Chasing the holy grail of reflection
: An exploration of reflective practice with pre-service physical education teachers

  • Paul McFlynn

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Reflective practice is a common feature of initial teacher education, yet there is a lack of clarity surrounding the concept and how it should be conducted. The study investigated reflective practice approaches with pre-service PE teachers (n=11) who were enrolled on the PGCE PE course at Ulster University for the academic year 2017-18.
The research was conducted within an Action Research framework, where the action-reflection cycle was employed to help inform and shape the direction of the research. The researcher utilised online weekly reflections, peer review and video-assisted reflection to determine the effectiveness of each approach in developing the pre-service teachers’ reflective skills. One year after having completed their PGCE study, and in their role as practising teachers, the researcher investigated how these teachers used reflective practice during their induction year.
The study found that these pre-service teachers began reflecting at different levels and progressed at different rates, highlighting the individual nature of reflective practice. Although, less than half of these pre-service teachers demonstrated the ability to reflect to a higher level on their areas of expertise, all but one pre-service teacher improved their reflective skills, showing that preservice teachers can make progress in deepening reflections. Across the entire group, there were common subject focused areas that the students chose to reflect on and in response to this, the researcher has developed the PE Reflective Wheel which can be used to support pre-service PE teachers’ reflective practice. Video-assisted reflection was the most effective approach, followed by peer review, thus highlighting the importance of using collaborative approaches. Most of these pre-service teachers made some use of weekly reflections to inform planning and teaching, with a small number failing to utilise these in any way. As in-service teachers, they used reflective practice in a less formal way to suit fulltime teaching.
Date of AwardNov 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBarbara Skinner (Supervisor) & Linda Clarke (Supervisor)


  • Initial teacher education
  • Critical reflection
  • Action research
  • PE Reflective Wheel

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