Reflecting on Developing Teaching Practice
Reflecting on Developing Teaching Practice
The word reflection has been used consistently throughout our first module and has been seen to be prerequisite of good teaching and development. Reflecting itself has been a very useful practice. Taking the time to observe and analyse, whilst using a detailed checklist has also enabled us to use this process correctly. I have found that there are patterns within my reflective log and an awareness of what is needed to change in terms of improvement in my teaching practice and how I implement that in a classroom. Phil Race (2014, p228), describes reflection as having the intention to improve by finding out what is going on in an element of learning. By considering what elements of learning I need to address through my ILP I can now adopt feedback and apply improvements for future teaching. Observing has also helped my reflection Donald Schön (1987 p121), talks of imitation through observation. He links the ideology of education to “thinking for one’s self” and the draws upon the term “Copycat” as a negative expression.
However, he goes on to say “Reflective imitation demands, on the contrary, a willingness to do as the studio master is doing and, at the same time reflect on what one does.” Therefore, by observing and imitating we take on the role of our mentor/teacher and at the same time our reflective practice allows us the freedom to explore our own avenues of teaching and the ability to adapt, improve and develop what doesn’t work for us and, what we believe we could do better. Although I appreciate Schön‘s models of reflection, I have found I have not yet had enough experience to draw from to “reflect in action” but I can still use that method where applicable and in future practice. I’m fond of (Gibbs, 1988) methods pictured below.
Gibb allows for a description of what happened, an analysis and evaluation of my experiences. This not only helps me make sense of my experiences but also helps me to examine my own teaching practice. Gibbs is very similar to Schön’s model of reflection but seeks a little more from the reflective practitioner. Like Schön, it is about “reflection in action” but aligns further with “reflection on action.” Gibbs model considers taking action and using what you have learned and applying it to practice in the shape of an action plan so if the same situation were to arise again I would have the capacity to reflect “in action.” Personally my own areas of development have been in confidence and time management. By using Gibbs model of reflection I have been able to analyse where I am going wrong. I recognize the value of what I am doing and actively reflect both descriptively and emotionally. As (Brunner, 1994) states the fusion of the intellectual and the emotional must be present or there cannot be a true reflective practice.
For example, in my own practice I have sometimes tried to cover too much ground in a lesson, that has made me worry about the time frame, in turn this has affected my confidence. By analysing both what happened, what I am feeling and then evaluating this, I am able to make sense of the situation and formulate an action plan. I can reduce the amount in my lesson plan but have an activity if the lesson finishes early. If it doesn’t it can be given for homework. This helps me in practical terms, but in addition will help me with any confidence and anxiety I may have regarding the time management. “Reflective thinking… involves a state of doubt, hesitation, perplexity, mental difficulty…[Reflective] persons… weigh, ponder, [and] deliberate… a process of evaluating what occurs to them in order to decide upon its force and weight for their problem.” (Dewey, J, 1997) p9
Gibb echoes Dewey above in “How we think” and uses the same ideologies of praxis and then draws upon the application of this to the Pedagogy. I will say I have had difficulty selecting the right method for my reflective practice and have employed parts from all models. Steven Brookfield’s (1995) Four Lens Theory uses a different model of reflection that encourages an individual to look at the situation from different viewpoints in order to maintain pedagogical rectitude. This is a process that never stops (as are all forms of reflection), and it seems to be the one that works best for me at the present time, as it fits perfectly within the trainee teacher milieu.
The first of the four lenses Self would be the foundation of my critical reflection. Perhaps looking at my own experiences as a learner/teacher and the period in between now and qualifying and beyond that. Taking into account the “paradigmatic assumptions and instinctive reasoning’s that frame how we work.” (Brookfield.S, 1995) p30. This moves into the realm of the Students eyes and my Peers. I can do this by observing and being observed as well as the process of feedback and self-evaluation, (from both my peers and students). This will help me to reveal aspects of the pedagogy that I am strong with and reveal areas of weakness. I can then apply the Scholarship lens, which is something I am currently working on as a trainee. By looking into theoretical literature, I can expand the Epistemology of my subject specialism, the discourse and discursive practice in addition to the pedagogy and learn to put my assumptions and reasoning’s to one side.
