Forward-looking reflective teaching

Ehsan Gorji
Ehsan Gorji
A classroom with students sat at desks and one student stood at the front with the teacher

Ehsan Gorji is an Iranian teacher, teacher trainer and teacher educator. He also designs strategic plans, devises study syllabuses, runs quality-check observations, and develops materials and tests for different language institutes and schools in the country. Ehsan has been a GSE Thought Leader and Expert Rater since 2016. 

Reflective teaching, despite it sounding modern and sophisticated, has not yet become a common practice among English language teachers. However, the experiential learning cycle proposed by Jim Scrivener offers a practical approach for teachers. The cycle involves teaching a lesson, reflecting on "what we did" and "how we did them," and then using that reflection to improve future English classes. By using this approach, teachers can prepare for better teaching in the long term.

Why use forward-looking reflective teaching in your lessons?
Privacy and cookies
By viewing this third-party content from you agree to their terms and conditions, privacy notice and acknowledge they may use cookies and pixels for information and analytics gathering.

Why is reflective teaching important?

Reflective teaching is important to teachers, especially language teachers, for it is one of the few practices that maintains dynamic and healthy teaching. Ranking high along with continuing professional development and lesson planning, reflective teaching prevents teachers from entering autopilot mode – i.e., when a teacher changes from class to class, only battling their growing fatigue.

Reflective teaching helps focus our attention on the responsibility of the teachers to deliver effective teaching and impact students' learning. Language teachers cannot learn for our students; nevertheless, we can pave the way for their learning. Reflective teaching grants us the judiciary seat after each class to listen to ourselves and form accurate and independent judgments on how our teaching assisted, or sometimes impeded, their learning in our classes.

What is forward-looking reflective teaching?

Forward-looking reflective teaching is a new perspective on post-teaching analysis. It starts from the very first and wishes to prepare for the very end. Unlike reflective teaching, which mainly focuses on the 'teaching' phase, forward-looking reflective teaching observes both 'teaching' and 'pre-teaching' phases to gather enough data and analyze it to produce better results in 'post-teaching'. This approach provides language teachers with the following checklist of questions.

  1. How well did I plan my lesson?
  2. Did I design suitable tasks and practices for my students?
  3. Did I set practical assignments for my learners?
  4. Did I support learner autonomy?
  5. How did I treat errors made by my students?
  6. Did I deliver personalized and accurate feedback on each error?
  7. How important was my learners' employability to me?
  8. If I were to teach the same lesson, what would I do the same?
  9. What would I do differently if I were to teach the same lesson?
  10. What is the next step?

What is the forward-looking reflective teaching checklist?

To apply forward-looking reflective teaching and to bring it to our everyday teaching, we can consider examples from the following checklist.

Reflection questions

Planning the lesson

1. Was I aware of which learning objectives I intended to teach?
2. Was I aware of which learning outcomes I needed to follow?
3. Did I curate suitable lesson objectives?
4. Did I carefully inspect the language examples I used in my lesson?
5. Did I explicitly know what I was able to do in my class?

Designing the tasks

6. Did I break my lesson into clear stages, following each other smoothly? For example, preliminary > presentation > controlled practice > freer practice > production/ or: before > during > after/ etc.
7. Did each of my lesson stages intend to push my learners toward the lesson's learning objectives?
8. Did each of my lesson stages intend to push my learners towards the learning outcomes of the course?
9. To what extent did my lesson design give my class an adequate opportunity to practice and generate communication?
10. To what extent did my lesson design provide my class an adequate opportunity to practice and enable collaboration?
11. Did I time my stages well?

Setting assignments

12. Did my assignments target the learning outcomes my learners were supposed to acquire?
13. Especially in Young Learners classes, did I set assignments in favor of 'fun and ease' or 'fun, ease and outcome'?
14. Especially in Adult and Professional Learners classes, did my homework assignments intend to develop their employability skills?
15. Did my assignments encourage learner autonomy? How?

Treating errors

16. Did I treat errors or just correct errors?
17. Did I bear in mind that not every error is indicative of an actual issue?
18. Did I sharply distinguish an error from a mistake, and did I treat these two differently?
19. Did I tell faulty knowledge from non-existent knowledge accurately?
20. Did I apply teaching with ZPD when appropriate?

Delivering feedback

21. Did I evaluate my students' formative progress against some detailed learning objectives rather than basing it on how others did in class?
22. Did I evaluate my students' summative progress with the precise learning outcomes that their level demanded?
23. Did my feedback on my learners' learning and oral performance help me communicate clear and detailed expectations to the learner, with the aim for them to improve in the future?
24. Did my feedback on my learners' learning and written performance help me communicate clear and detailed expectations to the learner, with the aim for them to improve in the future?

How can I use a forward-looking reflective teaching checklist?

The teaching checklist works better if it is run through regularly. Start from one class each day, and gradually change the rhythm for more. Immediately after your class or later at night, before planning the next class, go through the checklist and add more than your estimated teaching capacity. Ask yourself every one of the questions patiently and note down your answers; they show you where to start for the next class. Some of the questions in the checklist might receive 'Yes'/'No', and some might come up with:

  1. 'Fully'
  2. 'Partially'
  3. 'Not at all'

The checklist works much better if you prepare a plan of action to improve things for the following class(es). Do not feel bad if you score lots of 'No's or 'Not at all's; instead, be inspired to reduce them in the subsequent classes step by step. This checklist is a roadmap to your professional development and more importantly, to better the learning by your students; therefore, welcome it and let it run everyday check-ups on your teaching.

Collaborate with colleagues to share checklists and set up forums. Discuss and learn from each other about inspecting language, error treatment, and feedback delivery. Ask questions to enrich your action plan. Find out how to create effective scaffolding. The forum can cover all parts of the checklist.

Read this blog to better understand lesson planning and inspecting language. Review and revise your techniques and principles in your teaching wardrobe, especially with teaching beginners.

A forward-looking reflective teaching checklist works best if accompanied by the Global Scale of English and its powerful Teacher Toolkit. Years of research by thousands of experts and teachers from around the globe have resulted in a free, excellent bank of learning objectives for different learner types – young, adult, professional and academic. This checklist and approach, alongside the GSE resources, can further equip you with the necessary tools to succeed.

More blogs from Pearson

  • A teacher stood in front of a classroom in front of a whiteboard with stickynotes, talking to students

    Six of the most famous British stories for English teachers

    By Anna Roslaniec

    Sometimes, it’s nice to share cultural insights with our students so they can get a deeper understanding of the context of the language they are learning. However, without lots of time and money, it can be tough to travel to an English-speaking country yourself and experience what life is like first-hand.

    But what if you could learn about British history, customs and culture from the comfort of your sofa?

    That’s right - in an instant you could be transported back to the dark cobbled streets of 19th century London, to an industrial town in northern England or a rural village in Surrey.

    Today, we want to share six English stories set in Britain that provide cultural, historical and social aspects of British life, both past and present.

    So sit back, relax and let us take you on an adventure.

    1. Emma

    Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817)

    This story about the intelligent and beautiful Emma was first published at the end of 1815. The book, which takes place in a fictional village called Highbury (located in the charming county of Surrey), covers themes such as romance, social class and female empowerment.

    Emma is a social person who enjoys seeing people happy and contented. She spends her time arranging marriages between her friends but sometimes makes mistakes. Will the problems she causes upset people? And can she find love herself?

    2. The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

    This philosophical yet supernatural thriller, first published in 1890, is full of lies, secrets and mystery. The tale revolves around the main character, Dorian Gray, who after inheriting a property from his grandfather, travels to London and soon makes new friends. One of his new acquaintances paints a portrait of Dorian, who makes a dangerous wish that he would give anything - even his soul - to stay as young and good-looking as he appears in the painting.

