Reflective teachers need to reflect on their

Reflective
teaching is a process where teachers consider and analysis different aspects of
their teaching practice. According to Richards, reflection ‘refers to an
activity or process in which an experience is recalled considered, and
evaluated.’ (1998, p. 21)  Bartlet states
that to become a reflective teacher, a teacher must go ‘beyond a primary
concern with instructional techniques and “how to” questions and asking “what”
and “why” questions that regard instructions and managerial techniques not as ends
in themselves, but as part of broader educational purposes.'(Bartlet as cited
by Ahmed, Cane, & Hanzala ? 2011, p. 70).

It
is essential that teachers reflect on the different areas of their teaching
such as what they do in the classroom, why they do what they do, asking
themselves did it work and how could their practice be improved to achieve learning
outcomes, to improve as teachers as well as improving the learning for their
students.  A contemplative approach gives
educators a precise, structured plan of ‘collecting, recording and analysing
their thoughts and observations, as well as those of their students, and
then going on to making changes.’ (Tice, 2004) 

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            There are many reason why teacher
should reflect on their teaching. One of the main reasons is that teaching is
all about life-long learning and improvement. As the world changes so does
education. Therefore, teachers must keep up to date with the latest methods and
approaches. Also, if teachers do not analysis and assess on their teaching,
they cannot improve it. 

Brookfield
(1995) argues that another reason teachers need to reflect on their teaching is
because it gives them an awareness about their students as well as insight into
their needs and abilities. Each student is different and as a result each
classroom is different. Teachers must see their practice through the eyes of
their students. Brookfield states that: ‘Of all the pedagogic tasks teachers
face, getting inside students’ heads is one of the trickiest. It’s also one of
the most crucial.’ (2017, p. 92)

            Over the last two years of the
Professional Masters in Education, active learning has been promoted over
passive learning. Teachers must model this new concept. It is believed that if
teachers use the reflective approach, it will make it easier to use reflection
with their students. By students scrutinising and assessing their own work,
this will help them improve their learning as well as allow them to become more
independent learners. These are key skills in active learning.

             One of the most popular ways to reflect on
teaching practice is writing a reflective journal. Over a six week period, I
taught my first year students about the Romans. During this time, I wrote a
journal detailing my observations and evaluating my lessons. In this
assignment, I will outline my reflections

To
put my reflections into context, I have worked in two very different schools.
Last year I worked in a DEIS school and this year I work in a voluntary
secondary school.  Both school are in an
affluent area of Dublin. Last year, I taught all boys while this year I am
teaching all girls. The boys had a more laid back approach to learning while
the girls are very motivated and eager to learn.  

Noessel
(2003) states that students’ needs are represented by the difference between what
the learner wants to achieve from the ‘learning experience and their current
state of knowledge, skill, and enthusiasm.’ (Noesel as cited by
Churchill, Lu, Chiu & Fox, 2015, p. 88) It is important to
identify learners’ needs because it helps the teachers with learner placement,
developing materials and teaching methods.

Assessing
the needs of students is something I need to work on. In the school this year,
there is a great resource teacher who is well-organised. There is a folder on
the computer with a list of all the students’ needs and their difficulties
which is updated regularly. This has been very useful because it has helped me
when differentiating my lessons. Petty has defined differentiation as ‘the
process by which differences between learners are accommodated so that all
students in a group have the best possible chance of learning.’ (Geoff Petty as
cited by Brighouse & Woods, 2013, p. 36) In my first year group, there is
one student with a learning difficulty. One way that I differentiate for her,
in the classroom, is by giving her easier resources to the rest of the class.
For example, I used a secondary source which had been rewritten into simpler
language for her. It contained the same information but at the level she could
comprehend. As there is assigned seats, I was able to put her differentiated
worksheet in the pile and hand it out with the rest of the groups. Also,
students were working individually so no other students saw that she had a
different sheet. It worked well as she answered all the questions and did not
copy of other students as she had done previously.

Another
way that I differentiate is by appealing to different learning styles. Gardner
(1983) argued that everyone has multiple intelligences.  He believed that different parts of the brain
contained different intelligences which worked either independently or in
tandem. For him, there were nine intelligences such as verbal-linguistic,
visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic as well as interpersonal and intrapersonal
intelligences.

