All 7 entries tagged Reflections
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April 27, 2020
The end of term was fast approaching and I was, like most, in need of a break. I was so pleased with my progress this term and was very much looking forward to being that one step closer to finishing the course. Then the morning of 22nd March came, my formal observation with my Head of Department. I had avoided having a formal observation with my Head of Department for the past couple of weeks because I wanted to focus on my areas of development and show some improvement.
The lesson came and pretty much everything went wrong. I was settling the class when I realised I was in the wrong classroom and another teacher was lining her class up outside. The starter task took 20 minutes instead of the designated 10, not good when you have decided to include a whole host of activities within the lesson. The students did not seem their usual, engaged selves and I was faced with 30 distant looking faces staring at me. Let me confirm here, these faces were not that of students who were gripped and mesmerized by my teaching, more disengaged and most likely thinking about what they were having for lunch that day from the school canteen. The activities were unappealing and you could see that the students were not impressed as they dismissively wafted the worksheets I gave them and looked at me as if to say “Miss, why are we doing this?” At this point, I received several echoes of “Miss, what do we have to do again?” It is fair to say at this point, I knew things were not going great and I wanted to run out of the classroom; I have never wanted a fire alarm to have go off, anything to leave the lesson. I could picture my Head of Department highlighting the boxes on my observation form, and I just knew that this was not going to be the result I had hoped for. After delivering my verbal feedback she slid the form across the desk; I felt embarrassed and disappointed. I folded the form up and placed it in my bag with the plan to shred it as soon as I got home.
That evening, I was sorting my planner out and I found the observation sheet inside it. I was thinking about the lesson and the bemused faces of my students throughout. I was frustrated that a lesson on Civil Rights with a class usually so involved was so flat. Then I thought about the planning process. Usually, I plan my lessons with the focus in mind and then decide on tasks I know my students will respond to. I didn’t do that on this occasion, I planned to please my observer and ultimately, I planned with ‘outstanding’ in mind, not my students; I had taken a step backwards. Recently, I had changed how I planned which meant that my lessons were more engaging for my students and they were central to the planning process, unfortunately the observer did not see the students at their best because I had prevented that from happening. If I had thought about the tasks properly, I would have known that they would not have bought the best out of my students. However, despite taking a step backwards here, I decided to use this lesson to move forwards. Yes, you could argue I was making the same mistakes as I was in September, however, I was reflecting on them differently and able to identify the problems. I made a promise to myself after this lesson that I would resume my usual planning process and focus on having the foresight to know what tasks would get the best out of my students. This observation highlighted to me the importance of everything I had learnt, sometimes you do need to step backwards to move forwards.
March 31, 2020
So, term starts, and there you are in the classroom, pen in hand, notebook at the ready, senses sharpened, dutifully primed (Christmas pun intended) by the well-oiled operation of the Warwick CPE induction team (leave that one with you!) and ready for applying yourself to observation. Observing, do it all the time, have done pretty much since birth, should be good at it. Off we go. An hour later and that’s one down. Much as I thought. Kids lined up, came in, sat down, slapped down a bit for being noisy, reminded that underlining is done with a ruler and, according to my notes, did some exercises. Oh yes, I recognised a strategy or two going on: countdowns; gentle rebuke to the disengaged; reminder of expectations. There we are job-done.
A week or two passes, more notes are taken when the sneaking feeling that these notes are all much the same and, dare I say, somewhat dry and moribund. I’m even writing down the topics and annotating the exercise questions? There are now bits of scaffolding jottings in my pad where I have broken away from observing to get involved in the doing (not that there is anything wrong with that per se). But is writing about whether the ladder leaning against the wall is safe, really going to help my classroom practice (short of the classroom’s openable windows being elevated to a significantly lofty location.)? I need to re-focus, and probably even take-a-look at the session we had on ‘observation’ at uni., which, I am sure, would have almost certainly been useful. Ah yes, focus on one aspect, study all the techniques used for BfL or AFL or differentiation. Makes sense. Right, I’m ready to go. I’m focussed. A few lessons pass. A quick look at my notes. What! Is that all I’ve written? Even some of my least diligent pupils would have recorded more than that! Needs re-thinking, but for now I need to concentrate on delivering my first full lessons.
What went well? I emerged, relatively unscathed. Excellent level of heat generated, possibly accompanied by a flicker of light. What, ‘could be better’? I’m left reflecting, but the next lesson is imminent, so I’m back to a bit more ‘observing’.