    Soon, things start to go wrong and his life gets out of control. But he doesn’t seem to get older. Why? The terrible secret he’s hiding in his attic is the answer. What could it be? Allow yourself to travel back to Victorian times and see London through the eyes of this handsome and hedonistic young man.

    3. Middlemarch

    Written by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880)

    Written under Mary’s pen name,George Elliott, this work of realism was first published in eight installments during 1871 and 1872. The story, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch from 1829-1832, tells a tale of science and discovery. It follows Dorothea, a young woman determined to change the world and Dr. Lydgate, an ambitious man who wants to be a leader in science. Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate are both married, but soon their marriages go wrong.

    Can they ever be happy? Will they achieve their dreams? Although the central theme of the book revolves around the marriage of the two main characters, with many historical references such as the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways and the death of King George IV, Middlemarch is great for those who are interested in history as well as provincial life. 

    4. Four Weddings and a Funeral

    Written by Richard Curtis (born 1956)

    Those looking for a more modern look at British life can learn plenty about customs and cultures in this contemporary book, which has been adapted from one of Britain’s funniest and most popular films. Released in 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral is about Charles (played by Hugh Grant in the film), a charming man who is very unlucky in love.

    One day, during his friend’s wedding, he meets a beautiful girl called Carrie. Unfortunately, she does not plan to stay in England, and travels back to the United States. But they keep meeting each other, so maybe things can work out for the couple. Laugh while discovering the ins and outs of the British social scene in this romantic comedy.

    5. North and South

    Written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)

    North and South, published in 1855, is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who moves with her parents from rural southern England to an industrial town called Milton in the north. There, she meets a wealthy mill owner named Mr. Thornton, and though she dislikes him, he immediately falls in love with her.

    During her time in Milton, she witnesses what it’s like to work in the mills where employers and workers constantly clash. As his workers go on strike, will Mr. Thornton be able to charm Margaret? This complex and provoking story follows the working class struggle during the Industrial Revolution.

    6. Oliver Twist

    Written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

    Published in 1832, Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel. The story tells the tale of a young orphan we can all feel for. Oliver is brought up in a workhouse where he is beaten, starved and poorly treated. With no parents to look after him, he decides to run away to London, where he joins a gang of thieves.

    His new friends look out for him, but can they protect him from a life of danger and crime? An interesting look at the darker side of Britain’s capital, Oliver Twist is still popular today with film, musical and TV adaptations.

    Want some more reading inspiration for your English lessons?

    Discover graded Readers featuring some of the world’s best-loved authors.

    Pearson has Readers adapted from classic English novels with audio files and a comprehensive teacher resources section, meaning you can use them in class with your students too. 

  • Business people in a group smiiling with their hands up in air

    Empowering employee success: establishing a learning culture

    By Pearson Languages

    In the fast-paced world of business, there is one undeniable fact that holds true: employees are the key to success. Their commitment and expertise propel organizations towards their objectives, which is why investing in a learning culture is essential. The advantages are numerous and include improved staff retention, increased productivity and the goal of higher employee engagement.

  • A man and woman sat in a meeting room smiling

    The ultimate guide to learning management systems

    By Pearson Languages

    You may have heard the term learning management system (LMS) at work or perhaps during your time in education. For many, this throws out images of clunky, outdated systems that clumsily distribute course materials and are tough to use. But that is no longer the case. Modern LMS's are far more user-friendly, and it's time to relearn what you thought you knew about these tools. 

    In this ultimate guide, we will look at everything you need to know about learning management systems and why they are so beneficial. 

    What is a learning management system?

    A learning management system is a digital platform or software as a service (SaaS) solution that is used to create, organize and distribute online courses. 

    The idea is that these LMS platforms offer one central place for users to manage and access courses and learning materials. Depending on the user, this could be anything from self-paced e-courses to classroom training. 

    This can help facilitate a range of training, studying and skills development, as well as assessments, exams and certification management. 

    Who uses LMS's and why? 

