Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning

Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781909682894
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 06/01/2015
Series: Teaching Assistants Series
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: (w) x (h) x 0.40(d)

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Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning

Teaching Assistants

By Fiona Hall, Duncan Hindmarch, Doug Hoy Lynn Machin

Critical Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2015 Fiona Hall, Duncan Hindmarch, Doug Hoy and Lynn Machin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-909682-91-7


Reflective practice and study skills


This chapter links to the following HLTA standard (Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), 2007, p 97):

7: improve own knowledge and practice including responding to advice and feedback.

The process of reflecting is integral to your professional role and practice, and in this sense underpins all of the HLTA standards.


This chapter introduces a range of theories and strategies that can assist your understanding and application of reflection. It also explores how reflective practice can help you to identify any areas for improvement in order to consider your actions for personal and professional development. It concludes with advice on some vital study skills.


* What do you currently understand by the term reflection of practice?

* In relation to your role as a teaching assistant, what issues do you normally reflect on?

* What, if any, models of reflective practice are you already aware of?


Reflection and reflective practice are terms that are regularly used by people who have professional roles and responsibilities, which includes you in your role as a teaching assistant (TA). However, what exactly is reflection and reflective practice?


Consider the following statements and decide which one you think best fits the descriptions of reflection and reflective practice.

Reflection is:

* looking back wishfully about a situation;

* looking back at a situation from an objective standpoint;

* thinking about an experience and what you did and why you did it.

Reflective practice requires you to:

* think about what it is you are doing;

* do things differently next time;

* challenge your current thinking in order to understand what it is you are doing, why you are doing it and what you need to do differently next time.


Reflection, in its various guises, is all of the above.

However, although you may look back on a situation and wish you had done something differently, you may not always turn this reflection into action. If you fail to act following your reflections you are likely to have the same experiences again.

Looking back at a situation from an objective standpoint is important because your view of a situation can be obscured by your emotions. However, how do you know that you are being objective? Your current mental models influence your thinking and these models are shaped by your socio-cultural background and experiences, that is, your interactions with various social and cultural events.


* Consider your own school days. How were you taught? Who was your favourite teacher and what did you like/dislike about school?

* How often do you mentally or verbally make comparisons with the school education that you received and that of children in today's schools? What insights does this give you?


Your experiences during your school days will have shaped the value and belief systems that you now have as an adult. These will have laid the foundation for some of your assumptions about school and education. Knowing how to reflect can help you to consider and, where necessary, challenge these assumptions so that you can change your thinking and behaviour to improve your practice.

Meta-cognition and reflection

Reflecting about an experience, and thinking about what you did and why you did it, requires the use of your meta-cognitive (thinking about thinking) skills. Using and developing these skills are important parts of the process of reflection and are pivotal to your development as a professional practitioner.


How do you ensure that you review and challenge any stereotypical views that you have?


You need to dig deep into your thoughts and memory and be honest about any views that you hold. Some of these will be so entrenched in your value system that you may not appreciate that they are based on stereotypical views. An openness to being challenged by others, asking questions, reading literature and engaging in conversations with a diverse range of people can assist you in recognising why you hold your current views. Adapting your mental models when some new thinking occurs leads to transformative learning (Mezirow, 1997, p 5), which subsequently helps you to change your behaviour and develop the skills necessary to offer a quality learning experience to the children in your class/es.


A wealth of literature exists regarding reflection and reflective practice. Much of this has been built around, or developed from, the established theories and models of reflection outlined in Table 1.1. You will find it useful to read literature relating to all of the models presented in this table, three of which are discussed below.

Reflection in and on action

The ability to reflect in action and also on action is one of the defining characteristics of professional practice (Schön, 2002). Reflecting in action (ie while you are actually doing something) may be related to the operational requirements of your classroom practice (for example, managing an activity regarding children's understanding of complex sentences that is not going as well as anticipated). Reflecting on action (ie reflecting after an activity or event) may be related to post-lesson consideration about what went well (regarding the activity relating to complex sentences), why it went well and what could have been done better.


What is reflection in action?


Reflecting on your actions during an experience.


What is reflection on action?


Reflecting on your actions after an experience.

