This article reflects upon how effective management strategies have been in my first attempts at whole class teaching. It will also reflect on the relationship between my teaching practice and professional/personal development.
In developing my teaching skills, I use model of the SOLO taxonomy (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) as a developmental schema. (JAQUES D. 2001 p51) Using this method, I have been able to identify on what level individual students are, to deliver learning that is relevant to the stage they are at, and to facilitate progress.
Learning domains, as I am becoming aware of their importance, are playing a key role in the way I plan and deliver lessons. Learning styles, key skills criteria and the resources available have also become important in my management of the learning I am responsible for delivering. The need for clear assessment methods have also become important, with the need to devise my own assessments as part of the lesson plan and the importance of matching what is being learned with the assessment criteria which is set by the appropriate examining boards.
What does ‘reflective practice’ mean to me? A quick look in the ‘teach-nology.com’ glossary defines reflection as ‘Activity of a person to consider a past experience or event and the impact it has had’. Reflective Practice is defined as: ‘Practice of engaging in reflection to identify important elements of past events.’ (http://www.teach-nology.com/glossary/terms/r/)
Or in my own words: ‘What did I do and did it work?’ It is an interesting – indeed sometime conflicting combination of roles – the ‘new teacher’, wishing to fit in with established work cultures, build relationships with students and staff, and deliver learning outcomes effectively; and the student teacher – full of ideas and theories gleaned from course content and own research, having been given the ideal scenario for how to deliver learning. When I reflect on my role as a student, I have realised is up to me to deliver by organising myself, following the syllabus and fulfil assignments to achieve my ultimate aim. I tell my students that I am also a student, and the reaction to this has been favourable, as if they realise that I do have some awareness of how it is for them.
I have also become more aware of my own sense of autonomy, that is, ‘the ability to develop appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes for oneself as a teacher, in co-operation with others.’ (ref). Again, as well as developing some autonomy, I am also responsible for developing that in my own students.
At first, the considerable gap between the theory and practice felt insurmountable. But, with the kindness and encouragement of my colleagues, I took the step of applying the theory as soon as I was in a position to do so, and I am happy to report that it did work. On reflection, this has helped to build on the management strategy I have developed during other challenges, which, I now realise is about finding out information, organising that data into manageable chunks, translating it into understandable language and learning by doing. An example of this is the way I have managed a unit I am delivering to National Diploma students. I have been given the freedom to develop an interesting scenario which takes the students through the learning outcomes and offers a ‘real life’ challenge for the students which matches the assessment criteria in an accessible and exciting way. It was hugely rewarding that students have received this challenge and spontaneously commented that ‘I am really going to enjoy this’ because ultimately, enjoyment has a strong influence on motivation.
Having completed 25 hours of whole class teaching, I can see the point of developing schemes of work, documenting lesson plans and planning ahead, and I have begun to realise that much of the role of the tutor is about doing the thinking and planning – and creating suitable and accessible plans and course materials in order for other tutors to deliver what may be one’s own hard-fought research and ideas.
And finally, I have reflected on the importance of morale in education – that of the students and tutors. It is inevitably disheartening to both when students simply don’t turn up and I have experienced this in my own teaching. When I have experienced this at first hand, I have adopted the policy that those who have turned up should not become demoralised and that it is the role of the tutor to make sure that students attending are rewarded with meaningful learning opportunities. What I hadn’t reckoned on was the effect this would have on me, the amount of time I now dedicate to thinking and planning for my students and the delicious mixture of joy and despair this has provoked in me. I have realised this is part of the ‘real life’ experience that teaching practice offers.