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Reflective Journal

Donald Schon's Reflective Practice Model* is widely recognised as a foundation for effective practice and defines two different forms of reflection.

  1. Reflection-in-action

  2. Reflection-on-action


This form of reflection happens while a leader is participating in an activity and is based on them observing and recording their own thought patterns and emotional responses. It requires them to analyse the situation, be aware of their own assumptions and understand the situation and problem they are facing.

Reflection-in-action encourages a leader to have a conversation with the situation (or problem) and reflect on their responses. 


Examples for a leader related to school self-evaluation may include:

  • Reflecting on their experience during a lesson observation.

  • Reflecting on what to do (and say) next when giving feedback to a teacher.

  • Reflecting on how other leaders feel during a staff meeting to discuss student progress.

  • Reflecting on how they are responding 'in the moment' to questions from governors on school performance and funding.


This form of reflection usually happens after an activity has been completed and is therefore based on what the leader can remember about the situation or experience. It relies on memory and then trying to unpick the situation and consider what could have been done differently in order to take away some learning.

Examples for a leader related to school self-evaluation may include:

  • Reflecting on the details from a senior leadership team discussion.

  • Reflecting on how a particular decision has impacted on the school's performance.

  • Reflecting on how they felt, and responded, following an interview with a school inspector.

*Source: Schön, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. Jossey-Bass, San Fransisco

Keeping a reflective journal

The benefits of keeping a reflective journal are well known as it provides an opportunity for a leader to self-reflect on their experiences but should also provide some key learning opportunities.

The sequence of activities to keep an effective reflective journal include:

  • Reflect on what they did (decision/action).

  • Reflect on why they did it like that.

  • Consider whether it was successful.

  • Consider whether it could have been done better (or differently).

  • Plan for any changes to their future practice.


There is no right or wrong way to produce a reflective journal - it depends more on the personal preferences and style of the individual leader. Some people prefer to use a pre-printed journal format while others choose a more freestyle approach using blank paper, a standard notebook or even a word-processed document. However, there are some basic principles that will make the reflective experience as effective as possible.

  • Get into a routine and integrate reflection into daily practice.

  • Set reminders to build a positive habit.

  • Keep it manageable (e.g. 10-15 minutes a day).

  • Record anything that comes to mind - thoughts, feelings, small steps.

  • Be honest - write whatever they need to.

  • Review reflections at regular intervals - look for patterns in emotions and behaviour.

  • Look for meaningful insights and learning.

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