Critical Incident Assignment

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 26 October 2016

Critical Incident Assignment

In this assignment, I will analyse and reflect on a critical incident that I was confronted with during school experience A (here after will be referred to as SEA). I will reflect on the implications that my critical incident has had on my practice and I will relate it to theory. In addition, I will make reference to four approaches of analysis which have been outlined by Tripp (1993). Tripp’s four approaches focus on the why challenge, personal theory, thinking strategies and dilemma identification. I will examine these four approaches and discuss the ways in which I can develop my teaching practice.

Moreover, I will outline further recommendations for my future practice which will be suggested throughout this assignment. Pollard (2008) points out that reflection can help to develop the quality of teaching and it provides children with valued learning experiences. In addition, being reflective allows one to analyse and consider ways to improve their professional development. Nonetheless, Cottrell (2005) argues that there can be barriers to critical thinking because some may assume that it is a negative activity. Therefore, one may feel that it is only necessary to make positive comments rather than seeking for areas of development.

Consequently, this does not lead to or provide constructive criticism for areas to become a better practitioner (Cottrell, 2005). However, in my opinion, I think that it is important to reflect on and be critical of my teaching practice for the reason that I can learn from what I have done, and consider ways to progress in my future practice. Tripp (1993) advocates that reflective teaching is crucial because it enables one to evaluate the decisions that they have made, and consider ways to develop and progress in their professional development.

During my first placement, I was confronted with a critical incident which led me to make a decision based on my professional development. During my maths lessons, child x (an English as an additional learner) continuously shouted out without putting his hands up whenever I asked the class questions. His disruptive behaviour unsettled my teaching as well as the children’s’ learning which I found quite difficult to deal with. Every time that he shouted out, I immediately informed him that I would not accept his answer because he did not have his hand up.

Nonetheless, he would take that opportunity to continue to shout out without putting his hands up. This limited their ability to focus and listen to the lesson that I was teaching. Consequently, to minimise the possibilities of child x disturbing further lessons, I decided that he would sit with the teaching assistant (who spoke the same language as child x) so that he would become less disruptive. Upon reflection, I think that I should have firmly implemented the behaviour management strategy by being stricter. In addition, I could have immediately given child x a warning for shouting out.

Nonetheless, I have realised that I did not have as much confidence during my first placement as I would have desired. During my dilemma, it was at that point that I had think about and question my teaching strategies to consider reasons behind child x’s disruptive behaviour during my lessons. Thinking strategies Tripp (1993) highlights that thinking strategies help reflective thinkers to gain a deeper understanding of a critical incident. When we think about critical incidents, we must consider non-events which reinforce the idea that when something has happened, this usually means that other things have not happened.

In relation to my critical incident, I considered what had happened with child x rather than reflecting what had he did not do. Nonetheless, as I reflect on this critical incident, I have realised that if I thought about what did not happen with child x, it may have revealed why he was being disruptive during my lessons. In addition, the thinking strategy helps me to reflect upon the good and bad points of my critical incident. I was pleased to see that child x was optimistic to participate in my lesson as he showed great enthusiasm. Nonetheless, my incident also reveals the pessimistic point of my incident.

Although child x was engaged in the lesson, his behaviour was disruptive and he interrupted my teaching which did not benefit the pupils learning. Due to the fact that I am a reflective thinker, I could have thought about possible alternatives and considered the incident from the child’s point of view. For instance, rather than moving child x next to the teaching assistant, I could have considered how he felt and the reasons why he did not put his hand up during class discussions. If I chose to make an alternative decision, what would the outcome be? I continue to ask myself a series of questions.

After my maths lessons, I proposed a series of questions to myself: why does he call out during my lessons? Why do I have the expectation that he should put his hand up? Should I have imposed a different solution rather than have child x sit next to the teaching assistant? Could I have handled the situation more effectively? I continued to ask myself a series of questions which enabled me to reflect on what I did and why I did it. Although I may not be able to find a solution to my critical incident, I aim to explore and analyse it by reflecting on my teaching practice.

Dewey (1933) in Pollard (1998) highlights that reflective practice enables teachers to constantly monitor, assess and review their own practice which allows teachers to learn from what they have done and develop in their professional skills. In addition, as previously outlined, my array of enquiries fits in with one of Tripp’s (1993) approaches which is called the ‘why challenge’. This form of analysis allows one to continuously ask questions: ‘why? ’ (Tripp, 1993, p 46). The ‘why challenge’ Tripp (1993) conveys that the answers to questions that practitioners have, does not necessarily reveal or lead to a conclusion that one is seeking for.

