Monthly Archives: October 2015

Peer Review and Feedback

To get you thinking about the topic of peer review, watch the video below where children explain the different kinds of people and problems you might encounter during a feedback session.

This video shows that cooperation with others is an integral part of the feedback process. When reviewing a peer’s work it is important to be sensitive and realistic in your comments. However, there is a difference between being mean and being critical. Giving critical feedback to someone is one of the best things you can do as it helps them to appreciate where they might have gone wrong, allowing them to make changes and improvements for the next time.

A good method of feedback often used in schools is the ‘two stars and a wish’ approach. This is where the child has to comment on two things that their peer has done well (the stars) and an area that needs to be improved (the wish). However, as a teacher, it is important to encourage the children to look at the success criteria of the task and not focus on things like whether or not the title is underlined. This is because the children will have focused the majority of their attention on the aims outlined in the success criteria therefore, it makes sense to give praise or constructive feedback on these points.

From my experience it is always nice to get a positive piece of feedback that someone has really thought about. It doesn’t make me feel great if someone has just stated the obvious e.g. “You copied the title correctly” but rather that they have really taken time to point out exactly what was good about a certain area and why. In the same way I look forward to receiving a critical piece of feedback as it makes me want to do better the next time and helps the same mistakes from happening in the future.

In my own experience, I have found that people find it difficult to be critical because they are worried about it coming across the wrong way. I would rather have someone honestly saying where I have made a mistake than telling me that my work is perfect- because it never will be! This is why it is vital that there is a two-way understanding in peer review sessions that constructive criticism should not be taken to heart. It is always worth remembering that it is the work you have produced that is being given the feedback and not you as a person.

On the other hand, I also really enjoy giving feedback as I feel like I can help others to move forward in their learning. This will be vital as a teacher as, quite often, the marks are not nearly as relevant as the points of feedback given in order for a child to improve on their areas of weakness.

 

*EXTRA ADD-IN*: A couple of hours after writing this blog post, I came across an article on ‘The Guardian’ website about peer review which I thought I would just add to the bottom of this post.

http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/oct/28/why-peer-review-needs-a-good-going-over

 

Practitioner Enquiry- A Brief Insight

What is practitioner enquiry?Jack in the box

This image from the GTC Scotland website clearly shows that it is about practitioners engaging with teaching in a different way. It is very much about a continual learning process, where the teacher is responsible for furthering their own learning through continual research. This is a fairly new idea for teachers in Scottish schools; so why is it important?

Although it focuses on Australia, the video below is just as relevant to practitioners here in Scotland, as it highlights the importance of teachers and the role they play in schools.

As the video highlights, the best teachers are those who are the best learners. People who engage in current issues relating to education, and the world in general, are in a much better position to teach children about the world they are living in today. This gives the pupils a very relevant and diverse education, which enhances their learning in areas that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. It is clear that the best kinds of teachers are ones who take action.

All of the efforts that teachers put towards becoming a better enquiring practitioner should be relevant to providing their pupils with the best education they can. One of the biggest benefits of practitioner enquiry is that teachers can look further into particular topics and discover new ideas and theories behind these subjects. This will then enable them to make more elaborate, fun and engaging lesson plans and will allow them to continue on their learning journey beyond university.

A further bonus of practitioner enquiry is being able to talk about what you have learnt with a colleague and share new ideas and findings with one another. As one of the main challenges of this type of practice is feeling lonely or isolated, it is a great way of avoiding this situation. Another challenge might be if, during your research, your morals and beliefs are questioned or challenged. It may be that an idea you have never considered before causes you to take a completely new stance on a topic but this is not an easy shift to make.

As a professional, it is important to remember to use a variety of sources and not believe everything that one particular author has to say. A big part of practitioner enquiry is about asking questions. Why has the author taken this stance? What does this mean in relation to what I already know? How can I use this new knowledge to ensure that my pupils are getting the most out of my lessons?

As a student I think it will be important for me to remember to keep questioning my practice. It will be vital to do continual research to keep up with the fast pace world that we live in today. With massive advances in technology and the ever changing education system, I know just how important it will be to engage as an enquiring practitioner.

Reflections Reflection

thinking-15983588

I sat for a considerable amount of time just trying to get my head around the fact that I was about to write a reflection on the theme of ‘reflections’.

The word reflection can mean one of two things. When something is a reflection of another it provides a mirror image of what you are seeing. However, in this case I am referring to the act of reflection; the ‘doing’ as oppose to the ‘seeing’.This is when you step back from a situation and look at what went right, what went wrong and what you could do to make it better the next time.

The act of reflection is something which is being used more and more in the education system as it is seen as an important way for people to move forward in their learning journies. Is it worth doing a task if it isn’t followed by a time of reflection? Is it important to stop and think about what has been learnt? Is there anything that could have been done to make it better?

I think the answer is that reflection is a vital part of the learning process. From what I have understood it is a way of consolidating knowledge, learning something new and learning how to tackle problems to prevent them from occurring in the future.

