Teacher Self-Reflection Essay

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This assignment will focus on a reflection on my development as a teacher so far and the adaptations I have made to my practice from these reflections. There will be a focus on four strands which are: behavior management, inclusive practice, classroom environment, and professionalism. This reflection will look in-depth at the impact of learning of pupils within these four strands and will be a critical evaluation of strategies that could be used and theoretical models of practice. A teacher should strive to always improve their practice through reflection and gaining knowledge on subjects, growing their understanding and relationships with the students they teach, and developing their professional skills (Ewens, 2019, p.13). Studying reflective practice is currently mandatory in teacher training programs (Richardson, 1990 cited in Collin et al, 2012)

Schon (1983) and Eraut (1994) highlight that teachers will use reflection to improve their performance and skills and investigate their strengths and weaknesses. The chosen model of reflection that this assignment will be based on is Schon’s (1983) model of reflection which is a reflection in action and reflection on action. Schon (1983) believes it is key to be able to reflect while in action, therefore, to think while doing, but also to reflect after the action to analyze what happens and conduct different approaches that could be used to improve practice. Reflection in action is a key skill that enables practitioners to change the outcome of an experience while it is happening (Tan, 2020, p.688). Schon (1983) argues that being able to reflect in action testifies to being a competent practitioner. Benade (2012, p. 341) argues that regarding Schon’s (1983) model of reflection there is little ethical consideration or mention of the implications that can come with reframing the outcomes of situations through the reflection in action stage. On the other hand, Newman (1999) furthers Schon’s model stating that situational thinking, which is a reflection in action, is what being a professional is about.

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There are different types of models of reflection such as Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning cycle and Gibb’s (1998) reflective cycle which have been considered widely for this assignment. However, they only discuss reflection after something has happened, I chose Schon’s (1983) model of reflection as it highlights reflecting while something is already happening which I do frequently in my lessons. Kinsella (2007, p.103) agrees that Schon’s work has had a huge influence on practitioners in practice. Student teachers must reflect on ‘concrete and abstract issues, but these issues always arise from the practice’ (Collin et al, 2013). Therefore, it makes sense as a student teacher to reflect on these during and after my practice.

A significant way that I have developed as a professional throughout my first placement is how I take on feedback from colleagues. This is linked to teacher standard eight (DFE, 2012) which states teachers must ‘take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues.’ Copland (2010) argues that often trainee students do not know how to reflect, or do not want to reflect critically. Liakopoulou (2012) agrees to state that often students do not wish to reflect critically due to it having the potential to lower self-esteem. However, I argue, and feedback from my end-of-year review suggests that I reflect on my lessons well and take on board criticism to improve my practice. Amobi (2005) states students who do not take on critical feedback from lessons fail to see how to improve their practice. Therefore, when students accept criticism, they can improve their teaching skills as they undergo a process of thinking (Parsons and Stephenson, 2005). I feel through my observations I can be scaffolded in my learning by having someone with more expertise give me advice on my field through the use of weekly meetings (Wood, Bruner, and Ross, 1976). Even though this argument is outdated, it links well to the current discussion that being able to have interventions weekly to support my training and to conduct myself professionally is fundamental to my improvement as a teacher. Using Schon’s theory of reflection I can often reflect on my practice throughout my lessons and after. This means that when I attend my weekly meeting I can often point out my strengths and weaknesses beforehand. Dewy (1933) states that reflection is more than just critiquing practice, it is also finding solutions and adapting. This argument is also outdated; however, it is critical to what I do in my current practice in the modern day. I consistently reflect on my lessons and seek ways to improve my practice by finding solutions and taking advice from colleagues with more experience. Furthermore, I feel I have developed professionally as by taking on board criticism I am promoting my personal development, but I am also improving the learning outcomes for the pupils that I teach through improving my practice (Graham & Phelps, 2003, Parson & Stephenson, 2005, Minott, 2008).

Leading on from this, from the feedback I received in a previous lesson observation I was informed I need to consider how I deploy support staff within my lessons to better assist pupils throughout the lessons. Throughout my first placement, I have gained professional skills in the way I interact with colleagues and support staff. Due to the nature of my placement school, being an SEMH school, I consistently work alongside teaching assistants (TA) within the classroom.

