Reflective Practice: Picturing Ourselves

  • Cyril P. Coombs
Part of the Studies in Educational Leadership book series (SIEL, volume 1)


Professional literature portrays reflective practice as deliberately inquiring into one’s thoughts and actions to better examine a perceived problem so that a response might be reasoned and tested. Using a camera metaphor, this chapter examines reflective practice by comparing elements of reflective practice consistently identified in professional literature to the perceptions of six school principals. Issues examined include situations and concerns that prompt reflection, reflective timing, and the influence of values, training and experience in reflection.

Findings are based on field research data collected in the spring of 1999 with six principals in eastern Canada. Participants were interviewed about their perceptions of reflection and were requested to reflect on two vignettes pertinent to their work. Additionally, they were asked to reflect with the researcher on two situations of their own choice. The researcher also observed each participant for approximately five hours and then collected individual think aloud responses to these observations. This paper specifically addresses the practical application of values in reflective practice.


Professional Development Ethical Leadership School Principal Role Ambiguity Reflective Practice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Argyris, C., & Schon, D.A. (1974). Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Barnett, B. (1990). Peer-assisted leadership: Expanding principals’ knowledge through reflective practice. Journal of Educational Administration, 28(3), 67–76.Google Scholar
  3. Begley, P., & Johansson, O. (1997, April). Values and school administration: Preferences, ethics and conflicts. Paper delivered at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  4. Bright, B. (1996). Reflecting on “reflective practice.” Studies in the Education of Adults, 28(2), 162–184.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, C. E. (1996). Ethical leadership: Problems of an elusive role. Paper delivered at the Toronto Conference on Values and Educational Leadership, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  6. Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (1993). Through the lens of a critical friend. Educational Leadership, 51(2), 49–51.Google Scholar
  7. Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. New York: Heath and Co.Google Scholar
  8. Filby, N. (1995). Analysis of reflective professional development models. Columbia: ERIC.Google Scholar
  9. Grimmett, P. (1989). A commentary on Schon’s view of reflection. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 5(1), 19–28.Google Scholar
  10. Hoy, W.K. (1996). Science and theory in the practice of educational administration: A pragmatic perspective. Educational Administration Quarterly, 32(3), 366–378.Google Scholar
  11. Leithwood, K., Begley, P., & Cousins, B. (1994). Developing expert leadership for future schools. London: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  12. Leithwood, K., & Steinbach, R. (1995). Expert problem solving: Evidence from school and district leaders. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  13. Loughran, J. (1996). Developing reflective practice: Learning about teaching and learning through modeling. London: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  14. Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. (1995). Designing qualitative research. California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  15. McNiff, J. (1995). How can I develop a theory of critical self reflection? Studies in Continuing Education, 17(1&2), 86–96.Google Scholar
  16. Merriam, S. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. Oxford: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  17. Osterman, K. F. (1991). Reflective practice: Linking professional development and school reform. Planning and Changing, 22(3&4), 208–217.Google Scholar
  18. Peters, J. M. (1991). Strategies for reflective practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 51(Fall), 89–96.Google Scholar
  19. Prestine, N., & LeGrand, B. (1991). Cognitive learning theory and the preparation of educational administrators: Implications for practice and policy. Educational Administration Quarterly, 27(1), 61–69.Google Scholar
  20. Reagan, T., Case, K., Case, C., & Freiberg, J. (1993). Reflecting on “reflective practice”: Implications for teacher evaluation. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 6(3), 263–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Seidel, J. (1998). Ethnograph v5.0: A user’s guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Qualis Research.Google Scholar
  22. Sergiovanni, T. (1991). The principalship: A reflective practice perspective, second edition. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  23. Van Gyn, G.H. (1996). Reflective practice: The needs of professions and the promise of cooperative education. Journal of Cooperative Education, 31(2&3), 103–131.Google Scholar
  24. Van Manen, J. (1977). Linking ways of knowing with ways of being practical. Curriculum Inquiry, 6(3), 205–208.Google Scholar
  25. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Willower, D.J. (1994). Dewey’s theory of inquiry and reflective administration. Journal of Educational Administration, 32(1), 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wilson, A.L. (1994). To a middle ground: Praxis and ideology in adult education. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 13(3), 187–202.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cyril P. Coombs

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations