Reflective Teaching: Impact, Supports, and Barriers from UAE-Based ESL Teachers' Perspectives
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A reflective practice requires conscious efforts by teachers to critically examine their pedagogy with the aim to enhance the quality of their teaching and instill positive transformations in their classrooms. Reflective teachers constantly engage in a cyclical process of inquiry and self-assessment, as they re-examine their underlying assumptions about teaching and work on aligning their practices with their beliefs. Practitioners delve into this rigorous examination, typically using introspective reflective teaching (RT) tools and techniques that may include surveys, interviews, journals, case-studies, peer observations, session recordings, and action research. While previous studies have investigated the impact of reflective teaching on pre-service teachers during their teacher training periods, few studies addressed the impact of reflective teaching on in-service teachers and its status in real-life classrooms. This paper probes the perspectives of seven ESL in-service teachers based in the UAE on the impact of reflective teaching. Data was collected using questionnaires and interviews conducted after the teachers' participation in a six-week RT program. Regarding the status of reflection in classrooms, the candidate selection procedure revealed that while many teachers recognize the significance of RT, few of them implemented reflective tools and engaged in systematic, evidence-based reflection in their daily practices. Following the RT program, the teachers indicated that RT provided valuable insights into teaching, allowed teachers to monitor their students' progress, and deepened the teachers' understanding of classroom events. Many of the teachers, also, reported that the RT approach enabled them to re-examine their teaching beliefs and enhanced their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Furthermore, the participants identified the teacher's openness to change and improvement as a main supporting factor to teacher reflection. Conversely, the teachers found time constraints, culture, and the teacher's own resistance to be major inhibitors of reflection.