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Teachers are responsible for the organisation of learning, activities in the classroom, and the individual lesson remains the basic building block of the curriculum (Gray, Griffin & Nasta, 2000, p. 81). Prior to both micro sessions, I devised lesson plans (LPs) that detailed the teaching methods I would deploy in the classes, their sequence and respective contributions to the teaching and learning objectives (McCulloch & Crook, 2008, p. 589). LPs enabled me to be proactive rather than reactive in establishing enhanced learning environments (Keeley-Browne, 2007, p. 185); and facilitated evaluation and self-evaluation more effectively because the criteria for evaluation and self-evaluation had previously been clarified prior to both micro-teaching sessions (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 1997, p.145).
The learning Combination Lock (LCL) is a meta-model that offers a systematic process for the educator to consider and select from a vast range of ingredients available in the development of learning processes; so I will use the LCL (figure 1) as a tool to examine my lesson plans and identify whether they set out to achieve the main elements of the learning process (Beard & Wilson, 2005, p. 3).
Figure 1: The Learning Combination Lock, taken from, Wilson & Beard (2003, p. 91)
In both sessions I wanted to create a constructivist classroom by focusing on a main concept, setting activities, and then interacting with students by seeking their questions and points of view (Schunk, 2009, p.265). Piaget (1961, cited by, Lefrançois, 2000, p. 101) suggests that activity is fundamental to learners building concepts and understanding. The main strength of my LPs were that they both stimulated the first two tumblers of the LCL (Wilson & Beard, 2003, p. 92), by constructing learning environments that incorporated active learning tasks aligned to unit objective outcomes and assessment (Biggs, 1999, p. 73). They achieved this by incorporating small cooperative group work, which Peterson and Fennema (1985, p. 329) identify as being an effective strategy for both achievement and motivation.
The practical lesson plan (PLP) (appendix ?) was more resilient than the classroom lesson plan (CLP) (appendix ?), as it managed to enthuse more of the LCL tumblers. For example, the PLP conveyed a range of visual, auditory and feeling messages, through the use of posters, vocal instruction and physical activity which engaged with a broader range of learning styles and enhanced the learning environment (BEARD, ????, SEMINAR PAPER!? p. 8). Incorporating different learning materials is important because learning styles differ from one individual to another; as some people have a visual preference, others auditory and others kinaesthetic (Cronin, 2004, p.83).The CLP (appendix ?) was ineffective in achieving this, and so a weaknesses in my planning was lack of appropriate teaching resources. It was my responsibility to conduct a retrospective evaluation of my teaching resource choices, both before and after the micro-sessions, to identify whether or not the materials would be suitable and if they worked on the day (Ellis, 1997, p. 36) and I did not follow this process in in my CLP.
I should have maximised the opportunity I had in the classroom by constructing a PowerPoint presentation, which could have included links to audio and video files, providing technological support for visual learners and teaching in large-group contexts (Race, 2005, p. 121). This would have saved me time from writing on the whiteboard and helped me to enhance the learning environment by bringing the outdoors inside through the use of technology and simulation (Wilson & Beard, 2003, p. 92). Students also take better notes and review material more effectively when they are provided with a 'scaffold' such as hand-outs that provide a framework for note taking (DeZure, Kaplan & Deerman, 2001, p. 4). As colleges are required to cater for larger numbers of students in an environment where communication and information technologies impact ever more greatly on teaching and learning (Race, 2002, p. 187), I decided to implemented my CLP by incorporating the use of a PowerPoint presentation and lesson hand-outs (appendix ?).
Delivery of the Sessions
Yukl (2002, p. 3) defines leadership as a social influence process whereby intentional influence is exerted by one person over other people to structure the activities and relationships in a group. While managing often exhibits leadership skills, the overall function is towards maintenance rather than change; so during my micro-sessions it was important for me to prize both managing and leading and not attach any special value to either as different settings and times call for varied responses (Bush, 2003, p.8). Being an effective teacher is judged ultimately in terms of imparting knowledge and values that students can relate to; so I fundamentally tried my upmost to: show enthusiasm in the subject I was teaching and get my students to know that I took great interest in it; make my subject interesting and linking it wherever I could to issues that my students can relate to in the real world; and make any complex issues understandable (Stephens & Crawley, 1994, p. 11).
I identified Time management as a weakness in both of my micro sessions and so my failure to allocate time limitations for individual tasks resulted in detrimental effects to the student learning process (Chichering & Gumon, 1991, p. 67). On the day of my classroom session I found that students were too able when it came to answering questions, solving problems and finishing the tasks I set them with ease. Although I should have devised contingency activities in my LPs; I was capable of making the most of the time I had left, but didn't. I did try and present quiz questions to the class but these were answered instantly and so my session finished short. I should have quickly devised some other simple activities which would have taken little time to prepare, such as: post-it questions from the class to answer to the whole group; the explaining of past exam questions; and giving brief overviews of the intended learning outcomes for the next couple of lectures (Race & Pickford, 2007, p. 74).
In my practical session I planned too much content and focused too little on management and organisation (Ashcroft & Foreman-Peck, 1994, p. 31). I tried to cover too much and consequently a lot of my key points failed to get through my students, which meant they hadn't learnt what I had of wanted them too (Bubb, 2003, p. 68). Gravells (2008, p. 43) states that SMART objectives enable you to teach and assess learning effectively. I did not apply SMART principles to my practical session objectives, which is why I experienced such difficulty on the day. I felt that my communication and leadership skills were effective, so it was the overload of teaching aims and material that let me down on the day. This negative experience has influenced me to write an implemented PLP (appendix) that only has two main objectives, as this would allow students to learn more from the lesson.
A reflective practitioner is one who thinks about the outcomes of their sessions and makes changes in the hope of fostering improvement; and so reflective practice is a good way for me to maintain motivation as a teacher and ensure that I evaluate my skills and look for innovative ways to teach people differently (Keeley-Browne, 2007, p. 185). This will become a more conscious state when I experience a difficulty that I cannot immediately resolve, and then after experiencing uncertainty, I can step back and analyse my actions (Latham et al., 2006, p.97); and this does not necessarily need to take place within the boundaries of the classroom to have an impact (Zeichner, 1981, p. 18). To engage in particular act of reflection, there must be a reason for doing so (Calderhead & Gates, 1993, p. 31). I have decided to use the learning continuum model in order to identify how I choose to teach and where I need to improve.
Traditional classroom teaching tends to use the behaviourist and cognitivist approaches, where the instructor tends to control the learning (McFadzean, 2001, p. 53). I personally perceive myself to be more of a cognitivist and humanist educator, in that I prefer to facilitate learning as opposed to instructing it. I understand that teaching and learning is not simply about covering curriculum content, but that it is equally about teaching students to 'learn how to learn' in order that they may develop as interested, enquiring, independent thinkers and doers (Moore, 2000, p. 159). This context-based and student-centred approach also involves meta-learning; which encourages students to be more critical and constructivist in the way they develop their own meaning of the knowledge they are acquiring (Buswell & Tomkins, 2009, p. 45); which is something I tried to do in both of my micro sessions. Emotional factors, and personal growth and development should be highly valued within the classroom (Petty, 2004, p.8).