Thursday, 17 September 2015

Task Three: Professional Reading

Read the article “Reflecting on reflective practice” by Lynda Finlay (2008). Create a blog post that discusses your responses to the article and evaluate your reflective practice. You can use the following as provocations or come up with your own.
  • What is/are the points in the article that captivate your attention? In which way?
The ethical concerns of reflective practice and reflection as demolition. It's confronting to have your methods and ideas challenged, and this needs to be done sensitively and with attention to self. I feel deeply connected to my work and my role with my students, so it's hard to sometimes be dispassionate about my practice and view it critically without also becoming self-critical. It's difficult because by accepting that my practice or outlook needs to change it feels like I have let down the students I have been working with already. 

The flip side of this coin is reflection as a rote exercise. Often, appraisal and reflection carried out in a PD context feels shallow, a tick-box exercise. There's an element of admitting things could have been improved, whilst simultaneously looking at the external factors for this as being the key cause, rather than considering the only factors we can influence.

This is an extension of reflection as demolition. Recognising that reflective practice can be provocative and sensitive can result in pulling back, failing to go deep enough into the practice to really create change. A balance must be struck between the need for teachers to honestly reflect on their practice so that they can better meet the needs of their students, and for the emotional and mental wellbeing of the teacher to be upheld. 

This article's points on the merits of reflective practice reminded me of Covey's concept of circles of control, influence and concern. 

Teachers are very quick to focus on the areas of concern and influence. We look at raw data and student circumstances, and feel bad or at fault for these concerns. We worry that we don't influence our students enough, or in the right way. We can become quite defensive when challenged on our responses to concerns. Reflective practice done well asks us to focus on our area of direct control. Considering what we can change and control by looking at our own pedagogical style and teaching strategies means that we can change the influence we have on those around us and ultimately push out against the concerns, instead of letting them shrink our influence and feelings of control.
  • What reflective model(s) do you find most suitable to use? Explain why?
I am a reflective person. Having dealt with some mental health issues throughout my life the need to reflect on my actions and thoughts, and the control and influence I have over both myself and others, is a strategy that has helped me deal with these issues over the years. I have found that mindfulness is a useful tool for reflection in action, for example recognising when a class is fully engaged in the work they are doing and that my place in the classroom at that time is  to be available when needed. Questioning the traditional need for a teacher to be constantly interacting with children has led to calmer, more productive lessons. I've even given students the vocabulary to ask to be left to get on with their work if they feel my presence isn't needed at that time!

On reflection on action, if there has been an incident, lesson, or practice that I feel should be reflected on then I usually take a verbal or written recount of the experience, and use this recount to consider the actions I took and how my feelings and experience led to those actions. From this I can then look to the effect those actions had on those I influence, and from there how they impact on my areas of concern. It was this approach to my planning and teaching at the end of 2014 that led to me completely reappraising my pedagogy and engaging more fully with inquiry learning.

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