However, it seems that reflection is not just about picking up on the practicalities of the profession but requires an honest critical engagement with the subjective personal, emotional and instinctive elements of the whole person so...
What's this about setting a baseline? The area of my professional development that is forming the core of this assignment is my personal search for excellence as a classroom teacher. (See blog on Larivee.) To make progress one needs to know where one is and consider where to go.
I had an observation performed on me the Friday before the flood hit and, as always, I took a risk. I have been called foolish for this but I think I am sufficiently self-aware to acknowledge where I need to develop. The risk was lessened, to an extent, in terms of its emotional impact on me because I was out of teaching for sixth months of last year and so I was aware that certain teaching instincts and practices maybe need reseated. I actually wasn't expected to be graded at any level higher than satisfactory. So what was my risk?
I have a class of extremely able Y9 students - over 20 of them gifted and talented and the vast majority targetted A* at GCSE. Here were my focus areas for these students:
- Stretching and challenging the most able.
- Ensuring that all these students made good progress
- Ensuring that all students were engaged.
Of course, alongside this I had to show that I was using data to plan for all students - those who were underachieving and on target - as well as the myriad demands made by the new OFSTED observation framework. Simple.
I won't bore you with the nitty-gritty of the lesson which looked at equal access to sport. (Yes that's an RE lesson. Check out AQA specification B.) However, you may need to know how I met my self-imposed challenges.
- Stretching and challenging the most able.
- Ensuring that all students made good progress
My starting point was actually to look at what the scheme of work (SOW) demanded for students and increase the challenge. I must admit I used the latest form of Bloom's Taxonomy to shape the learning objectives towards the higher thinking skills necessary. This was supplemented in the lesson itself through scaffolded higher order resources, questioning and expectations.
Clearly the aim was for this to be shown in outcomes - completed worksheets, feedback to class, completed extended writing, etc.
The final challenge required me to have a good awareness of who was in the class, prior attainment, EAL, SEN, etc. I then targetted different resources and support mechanisms to the class.
So what was the feedback? Well, it was nearly a good lesson. I had met the challenges I set myself about engaging all students so was pleased with that. However, what stopped it being good? The stretch and challenge was good as was the use I made of data and the resourcing. However, the observers didn't feel that I had demonstrated - or perhaps the students hadn't demonstrated - that all of them had made good progress. Two reasons were given for this.
- Not all students had completed the work grid as expected.
- It was felt that I had rushed the evaluative work at the end of the lesson. Indeed one of the students commented that I always rushed the important bit.
This made me stop and think. The lesson was almost good so why wasn't it good? Why had I not had the little tweak that moved it on.
I think I had too high an expectation of this class. Yes they are able, bright and motivated but they're only 13/14 years old. I should have narrowed it down and asked them to feedback fewer barriers to access in sport. Ok, lesson learned. Next time improve on that Mr Apostate.
Did I rush the last bit? Hmm. I had already amended the lesson as I taught - a nifty bit of reflection in practice - I could possibly amend that. Here's the thing though - why did the student say this. Was it truly what he thought. Only one way to find out. Bite the bullet and ask him. The problem is - it can be tricky for a teacher to discuss classroom practice with students. You lay yourself open to criticism. It can be a fearful experience - after all we have had the training and experience and he is a young lad. On the other hand - he is the customer. So screwing up my courage, biting the bullet, nailing my colours to the mast I had a conversation with him and in the end had to concede he was right. For this class to develop I needed to challenge their evaluation and analysis not how many facts they can remember.
Note to self:
For this class allow more discussion time.