The Epiphany. Ah! so that’s what’s been happening. The Teacher ensures the students are admitted in good time, they are settled quickly, they know the routine, they have stuff to do immediately. The teacher glides effortlessly and with minimum instruction to the main focus of the lesson. The students are all, according to their respective needs, and with a relaxed freedom, on task. A flicker of disengagement is smoothly quelled and students are transitioned easily through effortless orchestration from the steady to appropriate, more challenging, tasks. Students are acting as autonomous agents, doing work, at consummative ease in an environment of unspoken, yet understood, boundaries. There is peer to peer support. The teacher is almost subliminally aware of the proceedings. There is a sense of safety and mutual respect, which seems to underpin the whole operation. Assessment of learning leads to a careful transition of tasks achieved effortlessly due to prior preparation. A brief round-up and the class ends. Students are reminded firmly but respectfully of the exit procedure. Staff and students are relaxed and smiling as they depart.
Funny, for all those previous notes and years of experience of ‘observing’, I somehow seemed to have missed all that, until I’d had a go myself.
February 17, 2020
Chemistry is a subject that I view clearly as an expanding stack of component units. Higher level concepts grow block by block from an understanding of core basic principles. This makes it easy to teach in some ways but it also makes students who miss a block quickly feel lost. I believe that Chemistry and other science subjects become much easier once you can build a robust mental framework to systematise the subject and understand how its component units of knowledge link to and build upon each other. Whilst we do see that some students have a better natural strength at systematising than others (Bressan, 2018), my own personal experience is that this skill can be strengthened in all students through good science teaching and clear scaffolding. Before joining high school teaching full time, I tutored Chemistry and was regularly surprised by the performance jump that could be achieved by seeking out entrenched misconceptions and then rebuilding back up.
Secondly, I believe that students are more likely to excel when they are motivated by intrinsic interest in the subject material. I believe that students should have some choice in where to apply their extra energy beyond their core studies and I don’t demand that all my students need or want to become chemists in the future. In my opinion, interest in a subject can be fostered by showing how it can be applied in real life and either being a good role model for students or by finding them positive role models when you yourself do not fit the bill. For last year’s International Women’s Day, I asked three female friends to record short videos for my students to talk about the difficulties that they face as women in high profile roles and how they have persevered to excel despite the odds.
Thirdly, I have a strong focus on creating a classroom environment where wrong answers and concepts may also be shared in a way that leads to positive opportunities for learning. This comes from my first experiences of teaching working as an English instructor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. My students had very strong evaluation and study skills and so I mistakenly thought that they would actively participate in class. However, it quickly became apparent that they were uncomfortable making a mistake in front of others and asking for responses from the class led to long, awkward silences. I learnt from this experience and nowadays it is important for me that my students feel comfortable to speak in class without fear of embarrassment; mistakes will be accepted as opportunities for further learning. This is particularly important in the cultural setting of China where a strongly entrenched culture of face makes people acutely concerned about embarrassment. In order to begin to foster this atmosphere, I begin each year by laying down expectations for behaviour when other students speak and how we should all behave when incorrect or incomplete ideas are raised. In order to reduce the number of occasions where a student has nothing at all to contribute, students who are stronger will more regularly be asked questions that sit higher on Bloom’s taxonomy (analyse/evaluate/synthesise) whilst weaker students are asked more simple questions involving direct recall (Armstrong, 2018).
Armstrong, P (2018), Bloom’s taxonomy [Online] Available at: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/ (Accessed 1/11/2019)
Bressan, P. (2018), Systemisers are Better at Maths, Sci Rep, 8, 11636
January 20, 2020
PDP 2: Discuss how using a recognised reflective framework has helped you reflect on and improve your practice as a teacher or learner teacher - Ryan
Using a reflective framework is necessary to improve teacher practice and to continue to develop and understand new research and methodology in education. The following is a brief reflection on how using a reflective framework has helped me improve as a trainee teacher.
The first few lessons I planned and taught were to small reading groups of six learners which I ran on my own. Although I reflected on areas of success and improvement, there was no reflective framework to help deepen my reflection and focus on specific areas I needed to improve aside from my weekly mentor meetings. Without observation from an experienced educator, my reflections were made in the absence of the knowledge of how to improve beyond the surface level. Using Johari’s window, the benefits of a reflective framework that utilizes mentor input becomes clearer in the collaborative work and expanded knowledge a mentor brings to one’s own reflection allowing my knowledge to shift from the blind to the open (Thompson, 2018). Mentor meetings and formal observations allowed me to learn different techniques for a lesson “hook”, formative assessments, and behavior strategies which in turn provided more meaningful self-reflection for subsequent lessons.
These early reflections, carried out in the calm space after lessons, were instrumental in fine tuning lesson planning and carrying out more effective activities in class. However every lesson plan maintains its form only until the lesson begins as the teaching has to adapt to the needs of learners in the moment. Schon describes this as ‘Reflection in Action” as teachers are constantly monitoring and adapting their teaching to how learners respond during the lesson, and the follow up “Reflection on Action” focuses on the effectiveness of different activities, strategies, and methodologies as they occur in the classroom (Moon, 2013).
