Reflection is the understanding of an event that’moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeperunderstanding. It is the thread thatmakes continuity of learning possible, and ensures the progress of theindividual’ (Rodgers, 2002, p.845). Reflection is a useful tool that can beadopted by teachers as either an on-going process that happens during a lesson (in-action)or as a process that takes place after the lesson (on-action) Schon (1983). Reflectingwhilst teaching allows continuous monitoring of the lesson, giving teachers theflexibility to change the current situation. Additionally, reflection afterteaching gives teachers the opportunity to further reflect on the lesson, whichcan be used to inform future planning and teaching. Reflection is regarded as an important part of teaching (Clarà, 2015).
Beingreflective can be used as an effective strategy when developing professionalpractice as it allows teachers to think about current methods of teaching andhow these could be adapted to further meet pupils’ specific needs (Brookfield,1995; Galea, 2012). Being at thebeginning of my teaching career, it is imperative that I reflect on my teachingto learn and develop my professional practice and to ensure that my teachingcaters to the needs of all children. In this essay, I will discuss a range ofmethods used to ensure that progress is being made, reflecting on my currentpractice and using research literature to progress my understanding. Differentiation Differentiationcan be defined as ‘the process by which curriculum objectives, teachingmethods, assessment methods, resources and learning activities are planned tocater for the needs of individual pupils’ (Norwich, 1994, p.290).
Differentiationcan be implemented through many methods, including the given task,instructions, questions used and grouping of pupils. Differentiation allowsteachers to accommodate a wide range of academic abilities, providing teachingthat is child-centered and personalised to the needs of different children.When teaching, I use a variety of differentiation techniques.
The type ofdifferentiation I choose varies depending on the children I am teaching and thetasks the children need to complete. Onemethod of differentiation I use is grouping children based on their ability. Reflectingon their previous learning and understanding gives me the opportunity to groupthem accordingly. Organising the classroom so thatchildren are in groups of similar abilities ensures that the tasks children aregiven are at the correct level of difficulty for them. Research has shown thatgrouping children with others of a similar ability improves children’s academicachievement (Rogers, 2004). If children are given a task that is too easy ortoo difficult for them, it is likely they will become demotivated and will notachieve the expected result (Winebrenner, 2001).
Moreover, grouping childrentogether of a similar ability enables teachers to provide a task that meetschildren’s specific needs. If children are all given the same task, regardlessof their ability, a high proportion of children’s needs would not be met(Haager and Klingner, 2005) and therefore it would be unlikely that allchildren would make progress. Bloom’s Taxonomymodel supports the need to differentiate the curriculum, so all children can takepart in the same content during a lesson. The model allows the teacher toaccommodate a variety of pupils needs by applying the appropriate questions andactivities for children so that they may equally participate in the lesson. Forexample, when we were writing instructions in year one, I tried to developactivities at each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy to involve pupils related to theirassessed needs and abilities. The model allows a lower ability pupil to respondto one set of questions and activities, while higher ability students areresponding to another set of questions and activities which are all related tothe same topic of study.
In somesituations, however, grouping children of a similar ability is not the mostbeneficial method to ensure that all children make progress. In some lessons,for example when doing group work, putting children into mixed-ability groupsis more valuable. Using mixed-ability groups allows students of a higher abilityto support their peers of a lower ability (Linchevski and Kutscher, 1998). Whenchildren are in mixed-ability groups, differentiation can still occur usingquestioning.
Although this is perhaps a less obvious form of differentiation,it can be used as an effective differentiation method. Differentiatingthrough questioning involves teachers thinking about the types of questionsthat will be asked of different children, allowing teachers to assesschildren’s prior knowledge by giving children the opportunities to show whatthey know and allowing children’s learning to progress (Rock et al., 2008).Having a good understanding of children’s abilities allows teachers to askquestions that give all children the opportunity to engage in the lesson and tomake progress.
