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A Theory of In-The-Moment Reflective Practice.

Think you don't have the time for reflective practice? Think again!

A Component of Quality ECEC

Reflective practice is a vital component of quality ECEC, it allows us to take the time to consider how we might have done something differently and how we might approach the same situation in the future so that we have an improved outcome. Indeed, the quality standards of Síolta have placed significant value upon reflective practice in Standard 11: Professional Practice.

No Time? No Excuse!

As important as we acknowledge reflective practice to be, finding the time to sit down and write in a reflective journal using Gibb’s Reflective Cycle or fill in a lengthy reflective template, is almost an impossible feat in the busy daily life of the ECEC educator. Nevertheless, our lack of time does not mean we should not, or cannot, incorporate reflective practice into our day. There is a way in which we can reflect in a more informal, time friendly and accessible way. In fact, if you are reading this blog article, you might already be engaging in this method of reflective practice, as perhaps you are thinking about what you do and how you do it and maybe, how you could improve upon it, all while you are reading this. Isn’t that the essence of reflective practice? We are all familiar with the concept of in-the-moment planning as part of our emergent curriculum, what about in-the-moment reflective practice? Let me explain my theory further…..

It Only Takes a Moment

I am passionate about quality professional ECEC practice, I am constantly thinking about it and contemplating various elements of my professional role and how I can improve…when I do this, I am engaging in "in-the-moment reflection". My work with Celine Govern on the ECE Quality Ireland community of practice Twitter page and podcast, where ideas, critical analysis, discussion, photos of practice and thoughts on quality are shared, is also a forum for in-the-moment reflective practice. For example, when another educator shares an idea, a photograph, a learning story etc. on the Twitter page, it might make us stop and think for a moment, we might engage with a comment or we might just say to ourselves “that’s a great idea, I might do that in my practice” or, “why didn’t I think of that before”. This is reflective practice, informal, on the go, active and "in-the-moment reflection". Perhaps you listened to a podcast on ECEC while out for a walk, on your way to work in the car or on the bus, this too is "in-the-moment reflection".

Examples of In The Moment Reflection

In 1991, Donald Schon published a theory on reflecting both in and on practice. Schon’s theory outlines how we can reflect “in action” as an event or interaction is happening, as well as reflecting “on action” after the fact. This theory relates to decisions we make in a particular situation which we act upon immediately. However, close as Schon’s theory may be to my theory, as described in this blog article, I suggest that there is a key difference. The in-the-moment reflective practice that I am proposing we all employ, can occur almost sub-consciously by reflecting and thinking about our practice as we engage with an external source such as an internet site ( or a social media page (check out ECE Quality Ireland), or maybe a podcast or an online newspaper article. We engage with the information source because it interests us and, perhaps initially unintended, an outcome of this informal engagement is that we start to reflect upon an element of our own practice in relation to what we have just seen, read or listened to at that particular moment. It is not a reactive response to a situation as outlined in Schon’s theory of reflection (1991). Instead, it is a, meaningful, albeit perhaps unplanned, reflective process which takes place in the moment as we actively engage with an information source. Hence “in-the-moment reflection”.

Time to Dump The Reflective Journal?

So, the next time you think that you don’t have the time to reflect on your practice, don’t feel guilty and forget about that old reflective journal. Instead, listen to the ECE Quality Ireland podcast while walking or driving in the car, click on to the Twitter page and see what others are doing or read another one of my blog articles while you have your coffee break. Engage in some “in-the-moment reflection” on the go. If it gets you critically thinking about your practice, then that is all that matters… could even consider throwing that reflective journal in the bin (recycling bin)!

(If you listen to this episode of ECE Quality Ireland podcast you will know that I was going to call my “theory” “reflection in action”, but Schon got there first!)

About the Author:

Paula Walshe is an ECEC trainer and placement assessor in the further education and training sector and a freelance writer. She currently holds a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and will complete her studies for a Master’s Degree in Leadership for ECEC in 2022. Paula has extensive ECEC experience in both pedagogical practice and ECEC management. You can learn more about Paula’s work at her website (, where she writes a weekly blog on current topics in Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland and provides useful professional and academic resources for students and professionals in this sector. LinkedIn: Paula Walshe / Twitter: @digitalearlyed / Instagram: @digitalearlychildhoodeducator

Paula and an ECEC colleague have also established a Twitter page and podcast @ECEQualityIrl – a community of professionals sharing ideas and knowledge on all things quality, pedagogy and professional practice in ECEC in Ireland.

You can listen to the most recent ECE Quality Ireland podcast here.

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