Reflecting only through an autobiographical lens, as described by Brookfield’s lenses, provides a limited scope of reflection, and applying the peer lens in the form of a mentor or more knowledgeable peer, provides a more experienced and detailed perspective allowing for deeper reflection and enhanced practice to take place. However, Brookfield argues that to truly gain insight and understanding of the class, another lens of reflection needs to be that of the student. Taking reflection even deeper is asking not only is your planning, lessons, and teaching effective, but does it work for all of the students in the classroom? (Brookfield, 2017) This enables reflection that goes beyond the classroom but also looks at teaching pedagogy on a larger scale. On trainee teachers, Larrivee argues the questions need to be not only, “Am I doing it right?”, but “Is this the right thing to do?” (Larrivee, 2008, p. 344).
Effective practitioners use various types of reflection throughout the day as they fine tune and improve their teaching. There are various reflective frameworks to help improve teaching practice, and it is vital to focus on your personal reflections while including one’s peers and the learners perspectives as well. As educational theory and practice is always developing and striving to improve alongside a changing world, the role of teaching is a never ending, life long journey of learning driven by reflection.
Brookfield, S. (2017) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. John Wiley and Sons, San Francisco.
Larrivee, B. (2008) 'Development of a tool to assess teachers’ level of reflective practice'. Reflective Practice, 9(3), pp. 341–360. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623940802207451.
Moon, J. (2015) Reflection in Learning and Development, Theory and Practice, (39-53). RoutledgeFalmer, London.
Thompson, C. (2018) The Magic of Mentoring, Developing Others and Yourself. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, Abingdon, Oxon.
January 13, 2020
Discuss how using a recognised reflective framework has helped you reflect on and improve your practice as a teacher or learner teacher
Reflection is the foundation of learning because, by informing future action, it provides a starting point for development (Raelin, 2001). Systematic analysis and critical evaluation provide a great opportunity to recollect our thoughts and create new ideas. For this reason, reflection is the backbone of the teaching profession.
Being a trainee teacher, I have immensely benefited from using recognised reflective frameworks. I have noticed that it has helped me with addressing misconceptions and with working on my targets in a systematic and pragmatic manner. The reflective framework I have found myself using the most regularly is Schön’s, as it is easily applicable both during teaching and after teaching. Schön identifies two kinds of reflection that he calls reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action (Schön, 1991).
With reflection-in-action, he means thinking about the teaching experience while it is happening to decide how to take immediate action. This can be applied to any aspect of teaching, from pastoral care to making the decision to modify the lesson plan. For example, while I was teaching partitioning to my Year 4 pupils, I realised that the example that I was modelling for them was too complicated; hence, I changed it moving down from using a 4-digit number to a 2-digit number so that all the pupils could assess the learning point. Using the reflection-in-action framework helped to take immediate action to address my mistake still making good use of class time.
With reflection-on-action, Schön means reflecting on actions that have already occurred, putting them in perspective in order to inform our practice. This applies when we rethink about a lesson and use its outcome to inform new planning, new teaching or the action that has to be taken to solve an issue. It is a systematic method to build on our practice experience so that we can improve our teaching strategies and our pupils’ learning. When it comes to Teacher’s Standard 7, I reflect on my practice systematically after class, taking notes of what needs improvement and I reflect on what I can do differently to be on the right path. For example, at the beginning of my placement, reflecting on my practice made me realise that I needed to liaise with the SEN teacher to ask for advice on how to deal with a child who had behavioural issues. The SEN teacher made a support plan. Thanks to that, the child’s behaviour improved. He could access learning and he moved from ESL to the mainstream classroom for all the subjects.
Moreover, I use Schön’s framework when I review my weekly targets in my mentor meeting reports; when I discuss with my mentor about the action I should take to solve a problem; when I reflect on my lesson immediately after an observation, while taking notes on my lesson plan.
As a trainee teacher, I also reflected on action when I wrote my PG1 assignment about talk for writing, and I am reflecting on my practice at this very moment answering this PDP question.
Raelin, J.A. (2001). Public Reflection as the Basis of Learning. Management Learning, 32(1), pp.11–30.
Schön, D. A. (1983) The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York, NY: Routledge.
November 18, 2019
“Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one's actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” (Schon, 1983). Schon’s (1983) reflective model framework distinguishes between “reflection in action” and “reflection on action”.
Reflection in action refers to practising critically, so in essence, reflection during lessons. For me, this involves considering a host of different aspects during a lesson;
- How are students reacting to tasks/ activities?
- Are timings appropriate and do I need to shorten or lengthen an exercise in line with student engagement?
