Monthly Archives: October 2015

The importance of being an enquiring practitioner…

As we learnt today, in Nikki’s input, being an enquiring practitioner is highly regarded within the teaching profession. This is something that I think we should acknowledge as new student teachers. 

On the GTCS website it states that “Practitioner enquiry is an area of professional learning which was highlighted in Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson, 2011) as a way forward to support teachers to become more engaged with research to support their own learning and ultimately pupil experiences.” 

To enquire means to ask for information from someone, to investigate and look into a situation further. So, to be an enquiring practitioner, we must investigate. Whilst investigating, we must be able to explain or defend our actions by using a rationale approach. Practitioner enquiry is usually undertake within a practitioner’s own practice however, can be completed in collaboration with others. For practitioner enquiry it is fundamental that it is based on evaluative and reflective teaching. Also, for effective enquiry undertaken by practitioners in the future; it should become and integral aspect of the day to day practice.  This I believe interlinks with ‘The Standards 1.4.2 – “I am committed to lifelong enquiry, learning, professional development and leadership as core aspects of professionalism and collaborative practice.”

Like most concepts of education, practitioner enquiry brings both benefits and challenges to the table. Advantages include;

  • Through using practitioner enquiry, teachers can become empowered and encouraged to transform and challenge education.
  • It provides a resource that teachers can use to monitor and develop their own practice.
  • It allows teachers to explore and investigate strategies and initiatives they can adapt in their classroom.
  • It can increase their knowledge of teaching and learning. This helps to build their self esteem as a professional and can aid them in making a professional&autonomous judgements which goes onto enhance their professional identity and self esteem further. 

However, engaging in practitioner enquiry can also rise challenges for teachers;

  • Before engaging with practitioner enquiry, a teacher must consider that it can be somewhat overwhelming and needs to be carefully managed. With the model, it is very easy to take on too much.
  • Practitioner enquiry can also be a disengaging and a disempowering process if there is no planning, understanding, management or support offered at all levels. Also, if it is imposed it can lead to the disenfranchisement of those involved.
  • It can also be a very slow process, there is not always a specific end point or direction for teachers carrying out practitioner enquiry.
  • To transform professional learning there must be radical and rigorous change. This is difficult and individuals and schools need to be open to and ready for potential changes.

Therefore, I believe that we, as teachers, must be adaptive and open to change. We must also engage critically with our practice and always be questionable, never accept. 

We must adopt a professional, critical and questionable approach to learning.

We, as student teachers, should grasp education with both hands and transform it for our students by following the ‘Model of career log professional learning’.

The GTCS website was used in support of this TDT.

Attachments

From the minute we begin to develop within the womb, we form attachments. Therefore, to me, this is a vital aspect of our learning. It has since been found that for a sound upbringing a child needs to have some sort of attachment so surely this is a great aspect in a child’s holistic development?

aSimilar and related factors to attachment are placed highly in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which indicates their importance in a child’s upbringing.

We have studied the Attachment Theory which conveyed that normally a child develops a clear attachment to their mother (who is also the primary caregiver). Long ago, people believed that this was due to the mother providing food. However, there is growing evidence that contact and comfort have a greater importance… demonstrated through ‘Harlow’s Monkeys 1980’.

aJohn Bowlby discovered that children have the innate ability to form attachments and it was the evolutionary attachment that promoted survival, care and nurture. Bowlby was influenced by Konrad Lorenz who carried out numerous studies on attachment. One of his studies, ’44 Thieves’ concluded that 70% of the thieves had experienced some level of maternal deprivation therefore had the inability to experience guilt through theft.

However, like many I disagree with some of Bowlby’s statements regarding attachments in children. For example, Bowlby concluded that a consequence of maternal deprivation is the development of delinquent personality. I disregard this statement as I have since found otherwise through numerous case studies, including the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’.

‘The Lost Boys of Sudan’ was a study concluded on a group of children that were separated from their parents through the Civil War in Sudan. The study focussed on their coping mechanisms to their ambiguous loss, as many did not know the fate of their parents/siblings. One of the coping mechanisms adopted by the children was distraction. This included doing homework which resulted in many taking an interest in education and strengthening themselves as a result. Completely contradicting Bowlby’s statement.

Mary Ainsworth developed the theory of attachment further through her Strange Situation Test. This was a test in which a baby and mother entered the room full of toys and played, a stranger then entered the room and the mother left whilst the babies reaction was recorded. This was to record the strength of attachment within babies. The results were that 50-70% were securely attached to their mothers again portraying that attachments form in the very beginning of a baby’s development.