I am then able to approach reflection openly and un-defensively. Geoff Petty (2010) explains, if we attribute our problems to something that is out of our control, we are defensive and will not feel the need to change our own practices. However, we should not blame ourselves. Instead we should think about how the lesson could have been made to go well and apply these principles to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Something that I have found hard is planning my lessons as this has proved to be rather time consuming. Film, Photography and Media Studies all include a broad range of skills for the learner to ascertain. In addition to creative and theoretical input on my behalf I have to also think about the particular technical skills regarding technology that need to be addressed. Once this has been decided, I still need to know where to start and how to simplify the subject as well as the introduction to technology and software.
This is to make sure the students at the level I am teaching can understand it. As Muffoletto (2001, p296) suggests; “educators need to be reflective, that is self-aware, engaged, and not passive in their relation to the discourse and practices relating to technology.” I know from experience in the classroom that I have to critically reflect on the idea of technology and software in order to keep up with the students that live in the ever-changing world. Just recently I was told I would be giving a class on Final Cut Pro X, an upgrade from the Final Cut Pro 7 that I had previously been familiar with. From previous lessons I have come to accept that some students may know more than I do about this software package, when I first went into the classroom I was very nervous about the students asking me questions and how I would find the answer for them as well as how I would deliver the lesson. At lunchtime I spoke to the teacher who teaches the class next door. He told me he too was not up to date, that it takes time to learn the new packages. “Use the students” he said, “they probably know more than us”.
His comment made me feel at ease, as when a question was asked about the software that I was unsure of I asked the class. “Does anyone know how to do this?” There was always one who put up there hand and volunteered and when a question that no one could answer regarding transition’s popped up, I gave the student something else to do, whilst I quickly browsed a two minute tutorial on Youtube and gave them the help they needed with my findings. (Reflecting In Action’) This may not have been the best idea, but on reflection I would probably still do the same. For me to ask the other teacher to explain would have taken almost the same amount of time if not more, (not to mention the focus being taken from his own class) and to make the student wait until the next lesson would be unnecessary, slowing down the progress of work. However, in hindsight I can “Reflect On Action” because looking back I should have explained the transition method to the rest of group, but I have made note of it now for my editing class. Delivering learning was one of my areas for development in regards to confidence and projection of my voice; I know from feedback that I sometimes focus the lesson too much on my own person and my delivery of the subject.
As a new teacher I am very aware of the focus on me and it affects my confidence greatly. I found this especially hard for my micro teach in front of my peers and find I am very nervous in this environment, one it’s because I know they are observing me as a teacher, rather than following tasks as a student might and two they have a higher level of education, which makes me feel a little insecure. Reflecting on this has helped me look at it from their viewpoint and understand that we are all in a similar situation and all feel the same pressure. Taking the saying a ‘problem shared is a problem halved’ is true, given the benefit of hindsight I can look back and know that we were all nervous, so when it comes to a similar situation, (such as me knowing less than some of my students about a new software package) I can look at it from the perspective of Brookfield and not be afraid to seek answers from students and peers. In addition to this I have researched different methods of planning my lessons after receiving feedback suggesting I focus the attention on the class itself, instead of myself.
I have looked into the perfect Ofsted Lesson In Moving English Forward, where we are told to simplify lesson plans and concentrate on important learning objectives. At the beginning of a lesson we are encouraged as educators to give the class a starter activity to “stimulate curiosity and …prepare the brain for learning.’’ This is something that would take the focus from myself until I build my confidence. It also seems a good way to motivate learners and get them engaged with the subject before moving on to the more in depth, main body of a lesson. I have found a lack of motivation to be very prominent feature in the BTEC Media classes. The self-regulatory approach to the BTEC means that students have a coursework deadline to work to, for which they have a number of components to hand in. It is all too easy to give the student the work and hope that they complete it.
I have found a lack of motivation in the BTEC Media classes and have found it hard to get students working towards handing in components of their work. In the lesson I try to give them positive feedback when they are doing well and provide them with areas of development. As a result they work hard to meet targets set for them. But giving them positive feedback in the classroom is not enough. It is one of the negatives of Skinner’s behaviourist’s theory. Since most of their practical work takes place in their own time, when they are out of the classroom in their own environment there is no positive reinforcement and so it doesn’t work. The same could be said for Photography. As when it comes to creating their own photographic projects, motivation is affected by “Judgement of their own abilities to complete a specific task” (Bandura,2003). The student’s self-efficacy is sometimes poor, which restrains a learner’s progress. I ask myself; How do I motivate a learner outside of the classroom?