- Do I need to support any individual students or clarify anything to the class as a whole, as they progress?
- How do I know all students are engaged?
- Do students need a break from listening to me / others talk (e.g. an energiser activity)?
- How can I ensure that all students are progressing in their learning?
- What I am going to do next and is it appropriate, given the students’ engagement so far?
- What is the key take-away that I need to emphasise – have these changed from the lesson plan given any misconceptions in class?
Reflection on action is the reflection that occurs after lessons. Again, for me, this includes reflection against a variety of aspects and compares the actual lesson against the initial lesson plan; including:
- What went well?
- How did particular students handle the lesson?
- Could I have done anything differently and what?
- How do I feel after the lesson?
- Do I need to find additional resources or research a particular example to follow up on any questions raised in class?
- How will this lesson impact the next lesson with this class; is it too soon to move onto the next topic?
- How does this feed into modifying this lesson plan for next time I teach this topic or a similar lesson?
I have been fortunate, in that my mentor is required, for safeguarding purposes, to be present in all my lessons. The 2- 3 minute informal debrief with my Mentor at the end of each lesson has been an invaluable part of my reflective process. Generally, this helps me assess if I have judged the success of the overall lesson correctly, as well as briefly discuss students to help us both continually assess their progress. Specifically, it also helps to assess my reflection in action, as I can get reassurance or advice with regards to how I could have done things differently. In our weekly mentor meetings, we also have more time to discuss and reflect on past lessons as well as plan for future lessons. This dialogue feeds into my reflection on action as in situations where something didn’t go as planned, I can put forward solutions for how to address this in the next lesson, ask questions and build in advice and suggestions from my mentor’s experience.
“If teachers don’t engage in these types of conversations, they stagnate. They need to be able to be open and honest with someone and for this to, ultimately, lead to a kind of change.” (Harris, 2019)
Schon, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith
Harris, C. (2019) Every teacher needs a reflection buddy to keep them sane [online] Available from: https://www.tes.com/news/every-teacher-needs-reflection-buddy-keep-them-sane (Accessed 11 October 2019)
November 11, 2019
Throughout my teaching experience I have found that reflecting on and discussing the lessons I have taught is vital to my learning. Recently, I have been using Kolb’s Learning Cycle (1984) framework. This follows 4 steps and encourages me to draw conclusions and ideas from an experience, then assess and build on those to come up with new ideas which inform and improve my future practice.
Stage One. ‘Concrete Experience’. I recently taught a Y1 maths lesson focussing on comparing number bonds to 10 and building on the pupils’ knowledge of addition, greater than and less than symbols. I utilised the concepts and resources set out in the medium-term plans. We started with counting to 100 and worked through some examples as a group on the whiteboard. Pupils then split into ability groups and were provided with differentiated worksheets to complete. It was apparent that although some of the children had understood the concept when modelled on the whiteboard, most were unable to understand the worksheet independently. The lesson ended with very little achieved.
Stage Two. ‘Reflective Observation’. After the lesson I apologised to the class teacher as I felt the lesson had been unsuccessful, and I was very disappointed with my performance and the lack of learning by the pupils. Reflecting later, my initial thoughts were; the structure of the lesson had been unclear; I had rushed sections trying to cover too much and there was a lack of understanding of what the children should do on receiving the worksheets. However, I felt that I had modelled clearly at the start with the pupils working out examples together on the interactive whiteboard.
Stage Three, ‘Abstract Conceptualization’. As part of this step I reviewed my lesson materials and spoke with the Year 1 team who had taught the same lesson. I realised I had not been clear enough of the learning objective and success criteria for the lesson or the means by which I could achieve them. I had not taken into proper consideration the specific needs of the pupils, primarily a high level of EAL preventing many from being able to read and understand written questions without assistance. The worksheets, while created for this objective, were too complicated and at a level above the children’s ability. In discussion all the teachers agreed that the pupils’ needs meant a simplified worksheet was required.
Stage Four. ‘Active Experimentation’. I taught the same concept again the following day focussing just on number bonds, asking the children to use numicon outside to answer questions. In addition, the children could choose the level of worksheet to start on and progress as they wanted, thus building confidence through successful completion of tasks. (TS2)
The practical nature of this lesson engaged the children, and a distinct LO and success criteria provided the lesson with a better structure (TS4, Department for Education, 2011). Following this process, I have gained a better understanding of how children learn and factors that influence the effectiveness of my teaching. It helps identify barriers to learning, encouraging me to adapt and experiment with new ideas and provides me with skills to handle similar situations in the future.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development.. [ebook] New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235701029_Experiential_Learning_Experience_As_The_Source_Of_Learning_And_Development [Accessed 6 Oct. 2019].
Department for Education (2011). Teachers’ Standards: Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies. Crown Copyright.