What is a Portfolio?
How do I Begin the Portfolio Process?
Activity 1
The Portfolio Process
Categories of Evidence
Activity 2
Articles on Teacher Reflection
What is the Hopkins Portfolio Process?

The Framework Section
The Standards Section
The Hopkins Portfolio Review Process
The Morgan Portfolio Review Process
Support and Help
Using Your Portfolio


The Role of Critical Reflection in the Portfolio Process

Critical reflection is an important aspect of both teaching and learning. Educational philosopher and theorist John Dewey (1933) recognized that it is the reflection on our experiences that leads to learning-not merely the experience itself. We learn from those experiences that we ponder, explore, review, and question. Today researchers are looking at the developmental or evolutionary aspects of critical reflection in teaching. Still, it is reflection, not experience alone that is found to be our teacher (Garmeston, 2001). It is the reflective process of portfolio development that provides the greatest opportunities for professional understanding and self-assessment.
Becoming a reflective practitioner is a goal of Johns Hopkins University's Master of Arts in Teaching Program. Reflection in a narrative form begins with the Application Essay and ends with the development and presentation of the assessment Portfolio. Between these bookend events there are numerous opportunities for interns to reflect upon their teaching. All of these reflective activities can be used as artifacts in the final portfolio. They take the form of:

• Journal Entries
• Weekly Reflections
• Educational Philosophy
• Case Study Analysis
• Action Research Projects
• Videotape Reflections
• And other formal opportunities developed to allow teachers to systematically think about who you are as a teacher and a learner

What is Reflection?

What is reflection and how is it addressed in the program? Reflection has many definitions in the context of teacher cognition. Reflection involves "a state of doubt, hesitation, perplexity, or mental difficulty, in which thinking originates". This uncertainty is followed by the act of searching to find materials that will resolve this doubt and settle the perplexity (Dewey, 1933).

Reflection, however, is more that "just thinking hard about what you do" (Bullough and Gitlin,1995). Reflective practitioners give careful attention to their experiences and how meaning is made and justified. They analyze the influence of context and how they shape human behavior.

Critical reflection goes beyond the technical aspects of an experience to the personal, ethical, and political dimensions of teaching. Reflection is about social justice, equity, and change. Reflection is inquiry into pedagogy and curriculum, the underlying assumptions and consequences of these actions, and the moral implications of these actions in the structure of schooling (Liston & Zeichner, 1987).

Becoming reflective requires active engagement or consciousness in the experience, and in this case, the act of narrative writing. Reflection requires the ability to analyze and prioritize issues, to use tacit and resource-based knowledge, and to develop a feasible plan of action. Clarke (1995) suggests that reflection is not about a single event in time, but occurs over time as teachers begin to construct meaning for themselves.

Levels of Reflection

Reflection is not an innate skill possessed by all those in the teaching profession, nor is it uniformly achieved (Baratz-Snowden, 1995). And merely writing reflective narratives without feedback from mentors and peers will not make you more reflective. In order to understand and improve upon your skills in the process of reflection, it is important to understand the levels of reflection: technical, contextual, and critical. The Technical Level is where those reflecting are only concerned with refining teaching strategies. Reflective practitioners working at the Contextual Level concentrate on the relationship between the problematic situation and their actions. At the Critical Level narratives exhibit deep contemplation and commitment to social justice. These levels are developmental, and initial studies show that not every person will progress through the levels until they reach critical reflection. But by sharing with you the components of each level, we hope you can work to assess your own level of reflection.

The Collaborative Nature of Reflection

The opportunity to share with colleagues and friends is important in becoming a more reflective practitioner. Feedback, comments, and discussion about your reflections might come from your mentor or supervising teachers, your university supervisor/coordinator and/or your peers in the program. Reflection, as a method of inquiry into teaching, can be collaborative. For example, questions from a friend can help clarify an issue for you, just as a probe or comment from a university supervisor can help you look deeper into the situation. Collaboration when developing a portfolio includes requesting feedback from you mentor, university supervisor, or colleagues and peers. It can also take the form of discussion with colleagues who will assist you in identifying appropriate artifacts to or to help you clarify your beliefs and dispositions. The feedback option on the Electronic Portfolio provides opportunities for peer evaluation and editing as part of this collaborative process.