Reflectiveteaching is a process where teachers consider and analysis different aspects oftheir teaching practice. According to Richards, reflection ‘refers to anactivity or process in which an experience is recalled considered, andevaluated.’ (1998, p. 21) Bartlet statesthat to become a reflective teacher, a teacher must go ‘beyond a primaryconcern with instructional techniques and “how to” questions and asking “what”and “why” questions that regard instructions and managerial techniques not as endsin themselves, but as part of broader educational purposes.
‘(Bartlet as citedby Ahmed, Cane, & Hanzala ? 2011, p. 70). Itis essential that teachers reflect on the different areas of their teachingsuch as what they do in the classroom, why they do what they do, askingthemselves did it work and how could their practice be improved to achieve learningoutcomes, to improve as teachers as well as improving the learning for theirstudents. A contemplative approach giveseducators a precise, structured plan of ‘collecting, recording and analysingtheir thoughts and observations, as well as those of their students, andthen going on to making changes.’ (Tice, 2004) There are many reason why teachershould reflect on their teaching.
One of the main reasons is that teaching isall about life-long learning and improvement. As the world changes so doeseducation. Therefore, teachers must keep up to date with the latest methods andapproaches. Also, if teachers do not analysis and assess on their teaching,they cannot improve it. Brookfield(1995) argues that another reason teachers need to reflect on their teaching isbecause it gives them an awareness about their students as well as insight intotheir needs and abilities. Each student is different and as a result eachclassroom is different.
Teachers must see their practice through the eyes oftheir students. Brookfield states that: ‘Of all the pedagogic tasks teachersface, getting inside students’ heads is one of the trickiest. It’s also one ofthe most crucial.
‘ (2017, p. 92) Over the last two years of theProfessional Masters in Education, active learning has been promoted overpassive learning. Teachers must model this new concept. It is believed that ifteachers use the reflective approach, it will make it easier to use reflectionwith their students. By students scrutinising and assessing their own work,this will help them improve their learning as well as allow them to become moreindependent learners. These are key skills in active learning. One of the most popular ways to reflect onteaching practice is writing a reflective journal. Over a six week period, Itaught my first year students about the Romans.
During this time, I wrote ajournal detailing my observations and evaluating my lessons. In thisassignment, I will outline my reflections Toput my reflections into context, I have worked in two very different schools.Last year I worked in a DEIS school and this year I work in a voluntarysecondary school.
Both school are in anaffluent area of Dublin. Last year, I taught all boys while this year I amteaching all girls. The boys had a more laid back approach to learning whilethe girls are very motivated and eager to learn. Noessel(2003) states that students’ needs are represented by the difference between whatthe learner wants to achieve from the ‘learning experience and their currentstate of knowledge, skill, and enthusiasm.’ (Noesel as cited byChurchill, Lu, Chiu & Fox, 2015, p.
88) It is important toidentify learners’ needs because it helps the teachers with learner placement,developing materials and teaching methods. Assessingthe needs of students is something I need to work on. In the school this year,there is a great resource teacher who is well-organised. There is a folder onthe computer with a list of all the students’ needs and their difficultieswhich is updated regularly. This has been very useful because it has helped mewhen differentiating my lessons. Petty has defined differentiation as ‘theprocess by which differences between learners are accommodated so that allstudents in a group have the best possible chance of learning.’ (Geoff Petty ascited by Brighouse & Woods, 2013, p. 36) In my first year group, there isone student with a learning difficulty.
One way that I differentiate for her,in the classroom, is by giving her easier resources to the rest of the class.For example, I used a secondary source which had been rewritten into simplerlanguage for her. It contained the same information but at the level she couldcomprehend. As there is assigned seats, I was able to put her differentiatedworksheet in the pile and hand it out with the rest of the groups. Also,students were working individually so no other students saw that she had adifferent sheet. It worked well as she answered all the questions and did notcopy of other students as she had done previously. Anotherway that I differentiate is by appealing to different learning styles. Gardner(1983) argued that everyone has multiple intelligences.