For example, for students that struggle to retain informationand have difficulty learning new information, asking questions that includeprompts allows children to focus on the relevant information they need toconsider in order to reach the correct answer (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 2000).Furthermore, using open-ended questions allows children to respond to questionsin a more detailed manner, giving them the opportunity to engage further byexploring the question in different ways. It isclear that differentiation can take many forms in the classroom. The way thatchildren are grouped and the questioning techniques that teachers use are justtwo forms of differentiation. Focusing on these two types of differentiation,having a good understanding of the specific needs of children within the classand the strategies that enable most progress are essential for successfuldifferentiation to occur. Assessment Assessmentis important for tracking progress, planning next steps, reporting to andinvolving parents, children and young people in learning. Assessment for learning (AFL) is an approach to teaching andlearning that creates feedback which is then used to improve students’performance. Teachers need to know about their pupils’ progress anddifficulties with learning so that they can adapt their work to meet theirneeds, the needs which vary from one pupil to another.
Pupils need to have higher order thinkingskills which are transferable within and across subjects. When teachingI use formative assessment to inform me of where the pupils are and what I needto do to move learning forward and make progress. I use questioning andfeedback during lessons to assess understanding and as a result have had toadapt lessons or incorporate mini plenaries to address misconceptions. Usingthe in-action model is beneficial as misconceptions can be addressed instantlyand the impact can be seen immediately. Robin Alexander (2004) uses the idea of’dialogic talk’ and ‘dialogic teaching’ where he argues that talk is anessential part of learning in the classroom where all pupils should have avoice.
Using effective questioning and talk partners promotes thinking,discussion and deepening of pupil understanding. The on-action model isused when the children’s work is marked, and I have time to reflect on thelesson, I feel it then gives me the opportunity to plan the subsequent lesson. Childrenare given an opportunity for teacher and peer feedback where we focus on recognizingsuccess and improvements (we use 2 stars and a wish). It is important todiscuss what excellence consists of and how best to meet it – not just themeeting of success criteria. Research by Black and Williams indicates that improving learning throughassessment depends on these deceptively simple factors: · The provision of effectivefeedback to students. · The active involvement ofstudents in their own learning. · Adjusting teaching to considerresults of assessment.· A recognition of the profound influenceassessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of students.
· The need for students to be ableto self-assess themselves and understand how to improve.However,some argue that strategies and techniques have minor impact if the culture ofthe classroom does not support the philosophy or ethos of the key principles(Clarke, 2008, p.18). In short Dweck argues that what impacts motivation themost is having a ‘Fixed’ mindset or ‘growth’ mindset (cited in Active learningthrough Formative Assessment,2008, p.19).
Pupils with a fixed mindset need toconstantly prove their ability whereas pupils with a growth mindset believeintelligence can be developed and are willing to have a go. Assessment takes theform of summative and formative, when using formative assessment effectively itmust consist of some quite specific techniques while at the same time allowingfor experimentation and development. Instead of formative assessment being doneto the children, it is important for teachers and children to collaborate. Impact ofTAs on children’s progress The GoodPractice Guide (DfES, 2000a) highlights the important role that TAs playsupporting children within the classroom, suggesting that if successfullytrained, TAs can improve academic standards within schools. This wascomplemented by training materials to encourage schools to ensure that TAs arewell trained and supported (DfES, 2000b). In line with this, a report in 2002from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) also acknowledged thecrucial role that TAs play, suggesting that when this support is present in theclassroom, teaching is improved compared to when it is absent.
The evidencefrom both the government and Ofsted reports supports the opinion that thepresence of TAs within primary classrooms can help to improve children’sacademic achievements. When planninglessons, I plan an activity/intervention for the TA, this might be with thehigher ability to extend their learning or the lower ability to helpconsolidate their learning depending on the lesson. I have noticed that whengiven effective extra support, children can make considerable progress, but it is important to brief the TAwith how you expect them to support the children. Studies show that TAstend to have a direct positive impact on pupil progress when they are preparedand trained, and have support and direction from teachers.
Indeed,Lee (2002), Butt and Lance (2005) and Alborz et al., (2009) also support theview that TA presence within primary classrooms improves children’s progress.Alborz and colleagues’ review in 2009 of a number of studies concluded that,when working on a one-to-one basis or with a small group, TAs can help childrento make significant progress with literacy. However, there is substantialresearch concluding that the increased presence of TAs within primaryclassrooms has no influence on children’s academic progress (e.g.
