Evidence of Continually Improving Practice
This piece of evidence illustrates my ability to critically reflect on my practice. This reflection was written after a COGS lesson conducted with a challenging stage three class. Following this reflection I was able to improve and alter my practice for the remaining lessons in the unit.
Critical Reflection (5/11/08)
During this lesson, students were placed in mixed ability groups to timeline a piece of text. This grouping strategy was chosen to facilitate peer tutoring between extension students and students with learning needs. Furthermore, I wished to encourage interaction between different groups of students. According to Puchner (2003) this is a worthwhile strategy because tutoring by students for other students, whether implicit or explicit is beneficial to both the tutor and the tutee (pp. 3-4). By the time this lesson was conducted, I had enough knowledge of class members to place students in appropriate groups. Taking into account both learning and behavioural issues, I possessed enough information to know which students would “trigger” other students, and thus avoided placing these individuals together. Overall, students worked satisfactorily in these groups, however this was most likely due to the lesson being conducted in the morning session, where students are more settled.
During the task, one student who has been identified as IO did not cope with the social nature of the group situation. A brief conference with the cooperating teacher, led to the creation of a “teacher’s group” which allowed me to monitor the progress of this student, ensure he felt comfortable and that his contributions were considered. While this “band-aid” approach to the situation served its purpose, it did not allow me to closely monitor the other students. Until this student becomes comfortable working in group situations I made the decision to conduct more work in pairs (as evidenced in the latter lessons), and slowly guide the student towards increased group work. Dufficy (2005) affirms this decision, stating that students with additional learning needs must be slowly exposed to group learning situations (pp. 46-50).
According to Dufficy (2002), student talk time is often not equitably distributed in a whole class setting, with students from a non-English speaking background often talking the least (in Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2003, pp. 242-243). Thus when placing students in mixed ability groups I realized the additional benefit of enabling the ESL students in the class to further develop their oral skills in response to more sophisticated problems.
Unlike previous groups of students whom I have worked with, this class requires a lot of modeling and structure in their group work, as it is fairly foreign to them. Upon examination of a number of lessons from this practicum, I realize that students may have benefited from group icebreakers in my initial lessons. This would have made the transition into increased group work less daunting for some students. While initial formation of groups and use of strategies proved challenging, the engagement and motivation of students, made the process worthwhile.
Jessica Coughlan, 2009