Schön (2002) suggests that effective reflection needs the involvement of another person who is able to ask you appropriate questions so that your thoughts are not continually driven by espoused theories or theories in use. Espoused theories are the ones that you think that you use, whereas theories in use are the ones that actually align with what you actually do (ie what you think you do and what you actually do may not be the same thing).

Reflecting about your attitudes, beliefs and values requires what Argyris and Schön (1978) call a process of single- or double-loop learning. They contend that the process of single-loop learning (looking at your attitudes, beliefs and values) controls the variables which inform your actions, whereas double-loop learning necessitates you questioning these variables through a process of meta-cognition. Double-loop learning can lead to a change in your thinking and consequently your actions and approaches to future situations.


Do some research and see what recent literature you can find about single- and double-loop learning.

Case study


Due to his own experiences during his school days as well as his observations of some of the teachers that he has worked with, Ron believes that nature provides each person with a finite, if individual, capacity to learn. He also thinks that the ability to achieve goals within this finite capacity is influenced by a child's background and that children from the poorest backgrounds are destined for low-level qualifications, low-level unskilled employment or even no employment at all. He likes all of the children in his classes and they like him, partly because he believes in praising and rewarding them as much as possible according to his expectations of each child.


* Do you think that Ron is doing the right thing by praising and rewarding children according to his expectations of them?

* Do you think, like Ron, that children have a finite capacity to learn?

* What strategies might Ron adopt in order to challenge his current thinking?


Ron's viewpoint is based on his own experiences as a schoolchild and as an observer of some other teachers. While pre-held views are not necessarily wrong, it is still important to review and evaluate them, especially as new research and literature emerges. In this case study, Ron does need to reflect on the reasons for his beliefs. Importantly, he needs to consider what might happen if he challenged his current thinking; if, for example, he asked himself whether children (and adults) might have an indefinite capacity to learn. Ofsted (2013, pp 3–4) contends that:

poverty of expectation is a greater problem ... and bears harder on educational achievement than material poverty.

In order for Ron to challenge his current beliefs, he needs to seek the views of others. He could do this by speaking with and observing outstanding teachers. He could read literature relating to children's capacity to learn and he could also keep up to date with journal articles and policy reports that are relevant to his area of work (eg The Unseen Children, Ofsted, 2013).


Search for information about children's capacity to learn and/or building children's learning power. You might find research by Guy Claxton a good starting place for this activity.

Use of feedback from others

Knowing when to seek advice and feedback from others (HLTA standard 7 – TDA, 2007, p 38) is crucial to the process of reflection. This, according to Brookfield (1995), can be done by:

* seeing yourself through your own lens;

* seeing yourself through your colleagues' lens;

* seeing yourself through the children's lens;

* seeing yourself through a theoretical lens.

Your own lens

Like Argyris and Schön (1978), Brookfield (1995) thinks that it is important that you consider the reasons behind your thoughts, ie what assumptions you might be making and how your views might differ if these assumptions were not present. Examining and questioning your assumptions can be a really difficult thing to do. You may not be aware of what they are, or you may not want to let go of views that you have held to be true for most of your life.

Here are some examples of assumptions about children's learning.

* Children whose first language is not English will find it difficult to learn subjects and topics that are taught in English.

* Children who are naughty either don't want to or can't learn.

* Children learn best when praised for their efforts.

Some children may struggle to learn subjects and topics that are taught in English. However, with initial support while they are improving their use and understanding of English, they are just as able as children whose first language is English. In fact,

Black African children have now caught up with – and Bangladeshi children have surpassed – the performance of White British children by the end of secondary school. ... There is now almost no difference between the GCSE results of children who speak English as their mother tongue and those for whom English is an additional language.

(Ofsted, 2013, p 4)

Children who are misbehaving might be hungry, cold, bored, under-challenged or have a variety of other reasons for being naughty and not motivated to learn. Furthermore, while praise is important, giving too much praise can become ineffective.


What can you do to challenge your own assumptions?


You may find it useful to read literature relating to your area of teaching or perhaps managing the behaviour of learners. You may also find it useful to record critical incidents in a journal, or verbally through the use of a digital recorder. Doing this gives you an opportunity to challenge yourself about what you do and why you do it. Whichever route you choose, you should consider the following:

* what happened;

* what you would like to change and why;

* what strategy you need to adopt in order to change the experience for next time.

Your colleagues' lens

Critical reflection can be very difficult to achieve on your own. Discussions with your colleagues and observing others' practice are two ways that can help you see your practice differently.

However, discussions need to be purposeful and held within trusted relationships so that honesty and confidentiality are assured. Examples of purposeful learning conversations might include issues relating to classroom practice, institutional issues or regulatory compliance.


Why might it be useful to listen to the views of others?


Others' viewpoints can help you to consider:

* how else you could do something;

* how and why other people do things;

* what you might be able to do to make teaching and learning experiences better for you and your learners;

* a situation or issue from a different perspective.

The children's lens

As well as reflecting and evaluating your practice by considering teaching and learning situations from your own or your colleagues' lens you can, as Brookfield suggests, look at your practice from the perspectives of the children that you support. This can help you to see: 'if they take the meanings that you intend them to do from your teaching lessons' (Brookfield, 1995, p 30).


How can you gather information from the children that you support that will help you to reflect and to improve your practice?


You could, for example, collect post-lesson feedback from the children. This can be done by the use of a traffic light system, through story-telling, use of sticky notes or by asking the children what (and why) they liked and disliked about the lesson.

A theoretical lens

Reading literature can help you to understand your experiences by naming them in different ways and by providing you with some tools to change your approach (Brookfield, 1995). While, as Brookfield notes, discussions with your peers are useful, an appreciation of theoretical frameworks can provide you with information that enables you to challenge and present an argument to others when appropriate.


Look at literature relating to different approaches to learning, for example cognitivism and behaviourism, and consider how these could help you to understand how you currently think and act.


* What have you read recently that has informed your practice or challenged any pre-held assumptions?

* How could Brookfield's four lenses be applied to your professional practice?


Reading a range of material such as journal articles, recently published books and newspapers as well as listening to documentaries or accessing information via social media are useful ways to keep you informed. Importantly, trying out some of the theories, strategies or hints and tips that you read about relating to your practice can help your development as a reflective practitioner through increasing your knowledge, which can subsequently inform your decision making.

Kolb's experiential learning cycle

Kolb (1984) outlines four significant stages of reflection (Table 1.2). He asserts that it is not necessary to start reflecting at any specific part of the cycle. It may be that you observe an experience before you try it out or that you test out an idea which then provides you with the concrete experience.


Search for other approaches to reflection that are similar to Kolb's. A good place to start is with Graham Gibbs' reflective practice model.


Reflecting on your practice supports your understanding and ongoing improvement of it; which is essential because of the challenges that are demanded of you as a professional as well as the intrinsic motivation that you will undoubtedly have to want to do the best job that you possibly can do.

In 1999 Hay McBer was commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) to research into what made effective teaching and learning. A significant finding from this research, referreded to in Hay McBer's (2000) report, was the influence and impact of nine factors, relating to the classroom climate, which support effective learning.


Read the factors from the Hay McBer (2000) report above and consider the following questions:

* What do you currently do regarding each of these factors?

* How could you improve your practice and each child's learning experience in relation to each of these nine factors?

Reflecting on your practice and making necessary changes in relation to classroom disruption can help you to maximise opportunities for children to engage in learning as well as raise their levels of motivation to succeed. Improving your practice can also help you to manage or alleviate stress because a lack of reflection on practice can lead to 'anxiety, frustration, and often failure' (Knowles, 1975, p 15).


Excerpted from Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning by Fiona Hall, Duncan Hindmarch, Doug Hoy Lynn Machin. Copyright © 2015 Fiona Hall, Duncan Hindmarch, Doug Hoy and Lynn Machin. Excerpted by permission of Critical Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Meet the authors,
List of acronyms,
1 Reflective practice and study skills,
2 Education, learning and development,
3 Behaviour management,
4 Safeguarding and child protection,
5 Inclusion and special educational needs,
6 The curriculum,
7 Assessment and accountability,
8 Teamworking,
9 Career development,

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