Reflecting on Experiences


Brookfield (2006, p. 15) says that“[s]imply having experiences does not imply that they are reflected on, understood, or analyzed critically. Individual experiences can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined, and constraining.” For example, a student may experience an incredible physics demonstration. The demonstration may show how light can reflect differently in various media and how a rainbow can be produced by reflecting light a certain way. The instructor may explain some theory of how these phenomena are occurring and the simplicity of the language may lead to students to believe they too understand the theory of optics. This distortion can lead to overconfidence amongst students when actually solving optics problems in physics. It is important as instructors that we make students aware the need to think carefully about what they are experiencing in class and how their experiences can enhance their learning in the classroom with the appropriate mindset.


I agree with Brookfield’s statement and it makes me realize how I myself do not always reflect, understand, and analyze some of my experiences. If I was the student in the physics lab, described above, I would hold on to the positive experience and refrain from analyzing it in fear of discovering I know little about the theory. I tend to avoid thought in regards to positive experiences and dwell on the negative ones. In a New York Times article, Tugend (2012) reports that this is quite a common physical trait amongst people, since negative experiences require more thought than positive ones. So there are two issues I face when analyzing my experiences: I am not effectively reflecting on my experiences and I let emotions cloud my judgment.


How can analyzing negative experiences make me a better instructor? Finlay (2008, p. 2) recognizes that practitioners of reflective practice may find it difficult to approach negative experiences from a different perspective and analyze them. The author suggests that Gibb’s model for reflection, which originated in the late 1980s, is a good model to use for improving self-reflection. The model proposes that when faced with an experience, one should describe it, interpret their feelings in regards to it, evaluate it, analyze it, propose a conclusion for what could have been done, and come up with an action plan in the event that the experience arises again. I believe that I go through this process when thinking above a negative experience but clearly it is not effective. Perhaps I need to start documenting my thoughts.


I believe that I can overcome my issues in regards to dealing with negative experiences by documenting my thoughts using the Gibb’s model of reflection and the focused conversation model. I have only used the focused conversation model in the PIDP program, but perhaps I need to apply it towards my teaching experiences and even my personal experiences. The journal entries I would create would be private to myself only. They would not be something I would post on a blog. For example, I had a very traumatic experience many years ago with a class that did not see eye-to-eye with my teaching style. I honestly did not know how to handle the class and I had no collegial support to guide me. It is hard to judge something in the past, but it may have been beneficial to myself if I wrote down my thoughts and reflected on them instead of half-thinking them through in my head. I am actually looking forward to my next negative experience in a weird sort of way, because I think I may be able to approach it differently and improve upon myself as an instructor and as a person in general.


Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (Second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on reflective practice. (Commissioned discussion paper) Retrieved from

Tugend, A. (2012, March 23). Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall. The New York Times. Retrieved from


About simoncrothers

I am an Australian who moved to British Columbia, Canada with my family in 1998. After completing my undergraduate degree in mathematics and computing science at Simon Fraser University, I moved back to Australia for several years. During this time I completed a Masters in Computational Mathematics and began my teaching career in mathematics at the University of New South Wales. In 2010, I moved back to Canada and taught computer science at Douglas College for three years. I am currently regular faculty in the Computer Business Systems department at KPU. I have also taught some courses in the Business and Quantitative Methods department at KPU. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife Jami, who I met in Australia, our three year old daughter Lillian, and our newly born son Aiden. I also like to indulge in the occasional video game and I am involved in various self-employed web development projects.
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