When
I am planning my lessons, I try to include as many of these intelligences as
possible. For example, when we were studying the Romans, I used a lot of
visuals such as paintings, mosaics, drawing of the houses, videos, cartoon
pictures, maps. For example, I used mosaics with different
pictures of fruits and animals to talk about the food that Romans ate.
Additionally, I use different colours when writing on the whiteboard. In my
power-point presentations, I highlight the keywords with different colours. I get
students to make mind-maps on topic individually and working in groups
combining all their ideas. This appeals to visuals learners.

When
assessing their learning, I use thumbs up, thumbs down or I sometimes get them
to stand up, sit down. I also do roleplays, projects and make models. This is
for bodily-kinaesthetic learner. I also plan for verbal linguistic learners by
planning group discussions, giving worksheets, playing word games and asking questions.
I try to do pair-work and group work with the students. This appeals to interpersonal
learners. Students sometimes work individually. I also try to connect the
topics to the students’ personal lives where possible and also assess their
prior knowledge of a topic. This appeals to the intrapersonal learners.

For
example, when we were discussing the types of Roman houses, I used a cartoon
picture of the interior of a Roman insula with a street scene as well. It was a
good picture as it had a lot going all in it. I had evaluated it to make sure
it covered all points I wanted to cover. I asked students to write down
everything they saw after giving them a minute to examine the picture individually.
After this, I asked students to compare what they had written down in pairs. I
drew a mind-map on the whiteboard with their observations. I elicited any
information which the students did not pick up on. For homework, I asked the
students to make a model of an insula made of lollipop sticks and cardboard. By
doing this, I used a number of strategies that appealed to different learning
intelligences such as visual, verbal-linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonal
and bodily-kinaesthetic. The students were engaged throughout as they responded
well to questions and they asked questions. When I assessed their learning, a
good amount of learning was achieved.

There
are many different strategies which can be used to support a students’
learning. Some of the strategies I have used are flashcards, exit slips, mind-mapping,
and graphic organisers

            Flashcards can be a very useful
strategy to help students of history. They are a good method to consolidate and
reinforce your knowledge. I ask my students to make flashcards as they are
learning the topic. They write down the key terms and a short explanation on the
other side. Ebbinghaus (1885) had a theory called ‘forgetting curve’ in which
he stated that the most memory is within the two hours of memorising the information.  For excellent recall, one must review the
information within the first two hours, after this one must review the
information after a day, then week later, a month later and finally three to
six months later (Ebbinghaus as cited by O’Brien, 2016). I shared this
technique with my students who memorise a lot of the information. This is unlike
the boys I taught last year who put all the information into their own words.

            Exit slips are a good method for
students to reflect on what they have learnt. At the end of class, I give
students prompts such as write down one thing you have learnt, one thing you
found difficult, one thing that you easy, and one thing you would like to know
more about. However, I do not always use this technique effectively as I do not
always leave enough time for students to fully reflect. Because of this,
students do not give detailed answers and also they say that they do not find
anything difficult. This might be true but with more with thought maybe they
could find something. Also, some of the students call out or chat when doing
this and it is not effective. It worked better towards the end of the year
because I gave them more time to reflect and the boys did not talk during it.

            Mind-mapping is good strategy for assessing
learning. They are a good way to visually convey ideas and see what information
they have gained. There are a number of benefits to using mind-mapping in the
classroom such as they can help recall information better, and with high order
processing. Two challenges I found with my students were they had little
experience with using mind-maps and they felt uncomfortable with the non-linear
way that the information was structured. I found these two challenges with my
second year class. Having this experience, I introduced the idea of
mind-mapping well conveying the benefits. I was surprised how well the class
took on the idea and how enthusiastic they were to start.

