As a classroom teacher, I never thought reflection a good thing. I thought of it more as a bad habit--the reason that sometimes, lost in thought, I burned the family dinner. While a teacher educator at the University of Washington, I helped students become reflective teachers. At first, I wondered why I should pass on my bad habits. Working under Heidi McKenna's direction as a teaching assistant (TA), I came to understand reflection as she defines it, a set of skills which allows a person to accurately see themself and their relationship to the social and physical environment (McKenna, 1999, p. 2), important because teaching is complex, thoughtful work (Darling-Hammond, 1994, p. 5).
To perform this complex work well, teachers must be able to give honest consideration to what they do. Teachers may reflect on their work as individuals or in collaboration with others (Webb, 1999). Osterman and Kottkamp (1993) explained, Reflective practice, while often confused with reflection, is neither solitary nor a relaxed meditative process. To the contrary, reflective practice is a challenging, demanding, and often trying process that is most successful as a collaborative effort (p. 19). Reflective practice is interactive; it often requires working in a reflective way and talking about it with others. Collaborative reflection cannot occur without conversation.
Because collaborative reflection requires communication, culture affects it in a way individual reflection is not. In this article, I demonstrate that ways in which people reflect individually are shared across cultures. In contrast, the ways in which they reflect collaboratively are structured differently among cultures. That collaborative reflection differs from culture to culture makes intuitive sense. How people communicate varies from one society to another. Therefore, collaborative reflection is also likely to vary. Houston and Clift (1990) suggest, Current definitions of reflection are strongly influenced by the Western cultural heritage (p. 211).
Differences in how teachers reflect collaboratively may depend on their culture; this might have important consequences for teacher education. In the following section, I describe how reflection is practiced in other cultures.
Tremmel (1993) compares Zen Buddhist mindfulness with Schon's (1983) idea of reflection in action. Rodriguez (1997) does not use the word reflection, but he models reflection in an introspective struggle in which his identity as Chicano emerges as important. Alexander (personal interview, December 30, 1998) shares what reflection means for her as an American Indian woman. Tremmel (1993) compares reflection, which Schon describes as reflection-in-action (Schon, 1983, p. 54), and a similar way of being expressed in Zen philosophy as zazen: There is an important common ground between mindfulness and reflection-in-action (Tremmel, 1993, p. 444). According to Tremmel, mindfulness means to pay attention to right here, right now and to invest the present moment with full awareness and concentration (p. 443). Tremmel (1993) sees a similarity with reflection-in-action, which requires thinking on one's feet in a way that also requires attention to the present moment.
Tremmel (1993) writes that another aspect of Zen Buddhism is the importance of self-awareness: To study Zen is to study the self (p. 454). Self-awareness is a valued component of reflection in other cultures, as well. Rodriguez (1997) reveals his reflective self-awareness in his search for identity: The search for identity always entails the confrontation of unpleasant truths about our individual and collective past. It implies the willingness to struggle to divest ourselves of regressive notions and the courage to seek that which is more transcendent; that which promotes human dignity. It means leaving one's comfort zone in order to change and mature because change is a part of the reality of our existence. …