Brookfield Reflective Model

What is Brookfield's theory of reflective practice?

The four lenses reflective model was developed by Stephen Brookfield as a tool for adult educators to consider a classroom situation from various points of view. These different perspectives of reflection are termed as ‘lenses’. The first one is the ‘autobiographical lens’, which as the name suggests, is for thinking about previous situations and experiences you have lived and how it may be impacting your current experience, i.e. how you emotionally or physically react. By observing past experiences in this way, you can consider how your personal experiences may have resulted in unwanted responses and reactions. The second lens is the students’ views where you consider their experiences from their personal perspective, trying to review the situation through their eyes and how their own stories inform their experiences. The third lens involves including your colleagues in your reflections by drawing on their own observations of your work. This may give you new insights into the situation and may help to develop your work. The fourth and final lens, theoretical lens, is about getting as full a picture as possible by consulting literature. This means relating the previous lenses when researching new theories for better insights and it will aid you in taking the next steps as you apply theory to practice. These diverse practices are all aimed at raising an awareness of your own biases as an educator (Brookfield, 1995) through multiple perspectives and a process of self-reflection.

Brookfield Four Lenses Reflective Model

Brookfield’s four lenses model (Brookfield 1995, Brookfield 2017)

Why use the Brookfield four lenses reflective model?

The four lenses reflective model is a very useful theoretical tool to use in the classroom and beyond as it encourages for an improved professional environment. It enables a state of continuous learning and improvement, which is crucial for the education environment. It fosters closer teacher/ student relations, creates a safe space for students to voice any criticisms and ensures that as a teacher you are informed of the students’ needs. Using the model, therefore, has the possibility of being beneficial for all parties involved because it is both teacher and student focused.

Why is Brookfield considered a good reflective model?

As a reflective model it is effective because these four lenses ensure that we face our own assumptions by holistically looking at the situation. This is beneficial for several reasons, primarily because it raises the awareness of how adult education practices can reproduce systems of inequality through biases such as social class and learning disabilities. As Brookfield elaborates, we may not be aware of our assumptions as they become a blind spot: “To some extent, we are all prisoners trapped within the perceptual frameworks that determine how we view our experiences” (1998: 197), reiterating the benefits of the four lenses.

Brookfield model of reflection pros and cons

Pros:

Importantly, there are many positive reasons for the use of Brookfield’s reflective model in particular, as mentioned above;

  • It can foster trust within the classroom.
  • It encourages critical thinking and diverse teaching and training methods, as well as increasing the students’ reflexivity (Brookfield, 1998).

Cons:

However, there are some factors that hinder the model;

  • Considered somewhat labour and time intensive and that the reflections can be said to lack depth.
  • Due to its focus on student emotional wellbeing, it is foreseeable that difficulties could arise when managing emotional relationships.

What fields of study use the Brookfield reflective practice model?

This model is focused towards practicing educators, such as teachers and professors and including those in the field of young learners and non-natives/ second language students. However it has a reach beyond this field to academic studies dealing with theories of education and learning, such as anthropology, sociology and psychology. This is because, as a theory and model of reflection it is scrutinised by academia.

How do you write a reflection using the Brookfield model?

In practice, writing a reflection according to Brookfield’s four lenses involves a holistic understanding of your classroom setting, from yourself to your students. For instance, if you are teaching within the context of students with Down Syndrome, a whole different approach would be needed than teaching non-native speakers. This firstly involves starting with your own biography and any prior experiences or assumptions you may have about special needs groups and Down Syndrome. Then a reflection on the experience from the students’ eyes, understanding their limits and interests. Following, it is important to consult with your peers to understand any development and changes that you may have missed. Having informed yourself of the situation as unbiasedly as possible it is important to extent your knowledge with supplementary literature and theories about what you have discovered in the process so far. Therefore, hopefully you have optimised all aspects to be able to adapt your teaching further towards the needs of the students.

Brookfield model of reflection template

The following is a model of the template used by teachers, which follows the structure of the four lenses:

Autobiography as a teacher

  • Critically reflecting on your personal life story
  • Being aware of past experiences that may hinder/ aid the situation
  • Notice any biases that may be affecting your teaching

Student’s perspective

  • Understanding how the student experiences the classroom and your teaching
  • Being aware of any specific needs that need to be met
  • Being aware of any triggers or sensitive issues

Colleagues perspective

  • Communicating with them to understand their perspective and opinions
  • Consult with support workers and those who have more time with the student(s),
  • Compare notes on the students’ performance and wellbeing

Theoretical literature

  • Critically read to expand your knowledge on how to deal with certain situations
  • Keep in mind the purposes of the previous lenses
  • Expand your knowledge to be able to develop yourself as an educator

How do you cite Brookfield's reflective model?

To cite this work in Harvard format is as follows:

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

References

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. (1998). Critically Reflective Practice, The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, Volume 18, pp. 197–205.

Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher: 2nd revised edition. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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