I
wanted to use a mind-map to assess their knowledge after learning about the
Romans. Firstly, I asked my students to create a mind-map individually with a
few prompts. Then, I put my students into groups of three to compare their
mind-maps. Then, I asked students to create a big mind-map which encompassed their
ideas on big A3 size paper. I asked the art teacher for art supplies such as
scissors, markers, colouring pencils, glue and white paper. The students were
very enthusiastic. After we were finished the class they asked if they could
continue making them in the next class. It also helped students develop their
spatial awareness as they had to decide how they would organise the
information. I had a rubric which I worked off to assess their mind-maps. By
doing individual mind-maps, I could take them up and assess the students
individually which gave me a better gauge of the information they absorbed.

            Graphic organisers are useful for
learning as it gives students ‘a scaffold the development of ideas and
construction of knowledge’ (PDST, 2008) It can be used as a form of formative
assessment. For example, I used the placemat graphic organiser when I was
getting students to make a menu after discussing the food eaten by romans. I
put students into groups of four. Each student made their own mini version of a
menu and then had to make one definitive menu in the middle. It worked well.
The students debated and gave reasons why they should use one food other
another. In the end each group presented their menus to the class and each
group voted for the best menu. This added an element of competition. I did this
menu with my students last year. I asked students to make a menu using a normal
worksheet for homework. They did not put much effort into it.

Over
the last two years, I have used a number of different resources such as video
clips, images, worksheets, power-points, and Ted Talks. Some were more
successful than others. Some worked better with the boys and other with the
girls.

            Video clips are very useful when
teaching and learning. They are an excellent way of engaging students in a
topic. Video clips need to be watched with a purpose. I have learnt that
students should always have a question(s) to answer when watching the film and
that video clips should be short, between three and five minutes is best. For
example, I showed my class a video clip on a chariot race from Ancient Rome. It
was two minutes long. I prepared a worksheet with three questions such as how
many teams are there and what colour is each team. This keep the students
focused and engaged as the students were attentive watching and each student
wrote down an answer. After correcting the answers, I used the video clip to
make other points. I also used video clip of roman soldier fighting the Gauls
as a hook to engage students when I was introducing the topic of Roman
soldiers. Last year, I used the same clip. My supervisor told me to use the
clip at the end of the class to check for learning.  I took her advice and paused it in different
places to ask questions. It worked well and evidence of learning was found.

            I used a number of different
worksheets. Some of them I found on TES and other I made myself. For example, I
was used a map of the Roman Empire. I asked the students to name eight of
countries which the Romans occupied and for homework, I asked students to
colour in the map with all the roman territories. This year, it worked much
better as I had numbered the countries and did not ask students to colour in
the map. This activity was much faster. Last year, the colouring of the map
took a long time and there was confusion over how to organise the countries
named and each students named different countries which was harder to correct.

I
have used many different teaching methodologies. To settle the students before
taking the roll, I usually ask students to write down three things they learnt
from the last class or to brainstorm all the information they remember from the
last class. I use power point presentations to present information or show
visuals. I also ask students questions. I get students to work in pairs or
group work.

I
have found the history special method lectures invaluable. For me one of the
most valuable parts of the lectures was when the lecturer gave practical ways
to teach the context. It gave me good ideas of how to introduce topics and the
confidence to be more creative when planning. Also, what I found beneficial was
selecting visual images. In the past, I used limited images. The lecturer
showed us images with were rich in imagery I could use in the classroom. By
googling these images, I found website with gave artist’s impressions of
ancient Ireland which was very beneficial for other classes.

I
also learnt that questions and questioning is a very significant part of
teaching. There are two types of questions that we use in the classroom, lower
cognitive and higher cognitive questions. Questions are important because it
drives the learning, encourages engagement and motivation and develops critical
thinking. I need to use higher ordered questions more rather than just using
lower ordered questions. And also, I need to plan my questions better as well
as give more thinking time to the students.

In
conclusion, reflection is an important tool for both teachers and student.
Teachers must reflect to help improve their teaching. Students who reflect can
improve their learning because it shows them the areas weakest at. While active
learning can be scary for teachers, it is very important for students so they
can develop their critical thinking skills and help them to take responsibility
for their learning.  By reflecting for
this assignment, it has made me more aware of the areas I am comfortable with
and the areas that I need to improve on. Overall, my teaching is a work in
progress but I feel with more experience and reflecting I have the potential to
be a good teacher.