He believed that different parts of the braincontained different intelligences which worked either independently or intandem. For him, there were nine intelligences such as verbal-linguistic,visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic as well as interpersonal and intrapersonalintelligences. WhenI am planning my lessons, I try to include as many of these intelligences aspossible. For example, when we were studying the Romans, I used a lot ofvisuals such as paintings, mosaics, drawing of the houses, videos, cartoonpictures, maps. For example, I used mosaics with differentpictures of fruits and animals to talk about the food that Romans ate.Additionally, I use different colours when writing on the whiteboard. In mypower-point presentations, I highlight the keywords with different colours.
I getstudents to make mind-maps on topic individually and working in groupscombining all their ideas. This appeals to visuals learners. Whenassessing their learning, I use thumbs up, thumbs down or I sometimes get themto stand up, sit down. I also do roleplays, projects and make models. This isfor bodily-kinaesthetic learner. I also plan for verbal linguistic learners byplanning group discussions, giving worksheets, playing word games and asking questions.I try to do pair-work and group work with the students. This appeals to interpersonallearners.
Students sometimes work individually. I also try to connect thetopics to the students’ personal lives where possible and also assess theirprior knowledge of a topic. This appeals to the intrapersonal learners. Forexample, when we were discussing the types of Roman houses, I used a cartoonpicture of the interior of a Roman insula with a street scene as well.
It was agood picture as it had a lot going all in it. I had evaluated it to make sureit covered all points I wanted to cover. I asked students to write downeverything they saw after giving them a minute to examine the picture individually.After this, I asked students to compare what they had written down in pairs.
Idrew a mind-map on the whiteboard with their observations. I elicited anyinformation which the students did not pick up on. For homework, I asked thestudents to make a model of an insula made of lollipop sticks and cardboard.
Bydoing this, I used a number of strategies that appealed to different learningintelligences such as visual, verbal-linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonaland bodily-kinaesthetic. The students were engaged throughout as they respondedwell to questions and they asked questions. When I assessed their learning, agood amount of learning was achieved. Thereare many different strategies which can be used to support a students’learning. Some of the strategies I have used are flashcards, exit slips, mind-mapping,and graphic organisers Flashcards can be a very usefulstrategy to help students of history. They are a good method to consolidate andreinforce your knowledge. I ask my students to make flashcards as they arelearning the topic. They write down the key terms and a short explanation on theother side.
Ebbinghaus (1885) had a theory called ‘forgetting curve’ in whichhe stated that the most memory is within the two hours of memorising the information. For excellent recall, one must review theinformation within the first two hours, after this one must review theinformation after a day, then week later, a month later and finally three tosix months later (Ebbinghaus as cited by O’Brien, 2016). I shared thistechnique with my students who memorise a lot of the information. This is unlikethe boys I taught last year who put all the information into their own words.
Exit slips are a good method forstudents to reflect on what they have learnt. At the end of class, I givestudents prompts such as write down one thing you have learnt, one thing youfound difficult, one thing that you easy, and one thing you would like to knowmore about. However, I do not always use this technique effectively as I do notalways leave enough time for students to fully reflect. Because of this,students do not give detailed answers and also they say that they do not findanything difficult. This might be true but with more with thought maybe theycould find something. Also, some of the students call out or chat when doingthis and it is not effective. It worked better towards the end of the yearbecause I gave them more time to reflect and the boys did not talk during it.
Mind-mapping is good strategy for assessinglearning. They are a good way to visually convey ideas and see what informationthey have gained. There are a number of benefits to using mind-mapping in theclassroom such as they can help recall information better, and with high orderprocessing. Two challenges I found with my students were they had littleexperience with using mind-maps and they felt uncomfortable with the non-linearway that the information was structured. I found these two challenges with mysecond year class. Having this experience, I introduced the idea ofmind-mapping well conveying the benefits.
I was surprised how well the classtook on the idea and how enthusiastic they were to start. Iwanted to use a mind-map to assess their knowledge after learning about theRomans. Firstly, I asked my students to create a mind-map individually with afew prompts. Then, I put my students into groups of three to compare theirmind-maps. Then, I asked students to create a big mind-map which encompassed theirideas on big A3 size paper. I asked the art teacher for art supplies such asscissors, markers, colouring pencils, glue and white paper. The students werevery enthusiastic. After we were finished the class they asked if they couldcontinue making them in the next class.