The well known phrase ‘we learn from our mistakes’ is describing the act of reflection. Not only are we learning from our mistakes but we learn from our successes and repeat them in the future.

The act of reflection is often displayed as a circular diagram:

reflective-practice-diagram

This highlights that being able to reflect on a situation is very much about being in touch with your feelings.  This doesn’t mean that if something has made you feel sad you should sit and have a good moan. Reflection is about asking yourself why it has made you sad and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future. The same can be said for the positive; if something has made you happy, think about why that was and replicate it in the future.

The biggest question with reflection is ‘why?’. Although it is such a little word it can be a massive question. Why do things happen? Why has it gone well? Why has it not gone well? Why not? Why has it made me feel great? Why has it made me feel rubbish? Why do people not understand where I’m coming from? Why do I not understand where other people are coming from?

With so many questions, coming from one little word, you can see why it is important to stop and reflect. If all of these questions remained unanswered then there would be a tendency for people to get into arguments or become completely overwhelmed by a situation.

As someone who has always been very in touch with my feelings, I find that reflection is something which comes quite naturally to me. There will be many situations in life where we reflect on things and then change our actions as a result, without intentionally meaning to ‘reflect’ on the situation. For example if you bought some bananas from Tesco and then realised they were cheaper in Lidl, the next time you would buy them from Lidl because you have reflected on what mistake you made the first time and changed the outcome in the future.

I think it is important to actively reflect on teaching practice as it is the only way that we will grow as teachers, focusing on what works and learning from our mistakes.

Reflection on GTC Scotland Standards Section 1

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SPR section 1

Last week we took part in a workshop as part of the 1CM1 module, looking at professional values. Our main focus was the GTC Scotland Standards Section 1 (found in the above link). We started in our ‘home groups’ and then after being given a number we moved into our ‘expert groups’ where we talked in more depth about one particular area, before reporting back to our home groups. This is a task that I will definitely use as a teacher  for group work activities as it was a good way of breaking down a big topic but still being able to engage with the whole task.

The standards are split into five sections:

  • Social justice
  • Integrity
  • Trust and Respect
  • Professional Commitment

Although each section has a set criteria, we were encouraged to think about why these things are important and what they might look like in practice. As this is a key area which we will revisit throughout  our time as student teachers, but also once we enter the teaching profession, I thought I would share the ideas that our home group had about each section.

Social justice

  • It is important to ensure that pupils are aware of different regional and global lifestyles, cultures and traditions.
  • No child should feel singled out in the classroom.
  • Children should be made aware of the rights and responsibilities that they have as a child but also what these will look like when they are adults.
  • As a teacher it is important to look out for any issues that pupils may have and to ensure that these are treated sensitively.
  • Be aware that children come from different backgrounds and not everyone is at the same stage in their learning journey.
  • Make adaptable lesson plans so that they meet the needs of every child.

Integrity

  • As a student teacher it is important to seek help if you encounter a problem.
  • It’s important to see every pupils’ question as a serious one- even if it seems silly. You should always try and answer in as open and honest a way as possible.
  • Use your own experiences as well as your knowledge of how to act in a professional manner to be a good example to the pupils.
  • Don’t enforce beliefs or opinions on your pupils but encourage open discussions, giving the children the chance to ask questions.
  • See the potential in every child. Just because they have areas of weakness doesn’t mean they will always be weak in those areas.
  • Talk about being respectful and how what you say can hurt others. (e.g. name calling or phrases like “that’s so gay!”)

Trust and Respect (my expert group’s focus)

  • Mutual trust between pupils and teachers is key.
  • If there is good communication between pupils and teachers then they will gain each other’s trust. Pupils like to feel as though they are being heard.
  • It is important to respect other members of staff and members of the community to set a good example for your pupils to follow.
  • Make sure you have a good balance between fun a discipline in the classroom to maintain the respect of your pupils.
  • Being clear about what is appropriate behaviour in and outside the classroom is important so that pupils respect the rules which are ultimately be there for safety purposes.
  • Teaching good manners as simple as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ shows pupils how to respect others.
  • Being open to questions about different cultures and religions is important so that pupils respect each other’s differences.
  • Being aware of physical boundaries and individual school policies and remembering to act professionally at all times is vital as a respectful role model.
  • Letting the pupils be part of their own learning by having a saying in what and how they want to learn can build a good, trusting teacher-pupil relationship.

Professional Commitment

  • Be enthusiastic and make learning fun for the pupils wherever possible.
  • Work co-operatively with members of staff and other wider bodies of the community.
  • Take criticism productively and learn from your mistakes.
  • Be prepared for lessons and every day life as a professional teacher.
  • Keep a professional relationship with pupils and their parents at all times.
  • Maintain high standards for yourself so that you are leading by example.
  • Practise what you preach.

What is school really about?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/22/school-nick-gibb-term-time-holidays

Whilst reading through some articles on ‘The Guardian’ website I found something that I thought would be useful to share with you. This article states that ‘Schools Minister Nick Gibb’s lack of flexibility over term-time holidays is not in the interest of children’.

