Dewey is known to many as the first educator to understand the importance of reflection within teaching and learning. The theorist’s definition of reflection has a significant emphasis on the importance of thinking actively and consciously in a rational and systematic manner (Dewey, 1933). Following Dewey’s views, reflectors should not only make observations about what has happened, they should delve deeper and challenge the observations they have made. They should do this through asking questions that makes them think about why this has happened and what actions could have provided a different outcome (Dewey, 1933). He defined this as active thinking, he held the understanding that in order to achieve this, the facts of the event must be challenged and the practitioner must consider why the event happened and what this could mean for the future (Dewey, 1933). Dewey (1933) wrote in his work that this process, when carried out, could be more effective if completed individually, in contrast to this, many other theorists and authors thought otherwise. Bolton (2010) proposed that reflection should not be taken only from the reflectors views, it should also involve input from others. He emphasised the idea that the views held by the reflector may not be synonymous to other practitioners’ views and that it is beneficial to view the experience from other perspectives. This is reflected in Brookfield’s (1998) work, who believes that other practitioners are able to identify actions that the reflector may have otherwise not realised or taken into consideration. He wrote that considering colleagues’ viewpoints can increase the likelihood of discovering information that will help with the reflective process.
Dewey began research using his experiences in education into examining and unpicking what thinking is and what it meant to him. Dewey recognised that there are different types of thinking; routine, impulsive and reflective. Routine thinking does not use a great level of deep thought, whilst impulsive thinking is based on reacting to the given moment and capturing the opportunities at that time (Dewey, 1933). Dewey wanted to research more thoroughly into reflective thinking which would consist of stopping and considering the situation and responding to this by making necessary changes. Dewey decided to create a way to use the reflective practice he became familiar with. From this research, he produced what is known as Dewey’s (1938) Five Stage Model of Reflection, which Dewey believed is necessary to develop deeper thinking and reflecting skills. Unlike this, Finger and Asún (2000) argue that it is not necessary to partake in each stage of the model in order to develop theories and practice.
Since Dewey’s initial theory of reflection, multiple models have been proposed by theorists adapting his research to create and explain why they believe their reflection process would be more beneficial.