It also helped students develop theirspatial awareness as they had to decide how they would organise theinformation. I had a rubric which I worked off to assess their mind-maps. Bydoing individual mind-maps, I could take them up and assess the studentsindividually which gave me a better gauge of the information they absorbed.
Graphic organisers are useful forlearning as it gives students ‘a scaffold the development of ideas andconstruction of knowledge’ (PDST, 2008) It can be used as a form of formativeassessment. For example, I used the placemat graphic organiser when I wasgetting students to make a menu after discussing the food eaten by romans. Iput students into groups of four.
Each student made their own mini version of amenu and then had to make one definitive menu in the middle. It worked well.The students debated and gave reasons why they should use one food otheranother. In the end each group presented their menus to the class and eachgroup voted for the best menu. This added an element of competition. I did thismenu with my students last year. I asked students to make a menu using a normalworksheet for homework. They did not put much effort into it.
Overthe last two years, I have used a number of different resources such as videoclips, images, worksheets, power-points, and Ted Talks. Some were moresuccessful than others. Some worked better with the boys and other with thegirls. Video clips are very useful whenteaching and learning. They are an excellent way of engaging students in atopic.
Video clips need to be watched with a purpose. I have learnt thatstudents should always have a question(s) to answer when watching the film andthat video clips should be short, between three and five minutes is best. Forexample, I showed my class a video clip on a chariot race from Ancient Rome. Itwas two minutes long. I prepared a worksheet with three questions such as howmany teams are there and what colour is each team. This keep the studentsfocused and engaged as the students were attentive watching and each studentwrote down an answer. After correcting the answers, I used the video clip tomake other points.
I also used video clip of roman soldier fighting the Gaulsas a hook to engage students when I was introducing the topic of Romansoldiers. Last year, I used the same clip. My supervisor told me to use theclip at the end of the class to check for learning.
I took her advice and paused it in differentplaces to ask questions. It worked well and evidence of learning was found. I used a number of differentworksheets. Some of them I found on TES and other I made myself. For example, Iwas used a map of the Roman Empire. I asked the students to name eight ofcountries which the Romans occupied and for homework, I asked students tocolour in the map with all the roman territories.
This year, it worked muchbetter as I had numbered the countries and did not ask students to colour inthe map. This activity was much faster. Last year, the colouring of the maptook a long time and there was confusion over how to organise the countriesnamed and each students named different countries which was harder to correct. Ihave used many different teaching methodologies. To settle the students beforetaking the roll, I usually ask students to write down three things they learntfrom the last class or to brainstorm all the information they remember from thelast class. I use power point presentations to present information or showvisuals.
I also ask students questions. I get students to work in pairs orgroup work. Ihave found the history special method lectures invaluable. For me one of themost valuable parts of the lectures was when the lecturer gave practical waysto teach the context. It gave me good ideas of how to introduce topics and theconfidence to be more creative when planning. Also, what I found beneficial wasselecting visual images. In the past, I used limited images.
The lecturershowed us images with were rich in imagery I could use in the classroom. Bygoogling these images, I found website with gave artist’s impressions ofancient Ireland which was very beneficial for other classes.Ialso learnt that questions and questioning is a very significant part ofteaching.
There are two types of questions that we use in the classroom, lowercognitive and higher cognitive questions. Questions are important because itdrives the learning, encourages engagement and motivation and develops criticalthinking. I need to use higher ordered questions more rather than just usinglower ordered questions. And also, I need to plan my questions better as wellas give more thinking time to the students. Inconclusion, reflection is an important tool for both teachers and student.Teachers must reflect to help improve their teaching. Students who reflect canimprove their learning because it shows them the areas weakest at.
While activelearning can be scary for teachers, it is very important for students so theycan develop their critical thinking skills and help them to take responsibilityfor their learning. By reflecting forthis assignment, it has made me more aware of the areas I am comfortable withand the areas that I need to improve on. Overall, my teaching is a work inprogress but I feel with more experience and reflecting I have the potential tobe a good teacher.