In this critical synopsis I will explore how reflection can develop teaching practice. When teachers initially enter the profession they often find their initial teaching experiences stressful, but as they develop knowledge and experience they acquire a variety of classroom approaches and skills that aid their practice. The variety of strategies a teacher uses constitutes their "teaching style". Adhering to a teaching 'style' provides a way of surviving the everyday demands of being a teacher, but this can also hinder a teacher's professional development. Teachers often ask themselves questions such as - how can I develop and improve on the routine responses to classroom situations, how do I achieve a greater level of awareness of how I teach, and how good are the decisions I make as I teach. The best way to address these questions is through observing and reflecting on one's own teaching, then by using observation and reflection as a way of bringing about change. This approach to teaching is often described as "Reflective Teaching" or "Critical Reflection". This is a modus operandi that trainee teachers are required to develop during the first year of the teacher training programme. Bartlett, (1990) discusses the fact that no other processes except reflective practice could best serve teachers needs to constantly improve their 'teaching style' alongside asking themselves "what and why" questions, and how one could claim that the degree of autonomy teachers have in their role determines the level of control they can exercise over their performance. Whilst reflecting on the "what and why" questions, teachers begin to exercise control in their everyday teaching lives.
Whilst reflecting on my own practice, I produced both written journals and a visual metaphor which proved to be a cathartic exercise; it identified I had been on a long and arduous journey. In an article by Johnson (2001) entitled 'Accounting for pre-service teachers' use of visual metaphors in narratives' Johnson discusses Carter (1990) who 'pointed out that the use of metaphor facilitates the communication of concepts and ideas that are difficult to represent in literal written language'.
My visual metaphor depicted my journey from the beginning of my teaching career which began in 1998 when I qualified as a teaching assistant initially employed in a primary school where I gained experience of planning, delivering and evaluating the National Curriculum. I spent a short period of time working in a special school supporting the education of young children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. I also spent a brief period worked in a secondary school. I have worked with numerous professionals over the years each having a different 'teaching style' these experiences have left a lasting impression on me, and have all helped to form and develop my professional identity, I realised that I have absorbed attributes from each one of them. I have witnessed many teachers burn themselves out with the sheer volume of work and commitment that the job requires.
Brown et al (no date) discuss 'the impacts of educational change and teaching on teachers, there is encountered a vast, often vaguely defined and overlapping literature on such matters as teacher stress, teacher burn-out, teacher morale, teacher satisfaction and teacher motivationâ€¦ Stress and its effective are high on the agenda of many primary and secondary schools in Britain today.'
When reading through my journal entries I identify one key theme that kept arising which was how to maintain a work life balance to lessen the effects of stress and ensuring that the job does not encroach into 'my time'. Journal number three highlighted this the most. I wrote 'It had taken me about 20 hours to plan for a three hour session, planning then re-planningâ€¦ I must be honest I felt a little resentful of how much my work/professional life was encroaching into my personal life. I had been reading various articles about this particular subject and came across a section in Day et al (2006) were they discuss how to balance 'personal/professional notion' and tried to focus on all the positives in my life.
Trainee teachers have to develop their own 'teaching style' by combining what comes naturally to them, and from their experience. Role models whom trainee teachers admire will influence their style. Trainee teachers tend to unconsciously imitate a teacher who they find inspirational or purposely avoided being like a teacher who uses a style that makes them feel uncomfortable. How trainee teachers eventually perform as a teacher will have been influenced by the training and feedback they received when preparing for their teaching job.
As discussed earlier in this synopsis I have been exposed to a variety of teaching styles, one particular teacher introduced me to the FENTO - endorsed programme, Wallace (2005) discusses the importance of using FENTO for student teachers on the PGCE or the Cert Ed programme it discusses the model Action - Reflection - Revised action - Reflection. Initially I used reflection as a tool to analyse each lesson but later developed the technique of 'reflection in action'. I spoke with my mentor who suggested reviewing my expectations of the students, and that they should take more ownership of their learning. I considered my teaching style I realised that I used mainly deductive teaching methods where teaching starts by giving students rules, then examples, then practice. It is a teacher-centred approach to delivery. This is a very passive ways for students to learn, but can be extremely demanding on the teacher. The students are all mature ladies studying on the programme, on average they have not studied since leaving full time education some 10 years ago, where they were predominantly taught using deductive methods, they are more accustomed to a traditional approach so lack the training in how to research for them.
On reviewing journal number *** I discussed my delivery style, I research the inductive approach. Inductive teaching requires the role of the teacher is to guide and facilitate learning rather than to control it. I gave an example of the enquiry-based methods of learning I expected from the students and asked them to produce PowerPoint presentations to deliver to their peers the following week, this style is more learner-centred approach. According to Bender (2003) he suggests 'Achievement of student-centered learning was accelerated by introducing technology into the classroom. Indeed, one might say that certain technologies drove the 'centre' of the classroom them the professor's podium to the students' desk top'
This new approach would deliver on Benders vision. It also had positive implications on the time it took me to plan my sessions, hence redressing my work life balance elevating some of the pressures, allowing me to maintain 'my time'. The students initially struggled with this new way of learning, but eventually recognised the value of taking responsibility for their own learning and the creation of a supportive environment in which students can develop their potential. It is argued that these characteristics promote lifelong learning.
Having a more flexible teaching style, or maybe a more responsive student teacher style, should work better for a trainee teacher, even if their propensity or experience is to be a no nonsense teacher. It requires a teacher to have good intra-personal skills, the ability to respond to feedback from others, and practice for trainees to be able to modify or adapt different teaching styles to match the rationale of the learning they are delivering and the penchant or needs of the trainee or nature of the subject.
In the process of becoming a reflective practitioner teachers learn to overcome initial anxiety of 'how do I teach', and start to ask deeper more meaningful questions that consider managerial procedures not as ends in themselves, but as part of wider learning process.
Have you developed your formal and informal assessment skills
Have you changed the ways in which you conduct your self-appraisal?
To what extent have you been able to use the feedback that you have obtained from students, tutors, peers, and teaching mentor?
How have you used your self-reflections to assist your development as a teacher?
Where do you go from here?
What do you view as the priority areas for your development as a teacher?
How do you propose to go about this development?