Teaching is a constant learning journey. For 2014 the focus of my learning journey will be the daily use of Te Reo, developing the Enviro Schools Team and developing independence in learning - the next step on from Daily 5.
Reflecting on practiceReflecting on practice is an active learning process whereby practice is analysed in its applied context. This is the point where theory and practice meet and are refined and developed. This reflective practice is underpinned by the notion of reflection-on-action, and continual learning for improved outcomes. However, Finlay (2008) called attention to the “bland, mechanical, unthinking ways” (p.1) of reflective practice, especially for time-constrained professionals. Without critical reflection, superficial thinking might simply reinforce existing assumptions. Therefore, it is important that reflective practice be cultivated and fostered to become effective. It can then be a “powerful tool to examine and transform practice” (Finlay, 2008, p.10). Critical reflection looks at individual concerns within a wider perspective, “connecting individual identity and social context” (Fook & Askeland, cited in Finlay, 2008). It should be done in a systematic manner, be challenged by differing angles and be informed with reliable sources. Adopting a suitable model of reflection could enhance the quality of your reflective practice. For example, Gibb’s six basic stages of the cycle of reflection (cited in Finlayson, 2015, p.726) has some similarity with the Teaching-as-Inquiry model from the Ministry of Education (2009). Alternatively, the more elaborate typology of reflection developed by Jay and Johnson (cited in Finlay, 2008, p.8) could guide you to scrutinise your practice through a more critical lens.
Keeping a reflective journalA reflective journal enables you to integrate knowledge and learning and analyse the significance and implications for your professional practice.
Collaborating through the creation of a reflective journalYour reflective journal may also become a space where you can start to gather thoughts, sketches, mind maps, diagrams you have created and collected and readings to inform particular interests you may have. This could become a useful resource for your research projects. Electronic journals are also able to be shared with others, so there are opportunities for you to share and create networks, whānau of interest, and professional communities of practice.
A reflective journal is an important evaluative learning tool for you as a learner and as a professional. Sharing aspects of your journal and working collaboratively in shared e-reflective journal spaces is part of the reflective process. The feedback you give and receive can be critical for further investigation, reflection, and change.
In this course, we ask you to create weekly reflective journal entries preferably in the form of blog posts. Each post will provide insights into different aspects of your practice.
Note: (Important) Before you create a professional personal blog you need to consider the moral, ethical and legal responsibilities you have to your organisation with respect to the content you will create, post and share. Most employment contracts set out your obligations around the use of social media which must be considered when you are creating or sharing views on open online platforms.
You can find some helpful information on blogging such as the platforms to choose, the privacy concerns, the copyright license, the length and structure of a blog in this “How Should I Blog” blog.
Once you have created your blog, you can share the address with your fellow students by filling in this form. Even if your blog is private, you can always grant the permission to view later.
Defining your practiceBefore you can fully extend your practice you will first need to be able to define it. You can start your reflective journal by introducing yourself, articulating who you are and what is your professional community of practice. In order to be able to do this effectively you should consider the following aspects of your role:
What is my practice?
What is my professional context?
Who are my community of practice ?
Your teaching practice is based on a particular context within the community that you serve. Etienne Wenger first coined the concept of “communities of practice”, which are defined as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4). The members of a community of practice are bound by three distinct elements: the domain, the practice and the community. The community of practice concept is often coupled with the theory of situated learning (Lave,1991), a model of learning that occurs when practitioners interact within the community of practice. A community of practice differs from other group types in terms of learning and knowledge and practice sharing rather than management objectives. In the school context, this occurs through informal learning via daily conversations, lesson reflections and other exchanges (Jurasaite-Harbison & Rex, 2010).
When reviewing your practice, you should consider your specific learning community and how you are situated within your community. Consider how you communicate with, relate and respond to, and meet the goals and aims of your specific area of practice.
Wenger, E.(2000).Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246 (Available in Unitec Library). In this clearly presented paper, the author explains the concept of communities of practice and the application of this concept with specific suggestions.
Activity 1: My community of practiceAfter reading the Class Notes, create a post where you first define your ‘Community of practice’ with reference to Wenger (2000)’s definition and then provide a critical discussion in relation to any two of the following questions:
What is the purpose and function of your practice? In what ways do you contribute to the community of your practice?
What are the core values that underpin your profession? Evaluate your practice with regard to these values.
What is your specialist area of practice? How does your specialist area of practice relate to the broader professional context?
What are key theories that underpin your practice? Evaluate your practice with regard to these theories.