson, Professional Learning and Development Manager at Storypark

Posted by Sharon Carlson

Sharon's early years were supported at home by her Mum in Taranaki. She later became an ECE ICT facilitator for CORE Education, and then Storypark. Sharon has successfully supported the implementation of a diverse range of ICT products and services around the country and is helping make sure Storypark is awesome for teachers and children's development.

Try Storypark for free and improve family engagement with children’s learning


  1. […] Reflective practice supports you in making sense of a situation and can enable you to grow and develop your own working theories, philosophy and pedagogy. Your reflections, both individual and team, provide valuable data and evidence of your developing pedagogy and professional growth. This article looks at reflective practice (both as an educator and a learner) and looks at a few reflection models to help you develop your own action plan. Get started here. […]


  2. […] thing. As educators, we belong to a profession that believes in the idea of lifelong learners. Self-reflection and professional goals help us achieve that. Not all learning needs to be a training course or a […]


  3. […] will be considerably different from those who work with preschool-age children. Through the art of reflective practice, the simple notion of inquiring with the educators in your room may be enough to get the ball […]


  4. […] also helps to allow time for reflection, as well as the time needed to develop skills in a range of approaches to reflective practice – an example for this could be journal writing, critical conversation, and focus groups. The […]


  5. […] curricula and frameworks that place an importance on partnerships with parents and community, reflective practice, collaborative inquiry, educators as co-learners, pedagogical documentation, responsive […]


  6. […] process means we can sweep over what was occurring for children. It means we leave little room for reflection and can miss the deeper learning happening for […]


  7. Jescah Kitari March 8, 2023 at 9:18 pm

    Reflection helps in making sense of the situation and understanding where one went wrong or did well and what we can do better. Reflection helps us learn new ways of solving and supporting children in development.


  8. The lens model can be very helpful for children with special needs because if we are only looking from our perspective, we won’t realize that we could potentially be leaving children behind


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *