Activity 3 – Reflections on ‘Reflective Practice’

What are the points in this article that captivate my attention?

Certainly I believe that reflective practice both ‘rings true’ and is a part of the process of life-long learning. As I stated in my second entry – part one, my own reflective practice, since I have been a part of this course, has been one of the most profound aspects on my learning. I found it interesting that, according to Finlay, reflective practice involves both the process of learning through and from experience (to gain new insights) and the individual practitioner being self-aware and critically evaluating their own responses to practice situations. I found this second aspect very similar to metacognition, but also consider it equally important to engage in critical dialogue and reflection with other practitioners.

This links with Schon’s (1983) identification of two types of reflection: reflection-in-action, thinking about things while you are doing them and  reflection-on-action, thinking about things after the event. I felt that these two aspects were brought together quite well by reflexivity. Reflexive practitioners engage in both critical self-reflection: reflecting critically on the impact of their own background, assumptions, feelings, and behaviour while also attending to the impact of the wider organisational, ideological and political context (pg 6).

I do agree with Grushka, Hinde-McLeod and Reynolds (2005) addition of reflection for action as their series of technical, practical and critical questions (pg 4) seem aligned with the way I plan. I consider my resources and how long the lesson will take (technical and organised); how I can make the resources suit different learning styles (practical and personalised); and I question why I am teaching a particular topic (critical and relevant).

Perhaps the points that I found the most captivating were both the amount of work involved in all this reflection and the fact that much of it is forced!

“For busy professionals short on time, reflective practice is all too easily applied in bland, mechanical, unthinking ways. Would-be practitioners may also find it testing to stand back from painful experiences and seek to be analytical about them” (pg 1-2)

“Moreover, busy, over-stretched professionals are likely to find reflective practice taxing and difficult.” (pg 10)

“Reflection can have a profound emotional impact on the person reflecting and therefore has the potential to be harmful.” (pg 11)

“When required of individuals through learning and assessment exercises,
reflections can end up being superficial, strategic and guarded. Where assessment lurks, any genuine, honest, critical self-examination may well be discouraged.”    (pg 15)

“The problem with reflective practice is that it is hard to do and equally hard to teach. It is even harder to do and teach effectively.” (pg 15)

Certainly many of the students in my class, who are asked to reflect on their term goals set up on KnowledgeNET, would relate to Boud and Walker (1998) comparing their reflections to “…checklists which students work through in a mechanical fashion without regard to their own uncertainties, questions and meanings” (pg 10) and  “…ritualised, without reference to context or outcomes.”  (pg 11)

Luckily the article went on to suggest excellent ways to remedy these problems!

What reflective model do I find most suitable to use?

In our school the Teaching as Inquiry (TAI) we undertake is similar Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (1988) (pg8) but also utilising one of Finlay’s five overlapping variants of reflexivity (pg 6-7). Mutual collaboration, is a participatory, dialogical approach to reflective practice – what Ghaye (2000) (and my team leader) call ‘reflective conversations’. Members of our professional learning team, seek to solve problems critically and collaboratively as illustrated by the model below.

My Teaching as Inquiry Process

As Finlay so succinctly says  “It seems neither possible nor desirable to fix on any one model as the definitive ‘answer’. Different models are needed, at different levels, for different individuals, disciplines and organisations, to use in different contexts.” (pg 10)

Certainly education is likely to benefit from the stimulus provided by competing perspectives and multiple models so long as the models are applied selectively, purposefully and flexibly.

References

Finlay, L. (2009) Reflecting on ‘Reflective practice’. Open University, Practice-Based Professional Learning Centre. Retrieved October 6, 2015 from http://www.open.ac.uk/opencetl/files/opencetl/file/ecms/web-content/Finlay-%282008%29-Reflecting-on-reflective-practice-PBPL-paper-52.pdf

Activity 2 – Part 2 Reflections on Practice

What have I changed in my practice?

So many things! To name but a few…

Collaboration

Probably the biggest change in my classroom has been the introduction of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for collaboration. The GAFE tools have been easy to use and opened the doors to many new ways of learning for my students. What I realised so succinctly on this course was, that to prepare my students for a connected, technology rich world, I needed to do my best to give them practice in such an environment.

I now use GAFE to join my students in the learning process and better engage them through collaboration and feedback. One of the advantages of GAFE is that I have the ability to invite my students to work on the same projects. There is just one copy that everybody accesses so everyone has the most up to date information and I can see what’s happening in ‘Real Time’.

In the time since implementing GAFE I have seen improved engagement and motivation due primarily to the inbuilt features such as comments, suggested editing, dictionary, thesaurus, and research capability. The platform has allowed a wider audience for my students writing, and improved the quality of content and their learning outcomes!

Leadership

Study at the Mind Lab has also shown me that I have the ability to lead change initiatives. I can do this by involving all stakeholders accordingly in the process and implementing the innovation over stages. During and between each stage, I can reflect and responded to challenges that are sometimes related to my leadership. Successfully integrating technology into the classroom didn’t just happen – it took careful planning and preparation which required me to understand myself as a leader.

I needed to understand the various approaches to leadership, so that I could use the right approach for my situation. The way I did this was to learn more about the core leadership theories on the course, that provided the backbone of my current understanding of leadership. Clearly, how leaders behave affects their performance. Researchers have shown that many leadership behaviours are appropriate at different times (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 2001). The best leaders are those who can use many different behavioural styles, and choose the right style for each situation.

In my practice I now adapt my leadership style to the “maturity” and willingness of my team. This has created a new level of complexity: How thoroughly I consider the willingness, motivation, and abilities of my followers can decide how successfully I will lead. I have learned the leader isn’t everything: I must include my followers in the equation.

Real-World Problem Solving and Innovation

In today’s world, problem-solving tasks abound. This course has shown me that
to be successful, students must be adept at generating and testing ideas in order to solve a problem with a real set of requirements and constraints. This is very different from the simple word problems that I had previously taught, which were simply practice at executing specific learned procedures.

I have started using data from students day to day lives or real world situations to help frame the problems I am asking them to solve. This also represents innovation by requiring students to implement their ideas, designs or solutions for audiences outside the classroom. Problem-solving in this sense happens when students must develop a solution to a problem that is real, or complete a task that they have not been instructed how to do. It can also mean designing a product that meets a set of requirements. Examples this year have been building their own island in Minecraft, to withstand a tsunami (part of our “Passion Project” on Fridays) and creating a board game with a simple electric circuit to help the new entrants learn the alphabet.

The most rewarding part was just “letting go” of the locus of control, by motivating, encouraging and allowing students to do their own research and projects, in their own way, over long periods of time. Students were taking ownership, developing leadership and using the programme to enhance and extend their learning. It broke down barriers within the class, increased conversation and promoted co-operative learning. Friendship cliques were superseded by a class-wide focus on working together online to survive and flourish on the their “own” island.

References

21st Century Learning Design. (2015). 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://pilnetwork.blob.core.windows.net/public/21CLD%20Learning%20Activity%20Rubrics%202012.pdf

Education Review Office. (2007). Quality teaching in years 4 and 8: Writing. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://www.ero.govt.nz/National-Reports/The-Quality-of-Teaching-in-Years-4-and-8-Writing-June-2007

Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., & Johnson, D. E. (2001). Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources. Eighth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Manktelow, J. (2011). Core Leadership Theories. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from Mind Tools: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/leadership-theories.htm

Reading, M. (2015). Collaboration with Google Drive. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from Using Technology Better: http://usingtechnologybetter.com/lesson-3-collaboration-with-google-drive/

Activity 2 – Part 1 Reflections on learning

What have I learned about my own learning?

There are many things I have learned about myself as a learner on this course but I think two of the most profound are evidenced here on this blog – Reflective practice and the metacognitive process.

Reflective practice is an ability to reflect on one’s own actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential (Wikipedia, 2015). In Part 2 of this entry I will detail and reflect on three of the changes I have made to my practice since starting the course and my third entry critically evaluates Lynda Finlay’s (2008) views on the subject.

I have found this to be an important tool in my practice-based professional learning because I learn more from my own professional experiences, than from the formal learning or knowledge transfer of the course material. This may in fact be the most important source of my professional learning development. It is also an essential way for me to bring together theory and practice; through reflection I am able to see and label forms of thought and theory within the context of my work.

By reflecting throughout my practice I am not just looking back on past actions and events, but also taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to my existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding.

Metacognition is often simply defined as “thinking about thinking” (Livingston, 1997). For myself that is being able to reflect on my own cognitive experiences. The term is most often associated with John Flavell, (1979). According to Flavell metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences or regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired knowledge that can be used to control cognitive processes. Flavell further divides this into three categories: knowledge of person variables (individual knowledge of one’s own learning processes), task variables (knowledge about the nature of the task and the type of processing demands) and strategy variables (knowledge about both cognitive and metacognitive strategies, as well as when and where it is appropriate to use such strategies).

Metacognitive strategies are sequential processes that one uses to control cognitive activities, and to ensure that a cognitive goal (e.g., understanding) has been met. These processes consist of planning and monitoring cognitive activities, as well as checking the outcomes of those activities.