Nonetheless, asking ‘why’ allows one to reflect and think about their practice and consider possible outcomes that could have arisen. Moreover, Tripp (1993) points out that when we ask questions, our ideas or actions can create either some form of reification or a normative statement which underpins a subjective point of view based on personal beliefs and opinions. ‘We are operating from a deeply held belief which may not be appropriate to our or consonant with our other beliefs’ (Tripp, 1993, p. 46) When we enquire about a particular situation, we tend to build our answers based on our former beliefs.

With regards to the critical incident which took place between child x and I, I had to explore why I expected him to put his hands up to answer my questions? I expected that all children should put their hand up during class discussions because my former experiences in the classroom led me to the assumption that it was the norm for children to do so. Additionally, I think that the ‘hands up’ policy maintains order in the classroom rather than permitting all children to shout out all at once. My rules and beliefs, reinforces a normative statement because it is what I believe ‘is necessary’ (Tripp, 1993, p. 8).

On the other hand, current research and ideas have opposed to children putting their hands up in class. Professor Dylan William (The Telegraph, 2010) advocates that asking children to put their hands up isolates other students during class discussion. However, School X highlights that no child is excluded and that they are all encouraged to move toward their full potential (School Policy 2011). Moreover, my beliefs and opinions led me to believe that all children should put their hands up and must not shout out in the class which led to a dilemma that I encountered during my teaching.

Dilemma Identification Tripp (1993) conveys that incidents contain dilemmas that teachers are frequently confronted with. In his reading, Tripp recommends Berlak and Berlak as they propose that the great stress in teaching is having to make decisions throughout their teaching career. Pollard (2008) continues that teachers use their professional judgement to determine the most suitable form of action to take in any particular situation. During my critical incident (at SEA), I found myself in a predicament when child x constantly shouted out in class.

When he disrupted the other children’s learning, I had to immediately decide on how I would deal with this situation. My immediate response was to have him sit next to the teaching assistant. My reason for placing child x with the teaching assistant, was because English is an additional language for him, therefore, I thought that it would be easier to place with an additional adult that spoke the same language as him. Nonetheless, reflecting back on this critical incident, there were many alternative routes that I could have taken rather than moving child x.

I could have given him a warning to ensure that he was aware that I would not tolerate his disruptive behaviour. Moreover, I could have removed child x from the classroom in order for me to continue with my lesson. Nevertheless, being faced with a dilemma does not allow much time to contemplate, particularly within a class of 28 pupils. I did what I thought was the ‘right’ thing at that point which was to have him set next to another adult in the classroom. The series of dilemmas that I was confronted with was a emanding experience which I expressed within my reflective journal: ‘I found it difficult to deal with child x, he does not put his hands up during classroom discussions… I need to decide how I am going to deal with his behaviour’ (U1100711 Reflective Journal, 24th November 2011). Upon reflection of my dilemma, I made a decision based on my values. This relates to Tripp’s (1993) ‘Personal Theory Analysis’.

‘Dilemma identification is useful… because why we chose one resolution rather than another enables us to identify the values inherent in our professional judgement’ Tripp (1993, p. 9) Personal Theory Analysis Tripp (1993) proposes that teachers use their professional judgement to deal with dilemmas that they are constantly confronted with. My personal beliefs and values encouraged me to make the decision to move child x nearer to another adult. I thought that if child x sat next to an adult that he is more familiar with, he will be less disruptive in my lessons. Tripp (1993) conveys that teacher’s should also make decisions based on what is best for that child’s well-being.

Therefore, I believed that rather than shouting at this child for being disruptive, my values and professional judgement assumed that it was beneficial for child x as well as the class if I remained calm and placed him with the teaching assistant. In addition, I had to consider the reasons as to why child x thought that it was necessary to distract his peers in the classroom: he was doing it to gain attention; he was trying to prove that he knew all of the answers; English is an additional language for him, and so on. All of these possible reasons must be taken into consideration rather than just assuming that he is a ‘naughty’ child.

As confirmed by Tripp (1993), these examples convey that teachers are challenged with a series of dilemmas and decisions that they must make based on personal theories and professional judgement (1993, p. 53). Although I was faced with a number of challenges during my critical incident, it was crucial for me to make a decision based on my theoretical and moral judgement. To conclude, it is apparent that teachers are commonly confronted with critical incidents which consequently place them in a dilemma that is often dealt with based on professional and personal judgement.

