The 1997 pilot of the Virtual Classroom provided the technology that made the
interactive learning series possible. Four videos, broadcast through TVOs The
Learning Zone, provided background information on the purposes and processes of reflective
journal writing, some barriers to professional reflection and some strategies for creating
a climate conducive to reflective practice. Participants then posted reflective journal
entries on an interactive web site and received feedback from a mentor.
A reflective journal is intended to prompt teachers to think deeply and critically
about what they do, why they do the things they do, what they might do more of and what
they might do differently. The video explores journal writing techniques.
With the rationale and writing strategies in place, directions for the kind of content
one might include in a reflective journal are explored. A series of questions for
reflection are posed in four categories: descriptive reflection, analytic reflection,
evaluative reflection and planning reflection.
There are systemic barriers to reflective practice, and this video acknowledges the
simple truths: the event-driven nature of teachers lives, the descriptive focus of
teachers thinking, the difficulty of confronting unpleasant truths, the role of the
professional identity, the burden of guilt associated with teaching, the conspiracy of
silence relative to teachers learning and the evaluative culture within the
The fourth and final video offers strategies for overcoming these barriers and
creating a climate conducive to professional reflection and growth. Three categories of
ideas are explored: the process of building a learning culture in schools, the role of
professional dialogue and the benefits derived from sharing professional knowledge.
The teachers who took part in the pilot watched the tapes at their leisure and wrote
journal entries onto a password-protected web site. Coral Mitchell, a faculty member at
Brock Universitys faculty of education, was the only person with access to the
reflective writing. She wrote comments directly to the teachers. As well, she posted
comments regarding common themes or issues to a public web page to elicit group
discussions or to engage collective learning.
Through this experiment with video, discussion and mentoring, we began to suspect that
a more expanded version of this project could infuse new life into professional practice.
This belief is supported by statements found in the Standards of Practice for the Teaching
Profession. For example, "Teachers modify and refine teaching practice through
continuous reflection" and "Teachers engage in a continuum of professional
growth to improve their practice."
The results of this project are not intended to serve as a recipe, but rather as a
collection of materials, ideas, and resources for sharing professional practice and for
building a community of learners. It is a mechanism to break through the isolation of
classroom teaching and to engage teachers in critical reflection.
Our experiences in the classroom have taught teachers to fear recrimination for
admitting a weakness or a gap in our knowledge. Our experience has also taught us the
difficulty of finding information and support for reflecting on our practice. A natural
follow-up to this project is a web site and a set of mentors where teachers can post and
For additional information and activities, visit the TVO web site at www.tvo.org/pdonline.
Helen Coltrinari is the head of professional development and accreditation with
TVOs Educational Programming and Services. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coral Mitchell is a faculty member at Brock Universitys faculty of education. She
can be reached at email@example.com.