This is the final set of notes from my Transforming Teacher Education course at Sheffield Hallam University, in partnership with The Education and TRaining Foundation. You can read about the other weeks here-
This final session began with a focus on reflective practice.
‘Experience is the teacher of all things’ – a proverb
If this were true than our most experienced teachers would be our best? As we experience, we reflect, whether formally or informally. Reflection in isolation is dangerous though as we usually just confirm our existing beliefs.
An initial experience takes place and effective reflection involves deliberate effort to articulate and codify key lessons from the experience.
Recommended reading- Making Experience Count – The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning
So- how can teacher educators and mentors help?
- Provide reflection models to structure their thinking and promote that they use one other than what they’re immediately drawn to.
- Model reflection in your own practice and share this process with them rather than just the actions taken as a result of reflection.
- Teach them that it’s about stepping through the mirror to gain perspective- reflection is not about beating yourself up and dwelling but gaining a fresh view and using that for learning
Recording practice via video and using that to reflect can help all teachers but if it begins early with trainees then it can build good habits. Build their confidence with watching themselves by encouraging them to record just their voice instead or just film parts of a lesson instead.
Whatever tools and models are used to encourage reflective practice, it must be translated into action- Place 1 things in focus, encourage deliberate practice and set review points.
We can use 1 minute free writing to encourage reflection- the words won’t get shared with anyone but it can provide space for some teachers to process their thoughts.
We all shared how reflection usually happens for us and soon realised the mismatch there was between how we all reflect (informally) to how they might (formally). However- whilst training, it can be a luxury they can afford. One they will benefit from in the early stages of their career. I’m unsure that it is the best way to build habits that will last for the remainder of their career though – would it not be better to establish habits it’s more likely they’ll able to keep up though?
Bain’s 5 Levels
Reporting and Responding happen more frequently
Relating, Reasoning and Reconstructing can get lost
So if reflection is time intensive and difficult to do effectively on our own- what are the possible answers?
- One minute free writing
- Pair and Share
- Action Learning Sets
- Communities of Practice
- Coaching triads
These are any major incidents that happen in our practice that challenge our own assumptions and make us think differently. These major incidents don’t have to be something negative, they can be positive too. Kold can work well here- plan, do, review. For some critical incidents (the more negative ones), it’s useful to try and spot the signs before the fire breaks out- we need to look to prevent the fire before it needs to be extinguished.
For instance- we can spot the signs of a trainee’s disorganisation affecting them over time- Their relationships with colleagues disintegrating, Behaviour management becoming an issue, Students getting behind with their work, Signs of stress.
Sometimes, we can intervene as a mentor purely because we have different approaches to organisation- we believe our approaches are ‘better’ but we shouldn’t let this cloud our judgement of others.
We should focus instead on facts- what have we noticed and how do we think students have been affected? There are points within this when we have to move the trainees from reflection and towards action.
Becoming a Practitioner Researcher
Research and evaluation can often be used interchangeably. We can evaluate a programme, a process or an approach. Research is taking local data and applying it more widely.
We need to encourage our trainees to be interested in enquiry – to delve into reading with intrigue and curiosity. Be clear about the purpose of research and connect it to the impact on students. Share, with clarity, how vital the analysis and choice of data is.
Research doesn’t have to be carried out on what’s not working well- yet it usually is. We should encourage our trainees to research what is going well and to build on their strengths. This way, they won’t expect development to take a defecit approach in the future either.
So what data can be used and what are the advantages of the different kinds of data collection?
Research ethics are important and we should share this with trainees- Gaining permission, Anonymising data carefully, Securing the data whilst working, Consider position and bias.
I couldn’t help but think, during this session, how distanced we make research from practice. How academic we make it. How seemingly difficult. I’m keen to open up research to practitioners and make it relevant to their daily lives, experiences and students. Approaches like Lesson Study can help with a narrower focus on practice, and more focussed upon impact on students.