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Element 6- Teachers Continually Improve Their Professional Knowledge and Practice

                   

MILESTONES – ELEMENT #06

ELEMENT 6- TEACHER CONTINUALLY IMPROVE THEIR PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE

I believe that it important for teachers to continually reflect upon their professional knowledge and practice and refine their knowledge of pedagogy and teaching strategies. I believe that keeping a journal and writing down reflections of daily teaching is an effective way to keep a record of all the teaching experiences and observations taking place every day. With so much happening every day within the classroom environment, it is so easy to forget about the little things that go on. Therefore, by writing down thoughts and reflections, teachers will have a record of what is happening. This will be beneficial for future references. Reflecting on my own teaching practices will help me further assist my students’ learning as I gain a deeper insight into my own teaching practices (McInerney & McInerney, 2006, p. 27). My students are not the only people who are learning within the school community- I myself am also continuously learning and thinking, which will be a lifelong process (McInerney & McInerney, 2006, p. 27). Reflecting on my own teaching practices will also allow me to take full responsibility of my learning curve and professional development (Ewing et al, 2003, p. 160).

I have written a critical reflection on three sequential lessons which I implemented in my previous practicum last year. I have also completed a reflection portfolio from my Professional 1 experience, which I still find some information and observations relevant til today. During my previous practicum, I have also written a paragraph of reflection on each of my lesson.

I will engage in more collegial professional development. My role as a member of the professional team is to be supportive and encouraging, and to lend a helping hand to all my work colleagues when needed. I will continually develop professionally and independently, and I will take on board all the advice and critical feedback to further my development and teaching skills. I will keep up to date with the changes occurring within the development of education, including being up to date with changes being made to the NSW syllabus documents and other NSW curriculum requirements.

I need to also work with more teachers to build teamwork amongst my colleagues in an educational context. I am a huge advocate of cooperative group work in my teaching, and I think that I can this concept can be applied to the way I perceive my role as a member of a professional team. Working as a group, as a unit, is always stronger as there is extensive communication taking place between the members of the professional team. I do not want to place restrictions on my role as a teacher. I need to be open to taking on different roles and responsibilities within the school community.