    There are many great uses for learning management systems but these are used primarily by businesses and educational establishments. Here are some of the most common use cases for these platforms: 

    • HR and management - The HR and management team might implement these across the business to help with learning and development and make sure that organizational goals are being hit

    • Employee onboarding - Those starting a new job may be given training via an LMS; this can make the onboarding process much quicker and simpler 

    • Compliance training - Lots of roles require compliance training, for example health and safety training, and this is a great way for businesses to stay up to date and ensure everyone complies with regulations 

    • Customer support - Some businesses use learning management systems to onboard customers or clients. This might include sharing user manuals and product guides. Plus, sales professionals might also use them to train new partners or clients in using their services or platforms. 

    • Classroom learning - Lecturers and teachers can create and share course materials and align content and tests from one place. These can also be used to put a twist on traditional classroom learning. 

    • Blended learning - Schools, colleges and universities may use these for online lessons and blended learning, particularly for remote students 

    • Volunteer training - Charities and non-profits may also use an LMS to educate volunteers and keep them motivated about the cause 

    Of course, these platforms can and will be used in other ways, but these are some of the most common and beneficial uses for LMS's. 

    Who has access to LMS's?

    In most cases, learning management systems will have two primary user groups: administrators and learners.  

    Administrators are the people who create, manage and deliver e-learning. They may use these platforms to upload their own learning materials, or they may select courses and materials from an existing list given by the provider.

    On the other hand, learners are the professionals or students who will use these platforms to train, study and gain new skills. Many modern LMS's allow multiple learners to train or access materials at the same time.

    However, there is a third and final group that we have yet to mention: the parents of students using LMS's, particularly outside of school hours. In some cases, parents may have access to these systems to support students, track their progress or look at feedback from the teacher. 

    Key features in modern LMS's

    There are a variety of learning management systems out there and some are more advanced than others. That being said, many modern platforms will share similar features to ensure they stay competitive. Some of these key features may include: 

    • Authoring tools that allow administrators to upload or build their own courses

    • Access to subject matter experts who can contribute to learning and development activities 

    • Automated workflows that allow for the creation of personalized learning journeys

    • A resources library that holds all relevant learning materials, such as guides, video clips and courses

    • Quizzes and surveys for a more fun and engaging way to assess learners 

    • Compliance features, such as automatic reminders that notify learners when it is time to retrain 

    • Certificates and diplomas that give learners recognition as they study and meet their targets 

    • Insights and analysis for individual progress and results, allowing administrators to identify gaps or areas where support is needed

    • Compatibility with mobile devices for studying on the go 

    • Integrations with other internal systems and software 

    This is by no means a complete list and different platforms will have different functionality. However, these are some of the most common and beneficial features of many modern LMSs.

    The benefits of using learning management systems

    Saving time and money

    First and foremost, an LMS can be an excellent way for businesses to save time and money on training. 

    Of course there is an initial investment in the platform, but training can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly if it must take place in a location outside of the workplace. Therefore, this can be the more cost-effective solution. Not to mention, the materials are quick to access and can save time and effort. 

    Ensuring compliance training is completed

    These platforms are an excellent way to ensure that all mandatory training is completed on time and to the highest standard. For example, industry-specific training such as fire safety or cybersecurity training. 

    Provide accurate data

    Administrators can access data and insights into their employee's learning. This can be a great way to see where more support is needed and to identify any skills gaps that need to be filled. Similarly, teachers can get to grips with how well their students are doing and if they need extra help in any subjects or areas.

    Improves the learning experience

    Whether in school or the workplace, LMS's can be a great way to improve the learning process. It allows users to study and access learning materials from one accessible location. Plus, through a multimedia approach, they can use guides, videos and more to help them learn. This can ensure they engage with the materials and stay motivated. 

    Simplifying communication

    Finally, an LMS can make communication between students, teachers, employees and employers far simpler. For example, automated reminders keep everyone in the loop and ensure all training is completed on time. But more than that, there is one central place to communicate, review feedback and access the same materials.