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This narrative account is based on my reflective journey which began in September when I started this teacher training course. It highlights issues that were encountered from the beginning, middle and end of this life changing career path. It is a very challenging course that requires dedication, focus, planning, time management and continuing professional development. Achieving most of these goals requires professional to reflect on their practice which helps in identifying development needs.
Moon (2004) defines reflection as a form of thinking or mental processing used to achieve an intended result. This is supported by Dewey (1934)’s theory of reflective practice that aims to reach a conclusion. This purpose of this practice is to reach a common ground within professionals. During my initial stages of the course I had negative views about reflection as I was not comfortable with something that would unravel my inner beliefs. Reflection can be seen as self-destructive due to its nature of moving a person from his comfortable zone into the unknown situation. Hillier (2005 p17) states; ‘reflective practice actively challenges the comfortable focusing on professionals to be honest with themselves’.
As an initial reaction of someone who had not taught a group of adults before I was nervous to conduct the micro teach. However constructive feedback was provided by both peers and the tutor and one of the main points which I picked up from the feedback was communication skills improvement in particular ‘the voice projection’ was low.Re-evaluating the role of the teacher as an ‘instructor’ allowed me to gain an understanding of the importance of effective communication in a classroom environment. One of the adjustments used to the enhance the communication skill was to try and sit in the back of the classroom to allow me to raise my voice when speaking to the group.
As the course progressed I was placed within Seashell an environment where there is verbal and non-verbal communication. This was a challenge to my low skills as some students required me to speak clearly and slowly in a manner they can understand supported with symbols and pictures and started to engage myself in sign-along sessions. Communication is a two way process that requires skills from both the listener and the talker.Berlo (1960).
During this course and my previous studies I have gained some transferable skills which can be used on daily basis. These include using fractions or percentages to calculate spending as well as the use of vocabulary when communicating within community. Developing these skills is essential in independent living which our learners are aiming to achieve. Pictures of money pictures and symbols of items such as cup of tea or cake are used. The use of work schedules allows learners to read through task before engaging in it. The current government requires all aspiring teachers to pass the skills test in numeracy and literacy before obtaining qualified teachers status (QTS) according to the Department of Education.(DEFS 2014).
These functional skills will need to be embedded as evidence in all sessions as way of improving learner participation in these areas that have become important aspect of employability skill. All current teacher trainees are required to be aware of the new professional values and standards that are provided by the lifelong learning sector (LLUK 2007)
Schön (1983) suggests that professionals should reflect in situations that are relatively unpredictable. Teaching learners with severe disabilities can be complex due to multiple disabilities. The key to deliver effective lessons to most these learners lay with the understanding of these multiple disabilities.
Organisations such as the Institute for learning (IFL) provide for resources to trainee teachers in different specialist areas. It also provides for ongoing support to all professionals using latest research related to that particular area.Enganging in personal and professional development opportunities within a specialist area requires linking theory to practice.
To keep myself updated with latest research and theories I need to constantly visit websites of specialist organisations such as The National Autistic Society and The Epilepsy Society. The information provided on these sites is of vital importance and valid because researches carried out involves the learner. Contributions from medical experts and educational researchers who work closely with these organisations help us to make informed decisions with regards to classroom practice.
Continuing personal and professional development within severe learning disabilities will enhance my own skills as a teacher. Sharing of good practice with other professionals allows us to develop best methods that meet learner needs. A number of strategies are in use that has been proved to work within various specialist areas. Teaching strategies, resources, and assessment methods that promote inclusiveness are required during the professional practice. Reflective practice aims to enhance personal achievements however when combined with professional practice it increases the competence within professionals.
To achieve good quality learning within education, I needed to reflect as part of the learning process. The process allowed me to review my actions by looking into my evaluations to find out what went well and what needs to be developed. Results from these reviews can be used to influence future practice. It also provided me with the opportunity to explore a variety of reflective activities within my specialist area. Reflective language should be clearly explained to leaners at the beginning of their career journey to allow them to compile their reflective journals right at the beginning of the course. It is now considered to be an important aspect of employability within the teaching professionals.
Most educational settings within lifelong learning sector are now free standing as business entities that are looking to employ people who have passion and willingness to help the development of learner and organisational progress. Most of these educational providers are partly funded by the government which in turn look at how the provider is meeting learner needs. Becker (1970) cited in Robson (2005 p11) describes professionalism as a ‘collective symbol of ideas that have a substantial agreement’. It is this set of ideas that all professionals try to follow using different methods but coming to the same conclusions as to what should professional should present
Schon (1934) suggests reflection ‘on action’ and reflection in action’ this theory seems to work well for me during the placement due to unpredictable actions that may arise within our classroom environment according to Miettinen (2010). Recording of self-evaluations at the end of every lesson allowed me analyse and respond to events afterwards. This can be effective where time is limited during the lesson to note down experience. Self-evaluations are best recorded at the earliest stage when it’s still fresh in one’s mind.
Writing down these events can help us come to a decision on which method is best and what developments can be made. It could be said that reflection forms the basis for our understanding which in turn influences future decision. The information gathered from self-evaluations or observations with regards to what happens in the classroom will need to be analysed at a later stage and act upon it.As part of reflection two peer observations were carried out that allowing me to see how others perform compared to my own teaching practice. I realised that sharing of experiences with other professionals provides for the opportunity for me to learn from others and vice versa.
Professional reflective practice in teaching could be summarised as a pause taken by the teacher during a session to critically analyse his/her actions according to Larrivee (2000). This is not limited to my learning but also consists of all key elements of professional practice. A number of methods can be used to improve personal and professional development. Tummons (2007) points out that professional reflective practice cycle includes experience, reflection, professional practice and action plans. Reflecting on own experience and putting action plans helps learner in developing a platform.
Gibbs (1988) encourages the use of a six stage questioning technique that includes feelings, description, evaluations, analysis, conclusion and action plan. This theory can be closely linked to Kolb (1984)’s four stage that includes doing the task, reflect on it, researching upon it and planning for the next stage.is not much difference from the Analysing these events require us to make a note of these events either through journal, diary, observation sheets, self-evaluations, student and peer feedbacks. The results obtained from these recordings will be used in combination with theories to improve own practice. Due to the varied nature of these strategies the results obtained can vary depending with the how the information used in the reflection was gathered.
A reflective journal can be used to record all of events of concerns just after the lesson. This may include theories, political ideologies, research notes, and personal comments. Thorpe (2004) suggests that journals and diaries be maintained through-out the course or for a long period of time to allow consistency. Observations were conducted through-out the placement period with my mentor in classroom providing guidance on the sport. Where official observations were carried records were kept which I then used to improve my next lesson.
In our placement due to hearing impairments photos that include the teacher and the learner could be used as evidence. Analysing my own personal photos working with learners, in my own time allowed me to view my practice in a different way. Another easier way of using reflective practice is story telling with peers. Self-evaluation of own practice and behaviours that are closely linked to the practice helps us to understand what works best. Taking a pause during these sessions helped me to drastically change my practice and began to see learners asking questions freely.
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