EVIDENCE #1 FOR ELEMENT 6

RINGROSE PUBLIC SCHOOL- CRITICAL REFLECTION

Ringrose Public School is a primary school situated in the inner west of Sydney in the suburb of Greystanes. It is a school which has just under 300 students currently enrolled, making it a small and tight-knit community to work in for both staff members and the students. The school is set amongst well-maintained grounds, with spacious areas to accommodate for the large classrooms, a vast auditorium, a well-equipped library, and large outdoor play areas. With the school motto of “Honour Is My guide”, the school has a set of core beliefs which are adhered to by the staff and students. The five main themes of the core beliefs articulate the following: that the students are the focus of the school and that they will learn in a safe and happy environment which will foster their academic and social skills; that the staff will provide continuous and supportive guidance to help foster these skills; and that there will be ongoing and honest communication between the parents, the community members and the school.The school places significant emphasis on English, Maths, Science, and a developing Technology program. The significant programs and initiatives, however, are not only restricted to academic achievements, but there is also emphasis placed on the “Blue Earth” Physical skills program, and creative arts and Practical Arts Program. These diverse range of special programs and initiatives help cater for the students’ varied learning abilities and interests. Literacy time has students involved in different types of modelled, guided, and independent activities. It is a daily session where students are talking, listening, reading and writing to develop their literacy skills. During numeracy sessions, students work with concrete materials and games to understand maths concepts. Maths sessions involve students working individually, in groups, and as a whole class. Each class has a time slot dedicated to computer technology. During this time, students are able to work with computers and have access to the internet under supervision.                               The teachers and the support staff members at Ringrose Public are committed to foster a safe and happy environment for students to develop their learning and individual needs. This commitment is supported by the comprehensive involvement and participation of parents. The school recognises the importance of the partnership between the home and the school, therefore it encourages parents and caregivers to take an active role in their children’s education. Parent helpers are welcome to lend a helping hand in the classroom, and this includes taking over reading groups. My practicum class was 3/4R, and this consisted of 22 students in this class. There were 13 girls and 9 boys. Ten students were from year 3 and twelve students were from year 4. The three linked lessons that I chose to teach was from the creative arts unit of work called “Harmony”. This unit of work consisted of visual arts, dancing, drama, and music lessons. I chose to do two drama lessons, and one dance lesson- they all had the common theme of “Harmony”. The first lesson was a drama lesson which involved the students to use their improvisation skills. The second drama lesson involved the students to work in groups, and use the different clothing materials to come up with impersonations of people in society. The third dance lesson had the students work with 7 choreography moves to perform a movement phase for the whole class. The first lesson was called “Colour Harmony Movement”. At the beginning of the lesson, I played a simple game “What Colour Am I?” During this activity, the students helped me fill up the empty colour wheel by answering numerous questions that I had for them. Each question was associated with a particular colour of the colour wheel. The questions which I asked my students at the beginning of the lesson are classified as convergent questions. Convergent questions are questions which induce short answers, because they are information which has been recalled (Zevenbergen, Sullivan, & Mousley, 2001). For example, one of the questions asked was “I am a colour which can be found on the ‘Stop’ Sign- what colour am I?” There is obviously one answer that most students would think of. I acknowledge that teachers are encouraged to pose divergent questions to their students to allow them to provide a range of answers, and to encourage students to provide further explanations of their ideas. Divergent questions move students beyond superficial thinking, and engage the whole class in discussions (Zevenbergen et al., 2001). During the lesson, I also used divergent questions to stimulate my students’ train of thoughts. After each group of students performed their still image centralising around the colour that they were given, I asked them questions which targeted at the way that the colours made them feel. The open-ended questions that I asked the students during this part of the lesson allowed them to engage in higher order thinking, and got the students to use more metacognitive strategies such as reflecting.  I believe that as a teacher, I understand that the types of questions I use to enhance my students’ cognitive development is crucial. As a teacher, I want to be able to use the technique of questioning in an effective manner.  During the lesson, I used both convergent and divergent questions. This way, I engaged my students on a deeper level by utilising the various types of questions, rather than adhering to one specific type of questions. I planned ahead of most of the questions which I wanted to ask my students, because I find that when I’m unorganised, I use ineffective questioning techniques which means that I don’t have a clear direction of my lesson. Upon reflecting my first lesson of “Harmony”, I realised that I did not adhere precisely to my lesson plan. There were certain aspects of my lesson which I modified. For example, while I was conducting the introduction of the lesson, I realised that it was better for me to whisper to each group what particular colour that they had to do for their still image- this way, each group did not know what colour the other groups had. This was not detailed in my lesson plan, however it worked really well. All students were eager to guess what colour the other groups had, and all students were engaged in the activity. I’ve learnt that being a teacher, I need to be flexible and accommodate for modifications. During the second drama lesson, “Moving With Colour Harmony”, I divided the students into groups in a different way than I normally would. I did not allow the students to choose who they wanted to work with. Research shows that for skills activities, it is better if teachers choose the groups, while it is better for teachers to allow their students to pick their own groups for social activities (Mitchell, 2006). Rather than just place students in a group using numbers, I ordered them in terms of their birthdates. I got the students to line up in order of their birthdates, and this was an effective grouping method because it allowed the students to be active. I informed the students that they were to place themselves on the line in an orderly manner.  