Within the test 15-20% displayed insecure attachment. Being insecurely attached brings many consequences both short or long term;

Short term – Children are less likely to interact with others, less likely to show an interest in what is going on, less likely to be seen developing and are less likely to settle into early years education

Long term – has an impact on social relationships later in life and greater incidences of serious health problems e.g – mental health ill

Ainsworth also found that those who are securely attached have more intimate friendships, higher self esteem and perform better at school. Also, parents who were securely attached are more likely to have securely attached children.

So is there a link between parenting styles and attachments? I believe that there is. There is numerous studies all concluding the same; the more parents play, communicate and interact with their children the more happier, healthier and well developed they will be in the future.

Surely this is something that must be highlighted to all parents.

Our importance in the Physical Child

We have learnt that we, as teachers, mainly focus on cognitive development due to being conscious of role expectations. However, physical and cognitive functioning are closely linked. However, this factor is not always appreciated with young children. We, as teachers, need to consider all aspects of a child’s development as we look at the children in holistic terms: ‘the whole child’

aPhysical development in concerned with a child’s gross and fine motor skills, the way a child exercises their body in their surroundings. Physical development is an important aspect which is studied as growth determines the experiences a child has and also can affect the reactions of others.

Whilst, developing children are compared to ‘the norm’ this is the normal expectations of the child at their particular age. For example, by the age of 4 children should be piecing together sentences and be able to communicate with ease. The role of practitioners is to expose the children to environments which allow them to become aware of their senses and use appropriate language to help them make sense of these experiences.

Through doing this, children will be able to understand the key value, we have as teachers, that every individual is different and have different limits to what they can do, this will build empathy towards others that are not as fortunate as themselves.

aaTo strengthen children’s physical development, we can engage them with activities that will exercise their fine and gross motor skills. For example, running and climbing will build a child’s gross motor skills whilst developing the pincer grip through painting will develop a child’s fine motor skills, all of which will be beneficial as the child progresses into/throughout school.

The Nature/Nurture Debate

For several years, there has been a debate over nature/nurture and which has the biggest influence in our brain development.

We know that the brain is a complex and astonishing organ of the human body. Without the brain, we simply could not live.

aGenes are critical in creating humans as individuals – they create varying personalities and physical appearances. Genes also play a very important role in learning and learning disabilities. We know that just a slight difference in our genetic make up can result in serious disabilities. Therefore is genetics enough for brain development?

I believe that whilst genetics do have a lot to answer for in terms of brain development, so does the environment we are exposed to throughout our lives. It is to our knowledge that we develop greatly through the use of our senses which are enhanced through exposure to different environments.

aaWe are aware that our environment shapes up greatly which has been demonstrated throughout numerous studies including, a study which had some rats placed in isolation with no stimulation of other environments or their senses. The other rats were placed in normal environments with extra luxuries to interact with including toys, puzzles etc. All of the rats were then placed in sewer conditions in which they had to navigate through, the results were that the rats which were isolated failed miserably whilst the rats exposed to a healthy environment exceeded. This proves that the environment we expose ourselves to has a great impact on our brain development.

We must think of education as a landscape, and we the teachers are the gardeners.

Brain Development Timeline

4000BC – Sumerian records show first writing on the brain – An anonymous report on sensations after ingesting poppy seed plant.

450BC – Alcmaeon, an early Greek physician, is the first to use anatomic dissection of animals as a basis for his theories.
He concludes from his studies that the brain, not the heart, is the central organ of sensation and thought. This idea directly contradicts the accepted theory of his time which holds that the heart is the true seat of intelligence. Alcmaeon also suggests that the optic nerves are light-bearing paths to the brain and that the eye itself contains light. This fanciful theory of the eye as a container of light is believed by many neuroscientists until the middle of the 18th century.

a335BC – Aristotle states that the organ of thought and sensation is the heart and that the brain is merely a radiator designed to cool it. 
He claims, however, that the organ of thought is not the same as the basis for thought. The basis for thought, which he calls the rational soul, is immaterial and can not be found anywhere within the body. Aristotle’s theories about memory ultimately prove to be more successful. He correctly surmises that the processes involved in short term memory (immediate recall) differ distinctly from those involved in long-term memory.

1664 – Thomas Willis, a professor at Oxford, writes the first monograph on brain anatomy and physiology – ‘Cerebri Anatome’.  
In his book, he states that the cerebral hemispheres, which constitute 70% of the human brain, determine thought and action and are completely separate from the part of the brain that controls basic motor functions like walking. He also locates specific mental functions within the corpus callosum, corpus striatum and the cerebellum and introduces the words; ‘neurology,’ ‘hemisphere,’ ‘lobe,’ ‘pyramid,’ ‘corpus striatum,’ and ‘penduncle’ into the modern vocabulary. His work is influential in leading future neuroscientists to study the functional contributions of individual brain parts.

aaa1848 – Phineas Gage, a railroad worker, survives a bizarre accident in which the frontal lobe of his brain is pierced by an iron rod during an explosion.
Although he eventually recovers, he experiences profound mood and behavior changes. By all accounts, a quiet, industrious worker before the accident, Gage becomes a surly, combative man who can not hold down a job. This famous case, now found in countless neuroscience textbooks, was an important milestone in the study of the brain’s anatomy because it suggested that key parts of the personality resided in the frontal lobe. These findings indirectly lead to the development of the procedure called lobotomy, which was based on the theory that removing portions of the frontal lobe could cure mental derangement and depression.