Butt and Lance (2009) state that teaching assistants now have a more imperative role in supporting children in their day-to-day learning within the classroom environment. Drawing from reflection throughout my placement I have seen how key the relationships are between the teaching assistants and my pupils, and how I need to deploy them effectively to help children engage in their learning and to create an inclusive learning environment. Webster et al (2011) believed this is the best way to achieve good outcomes for pupils. According to the research report ’Deployment of Teaching Assistants in Schools’ (DFE, 2019), it states that the main benefit of deploying TA staff is to help support classroom management and SEN pupils. Managing and deploying TA staff effectively within an SEMH school can be difficult because they may need to exit the classroom to help a pupil who is dysregulating, leaving other pupils unsupported. However, Radford et al (2015) suggest that teaching assistants help to reduce incidences of behavior that may impact whole-class learning which links well to my current placement in an SEMH school. Agreeing with this is Webster et al (2010) claiming TAs have a positive effect in classrooms, in terms of reducing instances of off-task behavior or disruption and allowing more time for the teacher to teach. This is a good supporting argument as even though the research is outdating it was conducted within SEN schools linking to my current placement. How I decided to deploy teaching assistants in instances like this will be a reflection in action linking to Schon’s (1983) reflective theory as I can only decide to alter my TA deployment when these occurrences arise. An example of this was during an observation, I had two pupils who were disrupting the rest of the pupil’s learning, due to this one of my pupils dysregulating meaning I deployed a TA to support him. I then had to deploy another support staff to isolate these two pupils so I could carry on teaching the rest of the pupils on recommendation from my mentor. Over this placement, I can identify more often where I need to deploy support staff and when to best help the pupils within my setting.

Using Schon’s (1983) model of reflection during my final week of placement I noticed one of our students had increased their refusal for work especially when in their writing. From this, I reflected during the lesson and deployed the TA staff to work with this individual child to scribe for him to complete his work and lower his anxiety. However, Giangreco (2013) argues that deploying TA staff encourages them to complete work for the child over assisting them in their learning. However, it has to be considered that this conflicting argument is based on research carried out in mainstream settings and not an SEN setting. Furthering this critique in TA deployment, in a research study conducted in England it was noticed that the pupils who were supported by teaching assistants made less progress than those that did not; this could be due to the teacher having less interaction with these pupils (Radford et al, 2014; Webster et al, 2011). After reflecting on these critiques of TA deployment I ensured within my practice that I modify who the teaching assistants support so I also support the higher ability and lower ability throughout lessons to create a more inclusive learning environment (Lehane, 2016; Moran and Abbott, 2002). This also helps to ensure that the individual students receiving support don’t become ‘islands’ and that inclusion is achieved (Butt, 2016, 997). I also use Bruner’s (1978) idea of scaffolding learning to deploy teaching assistants as I have to acknowledge within my lessons what bridges there are between the pupil’s current level of achievement and the achievement that can be met with support from an adult to promote learning and development (Vygotsky, 1978).

I feel my current placement, working within a SEMH school, has given me a unique opportunity to develop my inclusive practice and has given me a more in-depth insight into how to support children with different SEN (special educational needs) within one classroom. According to research one of the main barriers when it comes to SEN pupils succeeding and having supportive provisions is the attitudes of teachers (Salovita, 2018; UNESCO, 2014). UNESCO (2014) has the perspective that in teaching training, students are made to focus more on planning and curriculum rather than personal values and beliefs that could help them create a more inclusive environment for pupils. However, I would argue due to my current placement embedding an inclusive environment for all pupils within the classroom has been a core learning curve in the first semester of my PGCE year. I have to consistently consider within my lessons and plan how I can adapt my lessons to suit individual learners such as adapting my modeling for children with dyslexia and also providing lots of visual aids for children. But also, using different approaches for different students based on their individual needs, as each child is unique. I have learned that not one strategy suits all pupils. For example, one of my pupils needs a lot of encouragement and support who has anxiety. However, another pupil in my class who has Asperger's dislikes input from the teacher and works best when left to complete work independently and therefore provide them with different options of support where needed. Reiser (2013) has a view that teachers do not feel well prepared to make changes to include children with SEMH or SEN needs. However, from my placement, I feel this is now embedded into my professional practice and I will continue to consider how I can better include all pupils within my lessons as I am willing to try new techniques and ideas to create a more inclusive learning environment. I feel from my first placement I am making a path towards meeting the expectations from The Special Educational and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years (DFE, 2015) which states that teachers should secure their professional development and expertise at awareness and how to support pupils with SEN. I have also done this by completing some continuing professional development courses to further my understanding and knowledge of how to best support my pupils in their learning and mental health needs.