The article focuses on the topic of school holidays and whether or not parents should be allowed let their children be absent from school during term time. Something that really struck me was that Gibb had said,

“Children must turn up to school whatever the circumstances – maybe a day for a funeral here and there might be permissible, thanks, but no moping about grieving.”

The term ‘moping about‘ really angered me because it makes it sound like the loss of a loved one is something people should just get over immediately, when in fact these periods can be the most difficult time in any adult’s life never mind a child’s. Also that it ‘might‘ be permissible to be absent due to a funeral. I believe that if someone wants to say goodbye to someone dear to them by attending a funeral then nothing is more important.

This really made me question the purpose of the education system as it currently stands. The author of this article argues that school, including primary, ‘is no longer a way of rounding out a whole personality: it’s just a way of feeding the economic machine.’ Is it more important that a child is present in the classroom every single day or that they are given space to grow as a person in the best possible environment?

In my opinion it is vital that the whole child is taken into consideration. I’m not suggesting that children only go into school every second week but there are plenty of opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. If a child is really ill and can’t focus properly, is it really worth them coming into school and sharing the germs with the rest of the class and the teacher? I am a strong believer of the fact that everyone is unique and so something that works for one child might not work for another. If a child is really stressed and in need of some moral support then it should be the parent’s decision whether they are fit enough to attend school that day or not.

It is important to realise the potential of each child and that they are more likely to grow and develop as confident young people if they are not under the pressure of society.

A last point which really resonated with me was at the end of the article where the author has written,

“I don’t want my children to be food. I want them to be fed”.

I would love to hear your opinions on this discussion topic.

Professionalism- What makes someone a professional?

What makes someone a professional? This is a question that is debated by many but there are some key aspects of a professional that few people deny to be true. We imagine professionals to have a certain degree of integrity and moral courage. We expect them to be compassionate, kind, patient and honest, particularly in professions such as teaching. In our society there is an expectation for professionals to: show respect, have a degree of tolerance, know what it is to be just or fair, have a good conscience, show empathy towards others and have the ability to be self-controlled.

In terms of a primary teacher as a professional, the first attribute that usually comes to mind is kindness. As this profession is primarily based on working with children, there is a fair expectation that a primary teacher should be kind towards their pupils. Everyone responds better in a situation where kindness is shown and it is particularly important around young children as they can become easily offended or upset. As a teacher you are also a role model and so in showing kindness towards other people you will be setting a positive example for the children to follow. It would be seen as unprofessional to be unkind to a child, parent or colleague as there is the underlying expectation that primary teachers will have a kind manner about them. I think that this is an important attribute to possess as it means you will be working in a friendly and happy environment, as oppose to one where people are horrible to each other and spread rumours.

As well as kindness it is important that teachers can show compassion. There will always be situations in the classroom when this is a key attribute to possess. As children come from all different situations and backgrounds it is vital that primary teachers are able to show compassion in every area of the curriculum. However, it is important that the level of compassion shown is kept to a strictly professional manner. The teacher should never get too emotionally involved in a child’s life and in the same way should not let their personal lives interfere with their career. This is where it is important to show empathy but in a controlled environment. Any serious issues that arise should be discussed with the child’s parent or guardian.

Although a positive atmosphere is key in the classroom it is also important that a primary teacher has the ability to discipline their class. This requires the teacher to be fair. If a teacher is not fair then this can be seen as very unprofessional because they can be seen to be taking sides with different children. This would portray that one child’s ideas are better, or more correct, than the other and would probably make the child on the ‘teacher’s side’ very boisterous and the other would be likely to get upset. This takes a certain degree of tolerance and patience from the teacher as children can be very persistent in their arguments and unwilling to compromise. As a teacher it is seen as professionally correct to stay as neutral as possible in such situations, to not get personally involved in the situation and encourage the children to learn about solving their own differences.

All in all, it is important that a primary teacher should be an all round professional, possessing all of the attributes listed above.

What makes a teacher who makes a difference?

In my opinion, a teacher who makes a difference is someone who can inspire their learners by being committed to, and passionate about their subject. They work extra hours without being told to do so, to ensure that their lessons are fun, engaging and fulfilling for their pupils. You can always tell if a teacher loves their job because they will get so much out of day to day interactions and so will their class. It is the drive and motivation from these people that makes a difference as it encourages others to show the same enthusiasm and passion for learning.

Through personal experience, I can honestly say that my favourite teachers at school were the ones who consciously made the effort to make a difference and left a positive memory of my time in their classroom. These teachers were not necessarily the ones with the most knowledge about their subject but those who had the ability to make lessons fun and interactive but kept the class well disciplined at the same time. Particular examples that stick out in my head are the teachers who were not only good at giving lessons to a whole class but had the ability to speak to you on an individual basis, willing to listen and give constructive feedback if you were having a particular difficulty.

My favourite teachers wanted the best results for each individual and saw each person’s level of ability and personal goals as unique to them. These teachers made a difference in my life and they are people who I aim to be like, and I will no doubt remember them, above others, when I tell my own children about my time at school.