As formerly outlined, the critical incident and dilemmas that I was faced with, allowed me to reflect, analyse and critique on my teaching practice. Consequently, I have found that reflective teaching has enabled me to think about the decisions that I have made and contemplate ways in which I can become a better and effective teacher. After my first placement, I have learnt that I should enforce different teaching strategies to deal with a child’s behaviour rather than placing with another adult in the class straight away.

For my future placements, I aim to enforce the behaviour management strategies more rigidly. Moreover, I intend to be more of an assertive and effective teacher in the future. Commentary – “Reflecting on what we do is essential to the development of professional judgement, but unless our reflection involves some form of challenge to and critique of ourselves and our professional values, we simply reinforce existing patterns and tendencies” (Tripp, D. , 1993, p. 12) The purpose of this assignment is to explore the implications of critical reflection within the context of my critical incident.

I will analyse a range of relevant literature, national strategies and theories which will be used to critically evaluate the significant issues in relation to my teaching practice. Moreover, I intend to engage in a wider reading surrounding my critical incident in order to progress my professional development and to subsequently become a more effective teacher not only during my teaching practice, but throughout my teaching career. Tripp (1993) states that it is crucial to challenge and be critically reflective of one’s practice as it is enables us to improve and progress in our professional development.

Moon (2004) contributes to Tripp’s theory as she claims that our thinking allows us to learn from our previous experiences. In addition, this theorist (2004) points out that we can improve our professional development as a result of thinking critically. Nonetheless, the aforementioned theories have been challenged as Zeichner and Liston (1996), suggest that reflective teaching can be considered as an idealised and unrealistic practice due to the high demands and heavy workload that teachers are confronted with on a daily basis.

They continue that teachers do not often have the time to critically reflect on their practice for the reason that the classroom environment is fast-paced and busy which can make it difficult for teachers to reflect. On the other hand, I believe that critical reflection is essential for practitioners. This is because as I continue to engage with a wider reading of critical reflective activity, I have gained a greater understanding of how to deal with complex situations more efficiently within the classroom.

My practice has enabled me to critically reflect on a variety of teaching styles that I adopted during my first placement. For example, I encouraged ‘talk partners’ during carpet time, reinforced children to work collaboratively, modelled examples on the interactive whiteboard and encouraged the pupils to display their work to the rest of the class. Adopting different teaching strategies has given me more confidence to develop my teaching practice and become more self-assured in some aspects of my teaching.

Nonetheless, upon reflection of my first school placement, I found it quite difficult to deal with challenging behaviour whilst I was teaching. Pollard (2010) suggests that trainee teachers find it quite challenging to maintain discipline and order in the classroom, particularly if the children have established a relationship with their own teacher from the beginning of the year. Subsequently, it is essential for me to explore behaviour management theories in order to reflect and consider ways to progress in my professional development and be able to effectively deal with challenging behaviour in the future.

Moreover, throughout my placement, I found that my reflective journal has been a useful tool as it has enabled me to reflect on ways to develop my classroom practice and improve my professional development: “Working in an inner-city and multi-cultural school has been a positive and challenging experience for me. I have been exposed to different teaching strategies and have witnessed various ways that the pupils respond to the staff which is useful for my professional development. ” (U1100711, UEL Reflective Journal, 22 October 2011).

Ghaye (2011) conveys that reflective practice is a purposeful and meaningful activity because it reinforces us to gain better knowledge and understanding of our practice. Moreover, although I was faced with many challenges throughout my first school placement, my reflective journal enabled me to consider reasons why I made the decisions that I chose to make during my critical incident. In addition, whilst on my placement, it was crucial for me to familiarise myself with the School X’s behaviour policy so that I was aware of what was expected of me during my placement.

The School’s behaviour policy underlines the consequences of inappropriate behaviour and points out that there are five levels of intervention. School X uses a staged approach which is recorded on a stage chart in each classroom from Years 3 to 6. In their response to poor behaviour, this approach is variable, depending on the age of the pupil. Pollard (2010) points out that behaviour management is a continual concern for teachers due to the large numbers of children in the classroom. Furthermore, teachers constantly have to make quick decisions based on their professional judgement.

Likewise, Roffey (2011) suggests that many teachers (particularly teachers with limited teaching experience) may not have much confidence when confronted with complexities within the classroom. She conveys that some teachers may not know what to do when they are placed in challenging situations which in turn, can have a negative effect on the children’s learning in the classroom. On the other hand, school and government policies emphasise the significance of the holistic approach to teaching and they have highlighted the importance of good behaviour in schools.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 26 October 2016

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