Reflecting on practice: An exploration of the impact of targeted professional development on teacher action

Lisa B Thomas, University of Pennsylvania


While the idea of reflection is pervasive in education, there is an ongoing debate about how reflection is defined. John Dewey's How We Think (1910/1933) explains the act of reflection as a process directed at seeking a conclusion through inquiry. This definition of reflection extends beyond the more simplified notion that reflection is thinking about the problem. Instead, thinking about a problem is a first step of reflection. Schon (1987) describes two types of reflection in which individuals engage: reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action. Reflection-on-action is defined as a process in which individuals reflect on actions and thoughts after they have taken place. Reflection-in-action takes place as the action occurs. Killion and Todnem (1991) expanded Schon's reflection model to include the concept of reflection-for-action. This type of reflection guides future action based on past thoughts and actions. This type of reflection combines reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action. This research study involved an examination of the impact of targeted professional development aimed at managing student behavior on teachers' decisions to refer students for behavior infractions. The concept of reflection-for-action provided the backdrop for evaluation of efficacy of changes in teacher decision making as a result of participating in targeted professional development. Volumes of literature exist on reflection—writing, content, practice, etc.; however, there is a relatively small amount dealing with decisions to refer for behavior and reflection, whether on, in, or for action. The overarching interest of this study was to examine how reflecting-for-action impacts practitioner behavior. More specifically, I investigated how practitioners who engage in reflection-for-action change their interactions with students who engage in negative or antisocial behavior. The primary research questions guiding this study were the following: (1) In what ways does practitioner behavior change as a result of participating in targeted professional development? (2) To what extent does reflection-for-action influence practitioner behavior? Data for this study were collected by interviewing practitioners who participated in the managing antisocial behavior course, reviewing their referral data when available, and analyzing participant reflections and researcher notes.

Subject Area

Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Thomas, Lisa B, "Reflecting on practice: An exploration of the impact of targeted professional development on teacher action" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310494.