For example, in my third entry I will be responding to an article by Lynda Finlay (2008) and questioning myself about the concepts discussed therein. My cognitive goal is to understand the text and self-questioning is a metacognitive comprehension monitoring strategy. If I find that I cannot answer my own questions, or do not understand the material discussed, I must then determine what needs to be done to ensure that I meet the cognitive goal of understanding the text. I may decide to go back and re-read the article with the goal of being able to answer the questions I had generated. If, after re-reading through the text I can now answer the questions, I can determine that I understand the material. Thus, the metacognitive strategy of self-questioning is used to ensure that the cognitive goal of comprehension is met! Obviously I can apply the same concepts to my students.

A third aspect of myself as a learner that has been highlighted by this course is the importance of collaboration. For my dissertation at The University of Auckland I did all my own work and obviously received my own grade. This model did not prepare me well for my workplace, where I work on teams with others to accomplish tasks that are too complex for me to do on my own. My last two assignments at The Mind Lab were completed with the help of people on those teams and required collaboration skills to work productively and to integrate individual expertise and ideas into a coherent solution.

The course has enabled us to have shared responsibility for the workload, and the learning activities were designed in a way that required us to make substantive decisions together. These features helped me learn the important collaboration skills of negotiation, conflict resolution, agreement on what must be done, distribution of tasks, listening to the ideas of others, and integration of ideas into a coherent whole. Our work was interdependent and required us all to contribute in order for the team to succeed. It is this model that I will be using going forward with both my learning and teaching.

References

21st Century Learning Design. (2015). 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://pilnetwork.blob.core.windows.net/public/21CLD%20Learning%20Activity%20Rubrics%202012.pdf

Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906-911

Livingston, J. A. (1997). Metacognition: An Overview. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/shuell/CEP564/Metacog.htm

Wikipedia. (2015). Reflective Practice. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflective_practice

Activity 1 – Welcome!

Kia ora, hi and

My name is Antony Paine and I am a year 5/6 teacher at Freemans Bay School (FBS) in Auckland, New Zealand.

Currently I am studying for a Post-Graduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning) through Mindlab, and having started to implement some of the digital and collaborative tools I have learnt about into my classroom, I am now writing my first reflective blog!

I entered teaching with experience in outdoor education and completed my Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Primary from the University of Auckland in 2011. At that time I was only able to secure a part time (0.6) role as the Sports Coordinator and Health and Physical Education (HPE) Teacher at Parnell District School (PDS) in Auckland. During my 2 years at PDS I was also studying for a Bachelor of Education (Teaching) (Honours) which I completed in 2013 with a dissertation on the effects of The National Standards (2010) on the teaching and learning of HPE in Primary Schools.

I am now in my 6th year of teaching and learning but am only eligible for full registration at the end of this year. It has been a fascinating journey and I know now that I have finally found my true career path at the ripe old age of 42!

In my 2nd year at FBS (2015) the school made two changes that were to effect forever the way I looked at teaching and learning in the classroom. Firstly we introduced Bring Your Own Learning Device (BYOLD) to our students, to try an address the shortage of ICT equipment we had at school, and secondly we knocked out the walls of our classrooms to create a Modern Learning Environment (MLE) and begin collaboratively teaching our classes.

At this time I was also fortunate enough to secure a NEXT Generation Teacher Scholarship for study at the Mind Lab. FBS is a very forward thinking school that seeks to engage, empower and enrich the students by having a strong commitment to resourcing future orientated learning and professional development for staff. All classrooms now have interactive computer boards,  i-pads, a range of netbooks and access to digital cameras and i-pods.

The school has a commitment to high academic standards and an expectation that all children will succeed. My current opportunity for post graduate study should ensure that my teaching practice is based on National and International research on best educational practice.

Our school online learning environment, KnowledgeNET enables students to post reflections on their learning and get feedback from their peers, teachers and parents.  We encourage our students to be accountable for their own learning, by documenting learning goals and progressions on our online learning environment.

It wasn’t until I started my studies at Mind Lab that I realised that this was just the tip of the iceberg!

Join me as I take you on my latest learning journey……

References
Freemans Bay School. (2015). About Us. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from Freemans Bay School: http://www.freemansbay.school.nz/freemans-bay-school/
Ministry of Education. (2015). National Standards. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from TKI: http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/National-Standards
Parnell District School. (2015). Home. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from Parnell District School: http://www.parnell.school.nz/
The Mindlab by Unitec. (2015). Programme Overview. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from The Mindlab by Unitec: http://themindlab.com/programme-overview/
University of Auckland. (2015). Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Primary. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from University of Auckland: http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/en/for/future-undergraduates/study-options/programmes-and-courses/betch-primary.html
University of Auckland. (2015). Bachelor of Education (Teaching) (Honours). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from University of Auckland: http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/en/for/future-postgraduates/fp-study-options/pg-programmes-and-courses/be-teaching-honours.html