I noticed at first that the students did the task quietly, however by the end of it they all started getting restless. So I briskly went to the start of the line (the January section), and got each student to say out loud their birthdates to check if they were standing in the right spot or not. This made each student pay attention to what was happening, and settled them down pretty quickly. After confirming that every student was in the right place, I divided them into groups of four in respect to where they were standing. Reflecting on that move, I’ve realised that it would have been better if I had grouped the students by giving each student a different number along the line, and have the students with the same number be in the same group. I think that this would have gotten the students more interested and intrigued of how they were grouped, rather than just being separated by where they were standing. I think that group work activities are really effective, but only if they are conducted in the right manner. Cooperative group work allows students to work together to explore their ideas with others, and for them to listen to others’ ideas. Every member of each group had a designated role- there was one student who was the reporter, one student who collected the clothing materials needed for their performance, one student who was the timekeeper and one student who was the group organiser and who kept everyone on track. When each student has a specific role, this worked successfully because each student had a responsibility to fulfil. This way, no one was getting restless. Everyone had a goal that they were working towards. High levels of interactions occur within cooperative group work, and students are often working towards a shared goal (Murdoch & Wilson, 2004). While the students were working collaboratively, I realised that the level of communication was high. There are many benefits associated with cooperative group work. This includes boosting the students’ self esteem, because they feel like they are part of a team. Students are given more responsibilities when they work in groups because when they let themselves down, they are also letting down their team mates. A disadvantage associated with group work is that students may not have equal contribution. However, I believe that that’s where designated roles come into practise. With every student having a specific role, this will allow the students to stay on task. After each group performed their drama piece, I directed divergent questions at the students- “How did you work as a group? Were there any conflicts, and if there was, how did you resolve it?” This allowed the students to evaluate how they cooperated as a group. The third lesson was a dance lesson called “Harmony of movements, and contrast of movements”. During this lesson, an issue which came up was that there were certain students who did not feel comfortable about expressing themselves through the action of movements. I noticed that when these students were given particular movements to perform, they did these with ease. However, when they were given the opportunity to come up with their own harmonious and contrasting movement phase, certain students were uncomfortable with this. On the other hand, there were students who did dancing as an extra-curriculum activity, therefore they accommodated quite well with coming up with a movement phase which incorporated the 7 choreographic instructions. My role as a teacher is to develop my students’ physical and social skills to my optimum level, and to use the knowledge I have about my students to make my teaching more effective. When I realised that there were students who were uncomfortable with the idea of “dancing”, I gathered the class together again and explained to them that dancing is not only about moving their bodies to music, and it is not only about dancing like what they see on “Dancing with The Stars”. I explained to the students that people move their body parts every single day, and it is through body movements that people can express what they feel. Dancing involves moving body parts as an expression of emotions, therefore learning about body language is important for students to understand at times how people are feeling. When I explained that to the students, the ones who initially felt uncomfortable with the thought of “dancing” became more involved with making their movement phase. However, there were still some reservations. Every student is different in the classroom, and the rate of each student’s development of physical and social skills vary within the classroom settings. I think the effective aspect about how I dealt with the issue is that I encouraged my students to view “dancing” in a different perspective, rather than just overlook their reservations.  

REFERENCE LIST

Mitchell, G. (2006). “Student Grouping: for high performance in mainstream classrooms”,             Classroom, 1, 2006, pp. 12-13.  

Murdoch, K., & Wilson, J. (2004). How to succeed with cooperative learning. Carlton South,            Curriculum Corporation.

Zevenbergen, R., Sullivan, P., & Mousley, J. (2001). Open ended tasks and barriers to learning: Teachers’ perspectives. In APMC 6(1), 4-9.  

 PURPLE – 6.1.1 Demonstrate a capacity to reflect critically on and improve teaching practice. I analysed that I used both types of questioning techniques for different contexts. I was still able to use convergent questions effectively.

I was also able to adapt my lesson when I realised that not all students may be comfortable with the act of dancing and moving their bodies. This shows that I am modifying my teaching strategy to accommodate for my students’ learning.

 In terms of my grouping technique, I acknowledged that I could have done it more effectively , hence I came up with a better suggestion for next time if I was to use the “Birth date” method again. This shows that I am able to critically reflect upon my teaching practice and that I am taking responsibility of my own professional development.

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