Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflection on Changed Teaching Practices

New Years Eve is a time of New Year Resolutions, but for me, it is also a time for reflection of my life, both personal and professional.  Every teacher should take the time to reflect on their practice as an Educator.  How can we, as a professional, improve our ability to do our job to the maximum?  That's where the reflection comes in. 

I've asked myself a number of questions now, in a number of areas of my professional life:

  • How are my students doing?
  • What did a do new this year?
  • How did it make me feel, both physically and mentally?
  • What was good or bad about this experience? Or perhaps it was both.
  • What sense can I make of what happened?  What did happen and why?
  • What else should I have done besides what I did?  How could I have improved what happened?
  • If it happened again, what would I do differently?

These questions should not be asked only once a year, but constantly when making changes to your professional development.  But I find the holidays is a great time to do this.

Dewey (1933) identifies 3 characteristics of  people who are good at reflecting on their actions:  open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness.  These people are willing to take chancesand to change.  They turn every event into a learning experience.  It's as simple as it sounds, you do only three things:  look at an event, understand it, and learn from it.  This will help you grow in all aspects of your life

Tomas S. Farrell asks questions of more depth for understanding of why we teach the way we teach:

  • What do I do as a teacher?  ( a description of my practice)
  • What does this mean to me?  ( a look at the theories behind my practice)
  • How did I come to be this way?  (a look at the influences on my practice)
  • How might I do this differently?  ( a look at my future actions).  

He states in the book "Reflective Practice in Action:  80 Reflection" that effective partitioners go a step beyond simply acknowledging successes and failures, they strive to figure out why it worked or not, and how to change the way it went.    You need to constantly reflect on the new and old theories, values and believes of teaching, what learning means to you and what learning means to your students, tries new experiences and theories, examines what's happened, talk to others about it,  and see what can be changes and what cannot.  The conversation with colleagues is what will help you to see other views and other opinions, so you can see all aspects of your own learning experience of the event you just experienced.

So in all of this, where am I?  How well am I doing this term?  I have done a huge amount of recollective reflecting ( making sense of what happened in the hopes to change what I hope I can try again and get different results).  I will try again the Facebook assessment/collective Portfolios with my Grade 11/12 students.  But I need to explain in more detail to the students how to self-assess their own work.  I need to teach them self-reflective thinking, to explain that by reviewing their failures, they can show me learning, that every learning experience does not need to be positive.  

I will continue to do differentiation instruction in my Grade 11/12 Information classes.  I have created a number of online courses of learning in Photoshop, Illustrator, Advance Photoshop and some work in JavaScripting Programming.  The HTML online site has worked well after three years of editing, and I understand that the others will take some time to change as well.  

The reflection portfolios in my Grade 8 Information Technology class was not as successful as the Grade 11/12 one, feedback was not well done.  I need to connect their work in a better setup, perhaps using blogs like this one, and having a listing of the blogs all together will help me to moderate/control my time in a more effective manner, to respond in a quicker manner to work posted online.  Something to consider in more depth.

I have done active reflection ( immediate decision making during class as events unfold)  throughout these changes in my teaching practices, asking students to tag their photos so I can give immediate feedback worked extremely well.  Having students make photo book on Facebook to have their area of study organized worked well.  For those people doing movie editing, I advice getting a YouTube channel set up right away, so you can embed the videos right into Facebook (this worked extremely well).

In all honesty, the Grade 11/12 students were extremely happy with the differentiation practice - I on the other hand was extremely tired.  In the end students were helping each other.  This practise of asking other people before you ask the teacher (I'm the fifth on the list) worked better in the lower grades then the higher ones.  The Grade 11/12 students were not as receptive to a change in teaching practices as were the lower grades but in the end all were happy.

So the most important question of reflection - will I continue to explore these areas of interest or change to something new.  I'm not done yet, I like the changes in the student's learning - them taking ownership of what they want to learn. The level of motivation has tripled for many of them.  I just need to learn to manage my time more effectively for critiquing their work online.

There's my reflection so far.  Thanks for listening.

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