Category Archives: My educational philosophy

Peer Review- TDT Part 2

I really enjoyed receiving peer feedback on my original post titled ‘what is it to be an enquiring practitioner?’ The comments made by my colleagues were both positive and insightful, but at the same time very constructively critical.

It was the consensus of the comments that I could’ve gone into more detail in providing examples of the positives and negatives regarding being an enquiring practitioner. Prior to the comments, I hadn’t registered the fact that I needed to go deeper to really answer the question fully. Having this highlighted to me was one of the most beneficial aspects of this task.

In terms of providing feedback, I really appreciated the opportunity to read my colleagues work and see how others answered the question. Each post that I read took a slightly different approach from the next and had a unique attitude. This was really interesting and I think I will continue to use this technique to learn from my colleagues in the future.

I feel that this has been a useful task in drawing attention to the benefits of peer review. Where previously I wouldn’t have been particularly positive regarding the advantages to performing such a task, I feel that because the comments made by my peers really helped me to notice the weaknesses in my writing I will be far more inclined to continue using peer review as I continue my professional development.

What can we learn from other professionals?

Working in a professional manor is something that is far from limited to the teaching career. Consistently displaying respectable professional attributes, behaviour and good conduct are paramount aspects of many lines of work. This is effectively communicated when watching ‘One Born Every Minute’- a programme following specific stories of a hospitals delivery suite.

Throughout the entire programme the various professionals involved during the birth of a baby- including nurses, midwives and birth specialists- displayed a number of noticeable professional skills. For example, each member exhibited an obvious level of concern and care for their patients. They helped to keep the people in their care as relaxed and peaceful as possible by using calming language and maintaining a consistent qualified and well practiced demeanour. Through remaining relaxed and in control of the situation, particularly throughout difficult situations, they displayed great levels of expertise and experience for their given speciality. They showed skills in assessing each patient as an individual and what the best form of treatment would be for that situation and person, treating each individual with respect and in high esteem- exactly as one should. Each person dressed both respectably and appropriately whilst still managing to express individuality and personality- for example, by wearing a Hijab.

I felt that throughout the entire programme everyone involved displayed professionalism. Consequently, even when patients were going through an intensely distressing time, they were kept up to date and constantly aware of what was going on. I can only imagine this helped to make a truly horrible experience as easy as possible considering the beyond difficult circumstances. For me, this has really emphasised that having a strong level of knowledge and expertise is closely linked to behaving professionally.

Considering this, I feel that my attitude towards how different learning styles should be prioritised throughout a degree has changed. Where I still believe that practical based training should play a massive part of learning, I understand in a much clearer way that performing background reading and attending lectures is also vitally important. Without knowledge and a clear understanding of your profession, how do you expect to behave with integrity and in a way that demands respect?

Alongside the impressive behaviour of the professionals throughout the programme, I also particularly liked when the camera focused briefly on a man cleaning the corridor of the ward. I felt that this discreetly highlighted the need for all professionals to work together and successfully for operations to run smoothly.

Through watching this programme with a critical eye, I first and foremost feel that I have a renewed sense of respect for professionals. Throughout my studies, I want to remember how impressive it is to behave in a way that displays true proficiency and expertise. I want to be a teacher that not only works as an efficient educator, but as a role model for each of my pupils.

What does it mean to reflect?

Through reading over unit 3 of the online modules my understanding of what it means to write reflectively has definitely improved. Previously when I considered the word ‘reflection’, I thought it to solely mean ‘to look back on’. I hadn’t contemplated the idea that when writing essays, it has a heavier meaning.

However, I now feel that I understand the importance of identifying where it was that I went wrong and how to increase my understanding of any given topic when reflecting. I appreciate the significance of understanding feedback and how to apply it in the future. In the past I have found it difficult to fully accept critical feedback when I’ve put 100% effort into a piece of work. However as I gain more experience and practice, I welcome that this is a huge part of learning and developing both as a person and a professional.

What is it to be an enquiring practitioner?

To be an enquiring practitioner is to ‘find out or investigate with a rationale approach that can be explained or defended’, as defined by Menter et al (2011). In other words, being an enquiring practitioner is performing the continual act of research and reflection in order to positively impact a pupil’s academic experience.

It’s my understanding that enquiring practice is an act performed by professionals, either individually or collaboratively, where time is set aside to analyse the systems in current use and see if there is any room for development. It’s easy to get ‘stuck in your ways’ both in a professional and a personal sense. But through performing constant critical reflection we create opportunities to identify areas of work that are in need of improving.

This- a continual attempt to progress forward- is an obvious benefit to being an enquiring practitioner. However there are, of course, challenges that come with it too. For example, there is always the potential for difficulties to arise when performing collaborative work; misunderstandings between group members, lack of motivation, differences in learning styles etc.

As a student teacher, I understand that being an enquiring practitioner is going to be an integral part of my new profession. I hope that being aware of its meaning and the benefits of integrating it into my day-to-day professional practice will allow me to fully participate and make the most of the skills that come along with it.

Is it time for a shake up?

One of the most thought provoking podcasts I’ve listened to since coming to study Education at university was one by a Sir Ken Robinson, a man who along side other things acts as an international adviser of education. During a talk titled ‘changing educations paradigms’, he compares our current education system to that of a working ‘factory’. He comments on the idea that we are still using a system designed for a completely different era to that of which we’re experiencing now- the industrial revolution- and he asks the relevant question of ‘why is it we put our children through education by their age?’ In reference to this he states ‘it’s almost like the date of their manufacture is the most important thing we have to consider!’ and for me, it was this that sparked a personal revolution in the way I view our year groups in this country.

