Reflection Starts with You

Access, Excellence, and Impact

Howard (2003) highlights the need for critical teacher reflection in the article “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection.” He sets the stage by explaining the demographic divide and how “US schools will continue to become learning spaces where an increasingly homogeneous teaching population (mostly White, female and middle class) will come into contact with an increasingly heterogeneous student population (primarily students of color, from low income backgrounds.)” (Howard, 2003, p. 195) The author explains the importance of supporting teachers in gaining the knowledge and skills for teaching today’s diverse student community.

One of the ways Howard (2003) suggests acquiring the knowledge and skills for teaching our diverse learners is through critical reflection. He describes critical reflection as, “attempts to look at reflection within moral, political, and ethical contexts of teaching.” (Howard, 2003, p. 197) I can see how this type of reflection would be challenging. As teachers, we are familiar with reflecting on our actions and how it impacted student learning. However, this type of reflection requires much more than just identifying strengths and challenges within a lesson.   Howard (2003) pushes educators to “ask challenging questions that pertain to one’s construction of individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.” (p. 198)

This year I had an opportunity to participate in systematic reflection with colleagues. The experience was difficult but rewarding. We used journal writing to reflect and make sense of our experiences. Each session the facilitator would pose questions and give us uninterrupted time to write and reflect. One of the greatest gifts I received in this experience was the opportunity to go back and reread what I had written in my journal at different times throughout our journey. I could see how my thinking had grown and what I needed to do to move forward in my practice. During the systematic reflection, we were invited to share out with the group, but it was not required. I believe a similar format focused on critical reflection would be beneficial for teachers. The author refers to this format as race reflective journaling by Milner (2003) and further describes it as a “process wherein teachers are able to process issues of racial differences in a more private manner through writing as opposed to sharing ideas of racial and cultural differences in a more open and public forum that might be uncomfortable and difficult for some.” (Howard, 2003, p. 199)

I believe that race reflective journaling would be uncomfortable yet eye-opening for teachers and that is what is needed. It would force teachers to engage in an inner dialogue centered on race, ethnicity, social-class and gender and expose what Howard (2003) refers to as deficit-based thinking. In the article, deficit-based thinking is described as an authentic belief that students from culturally diverse and low-income backgrounds are incapable learners. (Howard, 2003, p. 197) My parents experienced the harmful effects of deficit-based thinking. Both my parents are second language learners. I grew up listening to stories about the difficulties they experienced in school as second language learners. As a result, they chose not to teach my brother and I Spanish. The language stopped in my generation because they saw it as a deficit.

I believe that the first step toward becoming a culturally relevant educator is to start with reflection and the article “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection” offers steps to consider, possible pitfalls, and the positive impact critical teacher reflection can have on our diverse student population.


Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection. Theory Into Practice. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4203_5









The following two tabs change content below.


Latest posts by malissathibault (see all)

2 comments — post a comment

Hogan Hayes

Great post. I was struck by this line:
“The experience was difficult but rewarding.”

That difficulty is a key factor, but one I feel is too often glossed over in the literature.

What makes critical reflection difficult?

I ask students for critical reflections all the time, and there is a range of performance on such reflective tasks:
I’ll go through the motions because I have to.
I’ll think about things I did and describe them.
I’ll think about things I did and consider their impact.
I’ll critique the things I did.
I’ll consider the things I did and use them to critique my ideas and beliefs.

When you get into the more sophisticated reflective performances, there is a lot going on. It requires deliberate thinking and the coordination of several complex concepts. Add to that the tendency to resist challenges to our core beliefs, and we can see why the most productive kind of reflection is so difficult.

This strikes me as crucial, because it is easy for teachers (or anyone) to stop short and settle for a less critical kind of reflective practice.

We need to show people what critical reflection looks like so they can assess their own reflections.


Very authentic response to the article. Your insight was refreshing, as the article seems to align perfectly with your field. I also appreciated the way in which your ideas flowed seamlessly with those of the author’s. The organization of your post felt professional. I found that Howard’s research was very significant to my area of inquiry and the theories and concepts in the article helped me to reflect. We share a common perception of the material and the perceived value of the data.
Looking forward to reading your next post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *