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Reflective practice and peer evaluation are an integral part of continuous professional development. They help one to improve the practice of teaching and training by critical analysis and evaluating training programmes. Evaluation and Action research are the bedrock of professional teaching. Action research is a form of collective self-reflective enquiry to improve the rationality and justice of one's own social or educational practices, as well as thee understanding of those practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out. Self evaluation using videotapes recording during teaching is a powerful means of improving the process of one's practice.
I am a physician by profession and work in the National Health Service, U.K. I am also a PhD research student in Queen Margaret University, U.K. I conduct bedside teaching for Edinburgh University medical undergraduate students. I am also involved in postgraduate teaching and workshops in QMU.
My first teaching experience school goes back to my school days as a 14 year old. It seemed to be fun and a fulfilling experience personally to pass on knowledge to students/friends/people that were eager to learn and share.
Over the years, I learnt that teaching is a very complex and a highly skilled profession. It is an ever growing process and one evolves with each passing lecture towards the goal of becoming a good teacher.
Reflection on our practice helps us to prevent repetition of mistakes. It enhances our capability to examine critically and improve our own understanding of the process of teaching. The process of assessment and reasoning helps us to set solid foundations for our teaching career. The importance of reflection and reflective practice are frequently noted in the literature; indeed, reflective capacity is regarded by many as an essential characteristic for professional competence.
Continuing professional development through evaluation and reflection
During the course 'Education in Action' organised in QMU, I realised that what Fook et al, (2006) mentioned bears true. They concluded that within different disciplines and intellectual traditions, what is understood by 'reflective practice' varies considerably. However in all disciplines reflective practice works on similar principles. According to Bridgen and Purcell, (2012) "in order to bring about a change to current practice, one needs to reflect on what is currently being practiced and what changes are required and the key factor in determining whether change is needed is the 'evidence based' relevant to the situation under consideration". Perkins et al, (2000) adds that it is important that evidence based practice retains a practical focus to build on reflective practice.
The statement "Unless teachers develop the practice of critical reflection, they stay trapped in unexamined judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and expectations. Approaching teaching as a reflective practitioner involves fusing personal beliefs and values into a professional identity" by Larrivee, B. (2000) in the article 'Transforming teaching practice: becoming the critically reflective teacher' inspired me to realise that teaching practice is incomplete without critical reflection. It encouraged me to ponder on Gibbs model of reflection (1988) and the stages involved in the process. Built from Kolb's experiential learning cycle, it proposes that theory and practice enrich each other in a never-ending circle.
Evaluation is an essential part of the educational process and plays an important role in the quality assurance procedures. According to Bridgen and Purcell, (2012) it is defined as 'the making of judgement about the value or worth of something'. Once the value of something has been assessed a decision has to be made as to whether a change in practice is necessary. It is one of the first stages of the process of reflection. It is through evaluating one's practices that a teacher becomes more skilled and in general a better teacher.
Gibbs last step in the reflection cycle is to device an action plan to implement the changes deemed to improve one's practice. According to McKay (2008) reflecting on performance and acting on reflection is a professional imperative. Today in some professions it has become one of the defining features of competence in all fields. Schon's (1983) in his seminal work, 'The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action' identified two types of reflection: reflection-on-action (after-the-event thinking) and reflection-in-action (thinking while doing). This inspired me to delve deeper into action research and reflective practice. It persuaded me to think and look into the theoretical framework for action learning. "Action research is conceived as a philosophy, a theory of learning, a methodology and a technique.... Action research not only advances knowledge, but also improves practice in higher education by developing people as professionals and personal scientists and organisations as learning organisations" (Zuber-Sketnitt 1993 p 43). According to McMohan, (1999) the only thing that distinguishes action research from reflective practitioner model of teaching is strategic action. This course has encouraged me to explore into the various theories of reflection and action research and inspired me to put some of them into practice to improve the quality of my teaching. It made me realise that there is a close symbiotic relationship between research and teaching, helping each other evolve continuously.
Peer evaluation and continuing professional development
Evaluation provides evidence of how well students' learning objectives are being achieved and whether teaching can be improved (Morrison 2003). Self evaluation is a useful technique to assess ones performance using videotapes recording during teaching.
Direct observation of teaching by peers can provide an informed, valuable and diagnostic evaluation. Importantly self and peer evaluation through feedback forms using video tapes (Micro-teaching teaching simulation) during the short course in facilitating learning and teaching at QMU was really a good learning experience. It helped me to reflect on my current practice including my mistakes. It helped me look at my teaching from a perspective different from the ones which I had until now imagined. It opened my eyes to the fact that my teaching no matter how good, appeared to be very traditional with little student involvement. It encouraged me to think about developing the idea to involve students collective, individually or in groups in my lectures using recap, mind map or tag in technique. I read the article Interactive lecturing: Strategies for increasing participation in large group presentations by Steinert and Snell (1999). It encouraged me to ponder about the fact they mentioned "Increased arousal and motivation are the essential ingredients of learning and often are more important to retention than intelligence". From the article The good teacher is more than a lecturer- the twelve roles of the teacher by Harden and Crosby (2000), I realised that a teachers role is not just being a information provider but also being a facilitator, assessor and planner of information that is passed onto a student. So in the Micro teaching-2 session, I implemented few changes to my teaching with good results garnering positive feedbacks from my peers.
Experiencing the different styles of teaching by my fellow peer in that session was enriching and gave me new ideas of student interaction and methods of interactive lecturing including using audiovisual aids, simulations and role play and breaking the class into smaller groups. I changed my teaching practice and applied several new approaches towards teaching style, delivery, contents and organising lecture, results from feedback and video tapes. My approach towards the topic of lecture was such that the whole session would be interactive and student centred. At the end of the day I realised that student centred learning approach to teaching is valuable and there is a need to provide more time and support to the International students. One of the major insights was to consider more options for activities in teaching and structured marking and feedback to students. The principles of good feedback as defined by Juwah at al, (2004) inspired me to feedback my students in a way that they could self-assess and critically reflect their work. It brought a greater degree of clarity, honesty and meaning to my feedback.
Various studies have been conducted to look into peer evaluation and its usefulness. Researchers overwhelmingly (90%) agree that peer evaluation helps in improving the quality of one's work (Ware, 2008). However, some published studies are not in full acceptance with the role of peer evaluation in the field of teaching. Jefferson et al (2002) concluded that 'Editorial peer review, although widely used, is largely untested and its effects are uncertain'. The latest update of the Cochrane review (2007) had similar findings. Other studies have shown that peer review can be unreliable (Rothwell et al, 2000). However the general consensus remains that effective peer evaluation is a powerful medium to improve the standard of education.
The Education in Action 1course in QMU inspired me to change my outlook towards teaching and student learning. I learned that through personal evaluation, peer review, effective feedback and reflection, one can improve the standards of teaching and make it a fruitful experience both for the teacher as well as for the student. I found that reflective practice is the bedrock of professional identity and its continuous development and is the key element in improving the quality of education.