Although it seems natural to accept the fact that different children learn at different speeds and therefor achieve milestones at different points both academically and emotionally, I’ve never considered that our education system should model this truth. Up until recently, having only ever experienced the Scottish education system, it seemed only natural to me to go through school along side children my own age. However during my year teaching in west Africa, I was exposed to another style of ‘streaming’; each year group varied in size, ability and age. Initially this struck me as being disorganised and made it even harder to set appropriate work for the whole class. However upon reflection, and considering Sir Robinson’s comments, this idea of children being grouped together by something as meaningless as age seems more and more bizarre.

Perhaps it is time to shake up the way we educate our children. As Sir Robinson states, we’re no longer living in times of industrial revolution. Does that mean our whole education system is obsolete? However if we were to stop putting children through school with their peers, would that potentially create a void for social development…would it create a system where the ‘more able’ children excelled but the ‘less academic’ were left behind?

Should our personal online presence merge with our professional one?

After reading the GTCS code regarding safe use of social media as a teacher, my initial thoughts are that everything stated in the guidelines are both fair and just. I feel that the quote at the start of the guidelines sum up perfectly the over arching issue of why it is important to take the use of social media seriously; ‘Maintaining the public’s trust in the individual teacher and in teaching as a profession sits at the heart of being fit to teach, and this can be undermined not only by behaviour occurring in a teacher’s professional life, but also within their private life, including activity online.’

I’ve come to learn that how one presents themselves online is vitally important. I think it’s easy to forget how quickly others can judge your identity solely down to what they see on the Internet. For example, when working for a local company in my hometown, it was brought to my attention that the employers first looked through the Facebook of each and every prospective employee before even inviting them to interview for a post. It was at this point that I registered how important it is to keep my online persona as real and true to myself as possible and I started to evaluate everything I did online with a new vigilance.

It’s through understanding the weight and importance of maintaining a professional online appearance that leads me to believe I, at least initially, won’t be marrying my professional and private presence on social media. I am of course without doubt that social media and resources found on the Internet have a well-deserved place in the classroom when used appropriately, but I am yet to see the benefit of merging your personal and professional image online.

Where in some situations it might be appropriate e.g. using one’s Twitter account to share information related to their work etc, I feel that generally speaking merging your professional and personal activity online unnecessarily exposes you to a number of challenges as a professional that you might not be faced with otherwise. Through experience, I am very aware of how easy it is to be misinterpreted online and to have your intentions completely lost in a muddle of misconceptions. I would imagine that for this to happen in a professional environment- and as a result to have you fitness to teach queried- could potentially be extremely damaging to both your professional and your self image.

However regardless of what I believe in terms of using my private social media for professional use, I am fully aware that social media will be used in the classroom. And I believe that it should be! With social media playing such a massive part in the lives of pupils, parents and in our social culture, I believe it would be catastrophic for educators to ignore the movement online and not to embrace the developments. Therefore, I think it is vitally important to have an understanding of how to be a professional online so that both qualified and perspective teachers know exactly where they stand in this new and advancing online world. In fact, this is absolutely necessary when it comes to equipping not only ourselves, but our children, to navigate this potential mind field. I feel that the fact that GTCS have outlined specific guidelines for this issue sufficiently highlights the relevance of understanding how to have a professional presence in the online world and that the penultimate section in particular, ‘how can teachers minimise risk when using electronic communication and social networking?’ helps to make it clear how to avoid having issues in this area.

I look forward to the challenges ahead regarding my role as a teacher. However, I believe there is vast importance in equipping oneself to be able to avoid unnecessary battles, and being well versed in how to maintain a professional image online seems like the perfect place to start.

Why teaching?

When I was 16 I was desperate to leave school. I felt that I had ‘outgrown’ the education system and wanted to experience something completely new and different. Instead of studying, I found myself researching all the different things I could be doing with my time instead of being in school. I was quickly drawn to all the various overseas projects offered to under 18 year olds. In particular, one charity encouraged me to believe that I could use the education I’d already been given to benefit someone who didn’t have access to the sort of information that I had. And that really appealed to me. So the more I researched and the more I read about the opportunities I had access to, the more appealing the thought of leaving school and becoming a volunteer became. So as soon as I finished my Highers I immediately applied for a 12 month placement working in an impoverished jungle village in West Africa.

I was almost completely ignorant to the responsibilities I would have as a volunteer teacher, and even more so to the challenges that this would bring. However I slowly became more and more involved in the local primary school and as a result became more attached to the kids. As I got to know the local primary school teachers better, they became more and more willing to give me different responsibilities within the school. Naturally, the more time and effort I invested into my teaching role the more I gained from the experience and over the course of the year, I began to realise what a unique opportunity it is to be a teacher. As I watched different classes and how different teachers worked, it became evident to me that your influence as a teacher into a child’s life can go well beyond the classroom. And I wanted to be a part of that!

After spending this year working alongside qualified teachers but with no actual training myself, I decided that I really wanted to continue this journey, return home and gain the necessary skills and training that I needed to enable me to become a ‘proper teacher’. Through watching different professionals, both at my home primary school and in Lolobi Ashiambi, I’ve gained an understanding of what it looks like to create an exciting learning environment within a classroom and the profound impact that that can have on a child’s life. And now I find myself striving to become a teacher that does this every day, and I can’t wait!