Fred A.J. Korthagen and Ellen E. Nuijten
The core reflection approach aims to deepen teacher reflection and development. The approach takes teachers’ core qualities and ideals as the starting point for reflection, and links the professional and the personal in teacher development. Core reflection can also be applied to other professional groups, and to students in primary and secondary education. It is based on a model of levels of reflection, briefly named the onion model, which includes the following levels: environment, behavior, competencies, beliefs, identity, mission, and “the core,” which refers to personal strengths. The onion model helps to differentiate between behavior-oriented reflection and a deeper kind of reflection, in which attention is given to three goals: (1) building on strengths and ideals (called “the inner potential”) of the person, (2) helping the person deal with inner obstacles limiting the actualization of the inner potential, and (3) preparing the person for using their potential and dealing with obstacles autonomously. In order to reach these goals, people can be coached using specific principles, which are partly based on positive psychology:
1. Focusing on personal strengths;
2. Giving balanced attention to cognition, emotion, and motivation (thinking, feeling, and wanting); and
3. Giving attention to inner obstacles.
These principles are brought together in a phase model for core reflection, with five phases: (1) describing a concrete situation; (2) reflection on the ideal, and on a core quality or qualities; (3) reflection on an obstacle; (4) using the inner potential; and (5) trying a new approach.
Core reflection is being used around the world, both in teacher education programs and in schools. Several research studies into the processes and outcomes of core reflection have shown that it leads to in-depth professional development and improved behavior, in both the short and the long term. However, more research is needed, for example research in which long-term outcomes of the core reflection approach are compared to those of other approaches.