After reflection, another area I have professionally developed as a trainee teacher is my behavior management. This is a key aspect within my school as when working within an SEMH school, a lot of our pupils have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences causing their behavioral challenges or have SEN needs. One of the key aspects I have learned over this semester is how vital it is to build positive relationships with the students to help with my behavior management. Research has proven that having good relationships between pupils and teachers is vital to producing an effective learning environment (Hattie, 2009; Ellis et al., 2018). According to the Teacher's standards (Dfe, 2011b) to be rated as a ‘good’ teacher at the end of teacher training a teacher must be able to form positive relationships with pupils. I feel I do this well; I take time to get to know the pupils and try to build trusting relationships through assisting with work, engaging with them at playtimes, and also taking them out to do one-to-one sessions. Roffey (2010) states it can be hard to create equal relationships between teachers and pupils as the teacher has more power and authority. This can create a challenging dynamic within my current setting as many of our children struggle and challenge authoritative figures. Due to this, it has been vital for my behavior management skills to develop how I build relationships with pupils. Hornby and Atkinson (2003) agree with Hattie (2009) in the fact that they believe the relationships between pupils and teachers help to foster the student’s mental well-being. Relationships with pupils are significant for pupils who have been excluded or categorized as ‘hard to teach’ (Pomeroy, 2000, 1999; Ennis and McCauley, 2002; Spratt et al., 2006). This links very well to the current placement I have undergone, and I feel this is a vital point. Roffey (2010) summarises my point at the beginning of this paragraph that due to these pupils experiencing adversity, building relationships makes a positive difference in their lives and shows the students they matter as a person. This goes on to explain this next point. Hook and Vas (2002) identify that when children display more challenging behavior, when dealing with this as a teacher we must be able to recognize how the child is already in a heightened state of escalation and we must be understanding in our approach. It is vital to know our pupils within the classroom and understand how they may be interpreting events and what they may be experiencing according to the Theory for Learning Behaviour approach (Ellis et al., 2018). Therefore, it has been a key area of my development to build relationships with my students so I can best engage with them in times of dysregulation but also in day-to-day behavior management to support their challenging behavior and I feel this is a strong area I have developed in. Upon reflection, I have seen how this impacts the pupils learning as I have seen the stronger relationships I build with the pupils the more they participate in lessons and engage in their learning during my lessons.

The last reflection I am going to discuss is how I have promoted British values in my classroom to create a more understanding and equal learning environment. This links to the Teachers Standards (2011b) where under the section ‘Personal and professional conduct’ it states teachers must not undermine the British values. According to the Department for Education (2014a), teachers must teach children to understand the four areas of British values which are: democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance. Ofsted (2007) states that British values help develop pupils' spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development (SMSC). Therefore, I felt this was vital to develop and imbed this within my practice to help pupils develop not just their academic learning but also their SMSC development. I feel I have managed to do this by embedding British values into all topics of the national curriculum. For example, by creating discussions within English pupils can explore ideas and justify their ideas. However, where I feel I demonstrate this most and have the most important impact on the children I work with is within the PSHE and R.E. lessons I teach. Many of our pupils struggle to grasp the importance of mutual respect towards others due to different factors, however, during these lessons, I create an understanding learning environment by allowing pupils to discuss their ideas but also to create a more in-depth understanding. This has been a vital reflection within my lessons and after using Schon’s (1983) theory of reflection in action and reflection on action. I have seen some of my pupils demonstrate ignorance towards different cultures but after reflection, this was due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. Therefore, it has been key to engage in questioning and discussions to remove this barrier. Crawford (2017) argues that British values undermine different cultures within our society and do not allow different cultures to have separate lives. However, Carrol et al., (2018) argue that using the British values as a whole school approach has been beneficial in educating children to appreciate diversity, which I feel I do well throughout my lessons to provide a positive impact on learning.

In conclusion, I feel over this first full term I have developed not only as a professional but as an individual. I have a deeper understanding of how reflective practice is the key to becoming an outstanding teacher. But also, how the different strands: behavior management, professionalism, learning environment, and inclusive environment all link together to promote an effective classroom environment where children develop not only academically but also in their personal development. I feel my overall confidence in my teaching abilities has improved throughout this course and I am confident that I will continue to promote positive learning outcomes for children through the use of reflecting continuously within my practice.

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