1869 – Sir Francis Galton publishes his work – ‘Hereditary Genius’, which claims that intelligence is an inherited trait and that high levels of intellectual achievement follow genealogical lines. 
Galton also makes the first scientific attempt to measure intelligence. In 1888, he sets up an “anthropometric laboratory” in which he uses the rather dubious measures of visual acuity, auditory accuracy, and breathing capacity to assess levels of intelligence.

1875 – Wilhelm Wundt, in Leipzig, Germany, sets up the first lab devoted to study in human behaviour and suggests that psychology should be regarded as a complementary scientific discipline to anatomy and physiology.
Wundt is deeply interested in philosophy as well, and many of his students at the lab, known as the Institute for Experimental Psychology, are men who have studied philosophy at other German universities. At the Institute, students are taught a wide range of philosophic and psychologic subjects including the study of attention and sensory processes. Wundt’s Institute becomes the model for most of the psychological laboratories established in Europe in subsequent year.

aa1905 – Alfred Binet, a leading French psychologist, disputes Galton’s use of sensory discrimination as a measure of intelligence.
He claims that individual differences in intelligence can be detected only through measures of complex processes such as memory, imagination, attention and comprehension. In 1904, Binet is appointed to a commission concerned with how to integrate retarded children into the public school system in Paris. The committee decides that special education programs should be provided for them and proposes that a system be designed for identifying retarded children entering school. Binet sets out to develop a scale that can differentiate children who are slow learners from children who are learning at a normal rate. He collaborates with Theodore Simon, a young physician who has worked with retarded children in the past. The result is a scale designed to measure a variety of higher mental processes such as memory and imagination. To test their scale, Binet and Simon draw samples of children from schools, hospitals, orphanages, and asylums. They use these samples to try out the various cognitive tests they have designed with the goal of selecting those tests that clearly discriminate between the slightly retarded and the normal school population. In 1905, Binet and Simon introduce their intelligence scale and provide guidelines for its administration. They stress that the scale is appropriate only for assessing whether or not a child is of normal or inferior intelligence and is not designed to uncover the psychologically unstable or insane.

1911 – Henry Head, a British neuroscientist, publishes ‘Studies in Neurology’.
In it, he disputes the prevailing theories about aphasia and argues that speech is not a localized function. He also conducts important studies with the Irish neurologist, Sir Gordon Holmes, on the neurophysiology of sensory perception in the cerebral cortex, focusing particularly on patients’ spatial perceptions of their own bodies.

1921 – Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist, develops the ink blot test.
The Rorschach test, as it is now called, consists of ten standardized ink blots. Half of the ink blots are in black and white and the other half are in color. A subject is asked to describe what he sees in the visually ambiguous pictures and then his responses are analysed or “scored” by the test giver. The test contains three scoring areas — location, determinants and content. Location refers to how much and which part of the ink blot is described. Determinants refers to the patient’s description of the blot’s shape or colour. Content, the most straightforward of the categories, refers to the types of objects described. Many psychiatrists have found animal and human sightings to be particularly useful clues to patients’ psyches. The Rorschach test, once widely used as an “open-ended” test for personality traits and disorders, has fallen out of favor in recent years because it is so difficult to independently validate the results.

1949 – Walter Rudolph Hess wins the Nobel Prize for his work on the interbrain, which includes the hypothalamus, subthalamus and parts of the thalamus.
His research shows that the interbrain is responsible for coordinating the activities of the body’s internal organs.

1974 – M.E.Phelps, E.J.Hoffman and M.M.Ter Pogossian develop the first Positron Emission Topgraphy (or PET) scanner, a machine that provides visual information about the activity of the brain.
A patient undergoing a PET scan is administered a substance that includes radioactive atoms that emit positively charged particles known as positrons. The gamma radiation that results from this process is sensed by detectors and converted into computer-generated images of the brain as it would appear in cross-section. Doctors use PET scans to monitor such things as blood flow and oxygen utilization in the brain.

1990 – U.S President George Bush declares the decade starting in 1990 the “Decade of the Brain”.

