Reflective practice is an important part of our professional development. It means we look at what went well, what didn’t and this allows us to tweak and amend our approach in the future. Although this practice is necessary, it is quite passive and is done after the event.

Reflexive practice, however, is much more transformational because it is often done in the moment and takes our level of understanding much deeper. Reflexive practioners have a higher level of self-awareness because they are not only able to assess a situation as it is happening and tweak things as they go, but they also have the ability to look at why things are the way that they are and consider the role they are playing in the current outcome.

A reflective thinker will analyse what has happened. However, a reflexive thinker will automatically self-assess and react to the circumstances as they are happening. They will know themselves well and will look inwardly as well as outwardly.

In an Early Years setting there are a million and one things to consider at any given point. A reflective practioner will set up the room and at the end of the day they will assess how the children interacted, how engaging the resources provided were and how they could possibly set the room up differently the next day to get a better outcome. However, the reflexive practioner would tweak things as they went along and would also run with the direction that the children were going in, even if it wasn’t a part of the plan. They would also be able to look at how they have impacted on the efficacy of the present situation:

  • Are they engaging with the children on their level? If not, they would tweak the way they are communicating with them to make their message more accessible to that individual child.
  • Are they understanding the needs of each unique child? If not, they will make sure they understand what makes each child tick and adjust their actions accordingly.
  • Are the children displaying signs of being a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? If so, they would adjust the setting and activities available to make sure they are appealing to each learning style. Instead of doing what they think is fun, they would put themselves in the shoes of each child and make decisions based on their reality, rather than their own.
  • Do they know the children’s triggers and look beyond what is happening for a deeper level of understanding? If one of the children keeps crying all of the time, do they look beyond their tears and tantrums and find the root cause? Does this child suffer with separation anxiety? Do they feel insecure? Do they have problems at home that are making them more sensitive? If so, they would meet the child’s deeper-rooted needs as well as addressing the present situation.
  • Does the practioner actually understand their own triggers and how this can impact their reaction to situations? Can they see how their own childhood can actually affect their actions as adults? For example, were they brought up with no nonsense parents who had high expectations and wouldn’t allow for mistakes and is this now filtering into their own practice and meaning they can, at times, lack tolerance themselves? Do they have an issue with control and project this onto the children or the way the setting runs? Were their parents overbearing when they were younger, and they have vowed to never make children feel this way so struggle to set boundaries through a subconscious need to make them happy? Do they have things going on at the moment that could be affecting their own patience? If so, the reflexive practioner would identify these deeper-rooted issues and work through them, rather than solely focusing on external factors.

With reflexive practice there is a level of responsibility that doesn’t get reached with reflective practice. This all sounds very deep. However, there are no greater teachers in life than children. We have all been moulded throughout our own childhood and look at the world through a lens that is influenced by the experiences and beliefs that we have acquired throughout our early years. Sometimes our own blueprint serve us well. Other times not so much. If we can identify why we are the way that we are, why we think the way that we think and why we react the way that we do, we can have a better understanding of how the current situation is, at times, a reflection of this. Self-awareness is the foundation to happiness and success. We focus on developing it in children. However, it is imperative that we take the time to develop it in ourselves if we are going to become the best that we can be.

It is important to be a reflective practioner, but if we can take this a level deeper and become a reflexive practioner, it will have a positive impact on both the children’s development and our own personal development too. Our role is to teach children and provide them with amazing learning opportunities. However, if we can also see the many amazing lessons that children bring to us, we will also give ourselves the opportunity to unlock our inner brilliance and release any inner programming that could be holding us back.

 About the author

Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.

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