Critical Reflection Essay on Philosophy

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This review of the literature has led me to my research question. “Knowing that motivation, growth mindset, and expectations link to success, how can teachers integrate early opportunities for success into units of work to build confidence whilst also encouraging self-reflection? I feel that this question is particularly relevant to my setting as I perceive a lack of resilience and high expectations as a key barrier to success in my pupils. The studies I have considered have allowed me to reflect on units of work from the start of my teaching career to reflect on why there was success and what I need to reproduce in the future to ensure continued development. Most importantly, I believe that in attempting to answer this question I will be able to improve the impact of my practice to accelerate pupil progress.

This relates to my emerging pragmatist philosophy because I see the core of pragmatism as being the teacher as a facilitator. Tan’s ‘Critical Perspectives on Education (2006) states that “The ideal teacher for the pragmatists helps the students to grow by empowering them with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to make intelligent decisions in life” I believe this aligns with my own emerging philosophy as it highlights the importance of being empowered by one’s education and how this will lead to success later in life. Moreover, in my setting, this empowerment serves to counteract the lack of cultural capital that I have observed to be an intrinsic barrier to learning. Tan also says that through working collaboratively to problem solve students will learn to direct the course of their own lives by finding “effective, meaningful and satisfying” ways to deal with the world.

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Methodology

To answer my research question, it is helpful to reflect on the studies surrounding my research question about a specific unit of work. This will enable me to carefully consider whether I have seen evidence to support or conflict with the findings in my practice and classroom. It is striking how many of the implications from the studies need to be embedded in the early stages of learning to allow for the best impact.

Reflection against specific units of work or classroom practice allows for critical reflection rather than just surface analysis. There are many reflective models which can be used to facilitate critical reflection. These models encourage a deeper level of reflection thus, making the time spent most beneficial. Critical reflection is different from diagnostic reflection in that it additionally prompts a discussion of the reflection’s implications on practice i.e. what it means for the person who is reflecting and how it will change what they do day to day.

The model which I prefer is ‘What, So What, Now What”. This model was initially developed by Rolfe et al. (2001). It is one of the more simplistic models for reflection, as a naturally reflective person this is appropriate for my needs as it serves as a consistent framework without becoming inefficient and therefore less effective overall.

According to Poulson and Wallace (2003) “The more you learn to be critical, the more you take responsibility for your academic learning actively and efforts to inform your own and others' practice”. Ultimately, the more effective your reflection the more likely you are to improve in your field. As educators, classroom practice develops cyclically and often at a high pace, and therefore taking time to step back offers an opportunity to think in depth about why things have or have not been a success to make improvements as necessary.

Ethics

When researching, it is vital to consider the ethical implications of your work so that any potential harm is minimized when attempting to gain an understanding of the topic at hand. I have referred to the BERA (2018) guidelines to ensure that my research has met the appropriate standards of ethics.

I have sought consent to be able to submit Appendix A as part of this research. In this case, I was given consent by my school and pupil to use the pupil work and flipcharts from the learning journey discussed.

I have anonymized the school in the description of my setting and have also anonymized the examples of work I have included in Appendix A. This is to protect and show respect for the privacy of my school and its staff and pupils.

I have ensured that to my knowledge all previous research I have reviewed has been correctly referenced and credited, This supports my fulfillment of the ‘Responsibilities to the community of educational researchers’.

I have aimed to make my critical reflection fair and professional. This work is not my own and must be acknowledged and such as per the (2008) Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines “all sources should be disclosed”.

Analysis and Critical Reflection

In a recent unit on persuasive writing, my pupils were asked to come up with an advertisement for a newly launched chocolate bar. All of the children were successful in this unit, meeting the success criteria and producing a piece of work they were proud of. I saw the main reason for the success of this topic to be the shared excitement (positive emotions) for the work and the scaffolding that was given to support the children when developing their outcomes.

Below, I will critically reflect on the delivery of and outcomes from this unit of work. I will also reflect on how my pedagogical approaches empowered and motivated students to succeed. I will use the What, So What, Now What model for this reflection. I will use this model three times to critically reflect on the three key areas that I saw as being intrinsic to the successful outcomes of my pupils.

The first critical reflection will be on the impacts of including children in the setting of success criteria and the rationale for learning.

What? (1)

As previously discussed, children must have high expectations (Khattab, 2015). In this case, the expectation was set in the initial stages of the unit. The children were allowed to come to a mutual understanding about the purpose of an advertisement and the importance of understating your target audience. They then set the parameters of success criteria as a class. This enabled every child to set off with the same high expectations of their outcomes. The children were able to create their rationale for the work. Some of the features they identified for the success criteria became the basis of their learning, for example, using specific sentence types to be persuasive. Therefore, when these were taught, the children had an intrinsic understanding of why they were learning these new sentence types because they had identified that they would need them to be successful.

So What? (1)

The high expectations that the children had set for themselves had a positive impact on motivation throughout the unit of work. In line with the findings of Jang’s 2008 study, the children were able to see the rationale behind each step of the learning as they had directed the parameters of success. The children were also excited when they were able to spot the links themselves “We are doing _____ so that we can ____!”, this fostered a high level of ownership and pride being taken in the work. They understood that for them to produce an outstanding advertisement for their chocolate, they had to engage with every part of the journey.