1997 – Stanley B. Prusiner wins the Nobel Prize for his discovery of a new genre of infectious agents known as prions.
Normally, prions exist as harmless cellular proteins. However, they possess an innate capacity to convert their structures into highly stable configurations that can lead to the formation of harmful particles. Prusiner’s research implicated prions as infectious agents in several brain diseases that cause dementia in humans and animals. Prusiner’s discovery of this new principle of biological infection has also helped to provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying other types of dementia-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

2000 – Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel share the Nobel Prize for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system.
Signal transduction occurs when a message from one nerve cell is transmitted to another through a chemical transmitter. It takes place at special points of contact, called synapses. Each nerve cell can have thousands of such contacts with other nerve cells. Carlsson, Greengard, and Kandel’s research focuses on one type of signal transduction between nerve cells, known as slow synaptic transmission. Their discoveries have contributed to a greater understanding of the normal function of the brain as well as how disturbances in this signal transduction can give rise to neurologic and psychiatric diseases.

The above information was sourced from: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/history

Reflection: Online Unit 2

What is reflection?

  • Evidence of standing back from the event
  • A willingness to be critical of action or self
  • Recognition and consideration of events from other perspectives
  • An activity that helps us solve problems
  • Helps us learn from experiences
  • The key to taking control of our own learning
  • Actively engaging in reflection we will become better learners
  • Helps us take control of our own learning
  • Drawing on our experiences, emotions, beliefs, expectations and other sources of knowledge
  • A way of considering solutions to problems

What is NOT reflection?

  • Descriptive narrative
  • Pathetic, whining … (Narrator views himself as a victim)
  • Consideration of events from only one other perspectives
  • Dismissal of others opinions and viewpoints
  • Singly used – must be followed through with an action plan

Account 1

Reflective – Their account with meeting with Pam, their description (Paragraph 1) Feedback received on the essay (Paragraph 2) Reflecting that last year was a better year academically (Paragraph 3)

Becoming reflective – An action plan as how to improve to prevent returning to the same job (Paragraph 1) Going to Tim to have a look at his essays in order to improve theirs (Paragraph 2) Identifying that making the birth of the baby is the problem and an action plan is needed to work around this (Paragraph 3)

Account 2

In account 2 the problems are reflected upon earlier in the piece of writing. Identifies himself that actions need to be made in order to tell Angie of the struggles he’s facing. Clearly identifies that it was after the birth of the baby that problems started to arise. Agrees to meet with Tim and also considers referring to a study support worker for help.

I believe Account 2 demonstrated more reflection but not only reflection it also displayed action plans to each of the problems identified.

Account 3

Account 3 displays more reflection than Account 1 – In Account 3 he wrote down notes on how to improve essays (action plan). In Account 3 he also states that he will write a list of things that Pam requires from an essay now and work on them until they are achieved.

Reflective writing should identify the problems then follow through with an action plan. Problems should be throughly identified and the  plan of action should be well structured and carried through in order to improve.

My Personal Skills: Online Unit 1

B. Managing My Learning

Activity 1

Recognition/ Reflection Action
What helps my learning? How can I utilise this?
Example: “Discussing the topic with others”
  • Set up a study group of like-minded peers
  • Engage with the online community
Peer Assessment
  • Swap work with others to understand different perspectives
  • Critically analyse in order to develop knowledge on the topic
Approaching different learning styles
  • By adapting different learning styles I will be fully to engage with my learning. Through doing this I will also be able to stay motivated and concentrated in classes.
Target Setting
  • This will allow me to achieve my targets and plan what is required in order to do so.
Group work
  • Participate in collaborative learning this will allow ideas to be shared and knowledge to be gained.
Reading prior to lessons
  • Researching and reading up on any relevant information before classes that will help my understanding.
Note taking
  • By taking organised notes and keeping them in separate jotters for separate topics. These will be easily referred back to when needed later.
Recognition/Reflection Action
What hinders my learning? How can I address this factor?
Example: “I’m easily distracted”
  • Study in a place where distractions are minimal·
  • Read lecture notes before the lecture and then take notes lectures to keep me focused
Procrastination
  • When studying or taking notes make sure my phone is off and I am using my laptop for the right purpose
  • Do the normal things e.g – clean my room before I begin to study
Overworking
  • Set goals in sets so that I can achieve bit by bit rather than rushing everything to get it all finished.
  • Take regular breaks to ensure I stay focussed
Busy schedule
  • ·Create a study timetable around any commitments so that the work is still able to be completed
Stress
  • When I ask others which reading or tasks they have completed and I haven’t I panic.
  • I will begin to structure a plan of all the tasks that I need to complete
Self confidence
  • Build my confidence through various methods to ensure that I am able to particpate in all aspects of my learning
Lack of knowledge
  • ·No one can engage with questions on a topic they have never been familiar with before. This is why it is vital for background reading.