Category Archives: 3.4 Prof. Reflection & Commitment

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.

Virtues of Teaching

To me, teachers need a variety of different virtues and ethics to display themselves as professionals but also there for the pupils as a support unit.

The 5 virtues that stood out to me as being important to teaching were;

Compassion – We as teachers will be interacting with children from a range of different backgrounds. I believe that it is important for a teacher to be compassionate towards pupils so they can rely on you as a support unit which they may be lacking at home. It is also professional for a teacher to show compassion to show their class that they are in fact human.

Respect – I believe it is highly important for teachers to be respected by their class but also pay this respect back. If there is a mutual respect shared in the classroom then it will be a much better learning space. Children will look at the teacher as being a professional if respect is given.

aConscious – With primary school children there will always be playground arguments to deal with. In such situations, it is very important for a teacher to have a conscience to distinguish between which child is in the right and which child is in the wrong in order to resolve the problem.

Justice – I believe that it is important for a teacher to promote justice within the classroom. All children will feel that they are treated equally so are more likely to contribute to classwork, enjoy their learning and strive to do their best. This is an important value to encourage children to carry with them into later life also.

Empathy – Like compassion, I believe it is highly important if a teacher can bring themselves down to the level of the child to fully understand what they are feeling and how they can help.

Professionalism and the Online World

The GTCS professional guidance on social media and the way it is used in classrooms identifies the rise of social media’s power in todays education and the importance of the teacher introducing this to their pupils to enhance their learning.

aSocial media is infused with a number of different benefits including, when used correctly, it allows children a safe way to communicate with one another. They can, for example, talk to one another of what they learnt that day and build friendships. These interactions can build a child’s confidence in the way the approach their learning and immerses them in the digitised world from an early age, making them more aware of their surroundings as they develop.

I believe that teachers have a very important role in portraying the importance of social media to their pupils. I believe, in order to do this we, as the curriculum’s fresh faced teachers, must first marry the personal vs professional outlook to social media, ourselves. These days, children have the knowledge to make a few simple clicks and find their teachers on social media sites for example, Facebook.  To me, the way a professional, such as a teacher, displays themselves on these sites is vital. It is in the best interests for all teachers to adapt the private outlook to social media and ensure that everything accessible is of the correct content, privatised and displays themselves as a professional.

connecting-with-parents-onlineHowever, I do find that the digitised world lacks a space in which parents, pupils and teachers can work and correspond to one another cooperatively. The mainstream social media sites: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are too personal and can easily cause problems. However, the educational targeted social media sites e.g- Glow I feel, seems too educational and there is no way for pupil’s to express their likes, dislikes and include both the teachers and parents all at once. This would be an idea to take forward in the progression of the online world and digitised space we are exposed to as teachers.

I believe that a class teacher should propose a class blog. To which, all parents and pupils can contribute to. This would keep parents in the loop of their children’s education and homework. It would also allow the pupils to gain the skill of peer assessment through commenting on one another blog posts.

The media is infested with stories to prevent the use of social media in classrooms. From the misuse of certain websites on behalf of the teacher/pupils, to the wrong video link being displayed to the class. To me, these stories are only there to scare those wishing to embark into the digitised space. Instead of holding back because of the threats we should be embracing that sometimes mistakes do happen. Aren’t we encouraging children to not be scared and that mistakes are part of a healthy education? Then how can we do so if we too are afraid of embracing new learning technology?

aaWe should focus on encouraging pupils to embrace technology and enforce how to use it correctly. We can now set up links with classrooms worldwide which is a concept which excites me. Children can learn easily about different cultures and countries through conversing with classrooms worldwide.

I believe that we, as teachers, should be embracing social media/technology and using it to our advantage to strengthen our pupils’ knowledge of society in general. Instead of hiding away because of the very few problems that may arise from its use.

Gender Discrimination

For me, personally, gender discrimination was a big issue whilst growing up. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but since learning about Gender with Jill I realise how serious it can be.

aaI always loved football growing up. Ever since my dad dragged me along to my first Dundee match at the grand age of 4, I was hooked. I began to kick a ball about in the garden most days and when I got a little brother I though all my Christmases had come at once, someone I could beat. I went along to trail for a local boys team as I thought I would be given a chance. I was so wrong. The coaches only agreed to let me play for the team if I hid my hair, on match days, under a hat. This to me was sheer discrimination against my gender which forced me to play on a girls team my whole life. 

I have also experienced gender discrimination against a male. My Mum runs her own Highland Dance class and a boy Andrew has attended regularly for around 2 years. Andrew is subjected to bullying and constant name calling at school because of his interests in dance.

I think both scenarios are appalling and that gender discrimination should have been left in the past. I hope we as the fresh faced teachers of the new curriculum can help to change this in the future.