Now What? (1)

As Jang found, the children in my context did seem to be motivated by being part of the development of the learning and coming up with the success criteria collaboratively. This allowed them to take true ownership of the learning, but perhaps more importantly, understand the reasoning behind subsequent learning. They were able to see that we were learning each skill to be able to fully meet the high expectations they had chosen to set for themselves. It was not only their involvement but the openness it afforded the children when acquiring new skills, it primed them to want to gain the new skills rather than just find themselves in a situation where they had to. This motivated them to succeed which supported the resilience they needed to show to meet the expectations. I will ensure that time is spent to ensure children understand the purpose of learning before we start each new piece of work. I also recognize that this is something I need to consider in all of the areas of learning in my class. I need to be conscious of how I intend to allow them into the planning process and how I maximize the impact of this technique.

The second reflection will be on the impact of children being given early opportunities for success.

What? (2)

We spent time discussing the initial responses to the products without the pressure of an immediate outcome. This helped the children to develop positive feelings about the unit being able to use verbal communication (a strength of my class) to express their initial ideas – thereby setting them up for a successful initial lesson on this topic. This allowed for an immediate positive emotional response to the work. All of the children were given opportunities to share their ideas and this created an open environment where children were able to hear a range of thoughts, building their confidence before putting pen to paper. Children were praised by me and each other for their thoughts and children were able to elaborate on and develop the initial more simplistic ideas with teacher and peer support.

So What? (2)

The pedagogical decision to make the early part of the learning verbal meant that the children could contribute ideas with a low level of risk as no ‘failures’ would be recorded but they would be supported to come up with something appropriate. With more naturally confident children starting the discussion, others were able to see children being praised for contribution and effort which motivated them to seek the same praise by being part of the collaboration. This linked well to collaboration as described in pragmatism by Ozmon and Craver, 2003. They were able to build their confidence which led to them subsequently feeling able to take greater risks with their work, as they felt safe to do so. This led to the children aiming higher with their choices linking directly to the success criteria the children had set for themselves. This made it clear that their effort at this stage would enable the children to succeed in their final published outcome. This is supported by the findings of Reeve et al. in 2004.

Now What (2)

The early opportunities children were given to build their confidence in a low-steak, verbal manner, which lent itself to the strengths of the class, contributed to the children aiming higher in their outcome. The early success and genuine praise they received for the effort they were putting in made them feel confident that they had what was necessary to be successful in the unit. I perceived that it was the pleasure in the early success that made the children more able to face challenges positively later in the unit, reflecting the findings of Pekrun et al. 2017 in terms of how achievement and positive emotions are reciprocally linked.

Finally, I will reflect on the impact of building opportunities to model how to deal with failings with resilience and move forward.

What? (3)

As part of the delivery of this unit, one of the lessons on the topic involved a “language workshop”. First, we considered the language relating to our products as a class, and then individually, we looked at initial ideas, synonyms, and then “best choices” to build the children up to be successful in their outcome (see appendix A). This allowed children the opportunity to start with any language that came to mind with low stakes. They were then able to gradually hone their ideas to come up with the most successful words, discounting less effective choices as they went. We celebrated the best language choices as a class In contrast, children also saw me reflecting as I worked, choosing to omit “failings” where I decided that the language was not the most effective to make a better selection. It was modeled to the class that it was exciting to find something in the work that could be improved.

So What? (3)

This made space for me to teach the children that failure is an opportunity to develop rather than a reason to give up implicitly through my thinking aloud when modeling. In this way, the unit mirrored the way that progressive schools view problem-solving as a vital part of learning and a valuable skill for young people to master. This also demonstrates Tan’s view that an ideal pragmatist teacher would be interested in not just knowledge and skills, but also dispositions such as resilience which I have identified as a challenge in my setting.

The unit provided some of the best outcomes the children have produced so far and they have also assimilated the knowledge from the unit and have been able to apply it elsewhere in their learning.

Now What? (3)

Strong models of how to be reflective to improve one’s work in the classroom, gave the children strategies they could use to develop their work. It meant that they could independently seek support which builds resilience and makes them more self-sufficient as learners. I will ensure that the classroom reflects current learning and serves as a rolling scaffold to work and as a tool for the children to use. I will continue to plan my models building in opportunities for me to ‘fail’, reflect, and improve on what I am producing. This will be kept consistent throughout the year so that children will know where to find the support that they need and can practice being self-critical of their work.

The reflection in this area substantiates my natural leaning towards more progressive, pragmatist, child-led learning. I feel that the success of this unit rested largely on how invested in the work the children were able to be and how intrinsic they were to the development of the learning as we worked through the topic.

However, it is vital for a truly critical reflection to consider that these were just a handful of the pedagogical approaches used across this topic and go forward using these ideas as I perceived them as a basis for my endeavor to motivate my students. The above approaches will be more relevant to some units of work for others and their effectiveness may wane after continued use. If, as in a pragmatist philosophy, it is true that reality is an ever-evolving concept then I must be open to things changing.

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Critical Reflection Essay on Philosophy. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-reflection-essay-on-philosophy/
“Critical Reflection Essay on Philosophy.” Edubirdie, 28 Feb. 2024, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-reflection-essay-on-philosophy/
Critical Reflection Essay on Philosophy. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-reflection-essay-on-philosophy/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Critical Reflection Essay on Philosophy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 28 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-reflection-essay-on-philosophy/
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