A theory based reflection on observation of teaching and learning

I’ve been sorting though all my old files and thought it might be useful to include a couple of things I’ve written for my course for anyone interested who might find them useful.

It was a course requirement to submit reflections on observations on blogs. For my blog I made un-referenced less formal posts than the actual reflections I submitted but I thought I’d share one or two of those I did submit. They received some fab feedback for showing links to theory, links to ILP targets and links to previous observation comments and I think that’s one of the keys to getting a high grade for a reflection on OTLs feedback.

Reflection on OTLS April 2014:

“I really enjoyed this session. I feel that I am coming into my own now as a teacher, I feel very confident with the class and very confident in delivery although I am mindful of not becoming complacent. I appreciate that what works well with one class on one day may not work so well with the same class on another day let alone with a different class on a different day. As Meador (2014) states “an effective teacher strives to be better. A teacher who has grown complacent in what they do is the most ineffective kind of teacher… no matter how long you have taught you should always want to grow as a teacher” (Meador 2014 online).  This is one of the reasons why I value reflective practice. I also feel this attitude contributes to my ability to identify easily with what has been noted in my observation as points for improvement agreeing with Gibbs (1998) who suggests that “It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost” (Gibbs 1988 cited in Watton et al 1991:4).

I feel this observation demonstrated that my flexibility as a teacher is improving and that my command of the classroom is also improving as I grow in confidence. I do feel that without a doubt my rapport with the students is paramount to my small successes and to my feeling comfortable in the teaching role. This concurs with academic thought offered by  Martinez and Munday (1998) on the impact of the student teacher relationship with the engagement of students in FE .  However I know this did not happen by accident and that I contribute in some way to students feeling comfortable and supported in my classes. I concur with the concept of giving something of ourselves when we teach as Meador (2014) and Moon (1999) suggest and I feel that my students feel my genuine interest in their development and success as young adults and that this is one of the reasons I am able to quickly develop a good rapport with all of the classes I teach.

I appreciate the value in a comment about my teaching linking back to previous learning and forward to planned learning as I feel this contextualises learning for the students. This was something that the students had told me they felt was missing as they were taught units and lessons in isolation often presented as chunks of information which they were unable to form links between or to identify relevancies to the workplace. I feel that the more I make those links obvious the more students seem to become enthused about their learning. I also feel that it helps to ensure that tasks and activities are work based for these same purposes a thought concurred with by Kolodner (1997) who felt that teaching using analogies and work based scenarios has a greater impact on developing confidence and embedding learning.

I managed the three boys who are were not paying attention well today by bringing them out of the corner and making one of them a project manager for one of the tasks. This had a two-fold effect in that I did not have to try to negotiate the melee of chair legs and student bags around the room to be able to engage with these students and see what they were actually doing, but it also brought them into the group as they had begun to isolate themselves. It worked very well in that the group although resistant at first began to communicate well with the others. All students fully enjoyed the task and all were fully engaged  and suitably challenged. I have used this technique before to encourage peer tutoring as admonished by Topping (1996) after it was suggested to me by a tutor at my first observation. I have found it to be a very useful tool for engaging students who are less willing to participate.

It was refreshing to see the boys more lively today and engaged  instead of slumping behind computers and even though the environment was not the best for this task it really did have a big impact on engagement and consequently on learning. I feel that the tasks achieved a lot in terms of differentiation in that all students were able to participate in both tasks and this is essential to ensure that they feel challenged yet comfortable with the pitch of the lesson. I feel that I have developed in terms of understanding that “Differentiated instruction is not a strategy. It is a total way of thinking about learners, teaching and learning” (Tomlinson, 2000) and I feel that sometimes it is better to be flexible and develop different ways of delivering content rather than doing what Joyce (2002) points out a lot of teachers do and taking a safe approach which works and using it for everything and being totally inflexible and failing to achieve differentiation as a result.

This teaching session was relatively straight forward with minimal challenges. The students were a little subdued perhaps after a long Easter break and needed some coaxing to remember previous teaching. This was an introductory lesson to a new unit but it brought together a significant amount of prior learning and I feel I was able to form links to that learning and refresh it to further embed it during this session which helped to recap on previous learning. Some opportunities to do this were planned others I took advantage of as they arose by seizing the moment as admonished by Reuben (1997) and Eraut (1975). This ability to seize the moment has been noted by tutors and mentors in observations throughout my course with comments on it being a sign of a very experienced teacher. I am naturally encouraged by such comments and pleased that I am comfortable with this flexible style of teaching. I feel that it stems from a natural humanistic approach to teaching and learning where lessons are more organic in the way that they flow but is also underpinned by that ability to form a good rapport with students mentioned earlier, this leads to an understanding of what appeals to them, what they are interested in and how they learn best.

The students engaged well towards the second half of the lesson and became more animated. I broke the lesson into short sections of around 10 minutes each in duration purposefully to keep their attention. I felt this worked well for this session particularly given that they were a little quieter than usual. This approach was raised in tutored learning sessions when reading on learning theory and differentiation and is recommended by experts in the education and cognitive function of teenagers who refer to studies indicating that teens have a short attention span when learning (Baars et al 2010; Romine and Reynolds 2005; Conklin et al 2004; Bransford et al 2000).

Questioning allowed all students to input to the lesson and have their views heard and allowed for lively discussion to take place. Some of the questioning was very basic and students struggled with it at first but later they were answering analytical and evaluative questions well. When it came to the second task they were able to apply learning and I felt this was an improvement against my ILP objective taken from my first observation of the course to better understand and implement Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al 1956).”



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