What can I do to make them want to engage with their chosen subject beyond the space of the classroom? How do I impart the necessary time management skills and contingency planning that is needed for their coursework? The answer is I am still learning and reflecting on this, through theoretical research and observing other teacher’s work. There are very few video productions or photo-shoots that go seemingly without any problems and students have encountered problems out of their control such as the weather or lighting. The students with high self-efficacy will work harder and be more persistent when trying to overcome obstacles. It is when motivating the students with lower self-efficacy when it becomes hard for me, as I do not yet have the experience.
For this I have again taken the Brookfield’s approach and asked my peers how they do it. I have learned that they use strategies and don’t leave the skills of self-regulation up to the learner to grasp for themselves. They find the student often struggles with regulating their own study and motivating themselves to study. They rely on the facilitation of metacognition by setting tasks within the learning material and assignments to hand in, so that the coursework is broken down into compartments of the learning material. By having clear aims of what is needed from them in a lesson and deadlines within the coursework deadline as a whole, they can assess learning and build the students skills, such as scheduling, budgeting, trouble-shooting, contingency planning where needed (weather problems etc) which also falls in with time management. Zimmerman (2011), suggest there are three successive phases pictured below.
With vocational or self-regulated projects the students usually learn whilst doing a task. The cyclic phase is a continuous circle of self-monitoring, a lot like the lenses of reflection. To meet set targets the student needs to continually self-observe, self-evaluate and continually assess their aims to make sure they are achievable and if they are not, reflecting on that and finding ways to trouble-shoot where necessary. In addition the use of SMART targets can be applied so that they can be met for motivational purposes. These can be done in the lesson so they can learn from each other (imitation) to promote a positive ‘reciprocal determinism’ (Bandura,2003). It was a teacher that also suggested the Cyclic phase to me and explained that sometimes a lack of work does not mean the student is de-motivated, but instead they may be overwhelmed and does not know where to start.
By helping them break down course work and compartmentalising it for the first year of a BTEC and supervising it yourself, you give them the necessary skills to do the same in their second year without supervision, thus building towards a high self-efficacy and motivation. With the support of the media studies teacher I have been able to observe how clear aims can be set out using a tick sheet. The more aims a student meets the more ticks they have next to their name on the projection monitor. This has helped when reinforcing targets within the lesson. After giving positive feedback a new list of aims are set and we can reach those who have fewer ticks to find what we can do to facilitate them. On a short note; In addition to classroom motivation I have tagged along to a few trips to film festivals and Q&A’s, the students are always buzzing after speaking to people within the industry and learning how they got to where they are, they realise that the goals are achievable if they want to work hard enough to grasp them.
It is something to think about in the future when planning my own trips with students. In the first module of my teaching practice I have learned a lot about myself as a teacher by applying the reflective process. During our personal lives we reflect on how we handle certain situations so that negative circumstances are not repeated and apart from in the medical occupation we don’t seem to do this in a professional working capacity, instead of taking a step back and thinking how did this happen? How can I make sure it doesn’t again? We tend to repeat the same or similar mistakes. Overall the self-reflection process has been an eye opener, I did start off a little sceptical on just how important it was to be reflective but I have to say I did start off not knowing how to be effectual in my refection process and how valuable that is before making judgements about my teaching capabilities.
I found that by using Brookfield’s model of reflection and observing my practice from different perspectives, I can now look at my teaching objectively I have found that the constructive feedback for my micro teaches and the feedback I have received from teachers in the classroom have really helped and informed my reflection for an action plan to improve my teaching methods. Whilst I am happy with some elements of my teaching such as the visual aspects and my use of scaffolding, I had been unaware that I wasn’t projecting my voice and that my body placement was sometimes bad. Being made aware of these factors by observers highlighting them, is invaluable and will aid me when I come to do presentations and lesson planning, as I can incorporate this into my practice.
As I have previously stated, I have problems with my confidence and so with that in mind I aim to focus my lessons on the class, especially at the beginning of a lesson. In doing this I will be able to gage the students and if I feel comfortable bringing the focus back to myself, I can. I aim to do this gradually until I have enough confidence not only in myself but also my ability to lead a class. In regards to Motivation in the vocational BTEC Media and project led assessments that might crop up in Photography and film, I aim to use Zimmerman’s model and methods that other teachers implement in their classrooms.
This is a learning process for me, which I will reflect upon to make the necessary progress needed, but applying theory to my practice should only help it whilst I’m learning the ropes. (Plato and Aristotle, 2005) both defined ‘good’ as performing to the best of your ability and that being moral and reflective were stages of ethical development to reach a Socratic intellectualism which is “One will do what is right or best just as soon as one truly understands what is right or best” (Socrates,2011) and to understand we must keep reflecting, as the situation is ever changing.
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