This qualitative study explores teachers’ use of reflective practice and an intentional response cycle to help guide their responses to unexpected and/or challenging events in the classroom. I refer to the relational approach to intentional response and reflective practice as a reflectiveresponse cycle. This cycle brings together two areas of research that have tended to be treated separately in relation to research on teaching practice: effective coping skills and reflective inquiry and practice. Drawing on a reflectiveresponse cycle, teachers learn to engage in a simple and accessible process that can assist them in feeling more present and in control of their reactions to unexpected and/or challenging events that arise in their day-to-day interactions with students in the classroom. The focus of the literature review is research on reflective inquiry and practice, as well as an exploration of related concepts that impact teacher wellbeing, including the construction of one’s sense of self, mindful awareness, and compassion. A phenomenological method was used to examine, understand, and describe the lived experiences of nine teacher participants as they engaged with the reflectiveresponse cycle over a 4-month period. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the contextual meaning of the participants’ experiences before and after their interaction with the reflectiveresponse cycle. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Thirteen themes and three subthemes were identified. These themes and subthemes are represented under five categories: 1. Critical reflection: Insights (Questioning Beliefs and Teacher Identity) and New Perspectives; 2. Mindful Awareness: Presence and Shifts in Practice; 3. Compassion: Open-Hearted and Open-Minded; Teacher Wellbeing: Optimism, Gratefulness and Agency; 4. Mentorship: Guidance, Probing and Challenging, Encouragement, and Outcomes. Two overarching themes, Connection and Growth, emerged through this process. The findings indicate a need and a desire on the part of teachers for reflective practice and intentional response education and professional development. Many of the participants spoke of ending their school day feeling the burden of guilt from unintended reactions toward challenging situations in the classroom. They found their engagement with the reflectiveresponse cycle to be beneficial in relieving their sense of guilt, replacing it with an improved sense of connection with their students. Implications for educational practice and future research are discussed.
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Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Susan
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