Balshaw,2010; Fletcher-Campbell, 2010) and in some cases can be detrimental(Blatchford, Russell and Webster, 2012). Behaviour for Learning Behaviourfor learning (BfL) is the relationship between a child’s behaviour and theirlearning (Powell and Tod, 2004). More specifically it is ‘about creatingbehaviour that is conducive of learning’ (Scales, 2012, p.226). In their book,’Behaviour for Learning’ (2009), Ellis and Tod build on the work by McNally etal. (2005) by abandoning the assumption that managing children’s behaviour andpromoting learning are mutually exclusive tasks. They use the conceptualframework of behaviour for learning (Powell and Tod, 2004) to derive strategiesto best implement the concept but highlight the extensive time required to doso most effectively. I havedeveloped several Behaviour for learning approaches, discussed below, whenteaching, that I hope support children to become successful learners.
Developing these approaches has allowed me to become aware of how my responseto a child’s behaviour can influence the behaviour choices they make and howencouraging positive behaviour can benefit children’s learning. It is importantthat I continue to develop a range of techniques depending on which children Iam teaching as some approaches are more effective than others in certainsituations (Scales, 2012). One Behaviourfor learning approach that I have developed is the use of positivecommunication. Research suggests that the brain is more responsive whenprocessing positive, as opposed to negative, information (Adams, 2009). Whenteaching, I try to tell children what I would like them to do as opposed totelling them what not to do as I find that this is a more effective approach.Luiselli and colleagues (2005) found that following an intervention in whichpositive behaviour was reinforced, disruptive behaviour dropped and academicattainment significantly increased. These findings are supported by earlierresearch which found that positively reinforcing expected behaviour improvedboth pupils’ levels of behaviour and their attitude towards learning (Reid etal.
, 1999). A secondBehaviour for learning approach I have developed is the use of non-verbalcommunication. The use of non-verbal strategies can influence the behaviour ofchildren as effectively as verbal communication (Capel and Leask, 2013). Forinstance, if a child is not displaying expected behaviour, looking at them forlonger than normal can show that you are aware of their behaviour.
Verbalcommunication is not needed here as the non-verbal signal allows the child tobecome aware of what is expected and gives them the opportunity to change theirbehaviour. Furthermore, encouraging children to establish eye contact to showthey are listening and paying attention to the lesson can work effectively as aBehaviour for learning approach (Gower and Walters, 1983). Ensuring that allchildren are aware of such expectations ensures that Behaviour for learningapproaches work successfully in the classroom. Establishing eye contact is notonly beneficial to ensure children are listening but is also useful whenassessing understanding. If children are making eye contact with the teacherand display a confused look, the teacher instantly becomes aware of a lack ofunderstanding and can repeat or re-explain (Ledbury et al.
, 2004). Whilstthere are many Behaviour for learning approaches that can be used in theclassroom, it is important that those adopted work successfully for thechildren being taught. To find strategies that are successful in the classroom,the conceptual framework derived by Powell and Tod (2004) should be taken intoaccount. Teachers need to be aware of how children’s learning behaviour islinked to the relationship they have with themselves, the curriculum and otherpeople to achieve successful Behaviour for learning approaches. Within this,teachers need to be aware that not all Behaviour for learning approaches willwork for every child and a flexible approach needs to be taken which allowsapproaches to be changed if necessary.
ConclusionReflecting takes many forms in the classroom, and it is an essential andnecessary part of education. Teachers reflect on their daily practice and tweaktheir lessons, interactions, and attitudes, both on- action and in-action. To develop as a teacher, it is importantthat I reflect on the teaching strategies I have adopted. Analysing differentareas within teaching and discussing relevant research has helped inform my developing practice. Looking atdifferentiation specifically, the type of differentiation that I choose needsto depend on the task chosen and the children I am teaching.
I need to ensurethat I include differentiation in my lessons but in a variety of forms, toenable children to make the most progress. When assessing thechildren, it important to know the ability of the children from which you cantarget questions during formative assessment. Allowing the children to have avoice through talk partners, peer assessing, and discussions encouragesthinking and motivation giving all pupils an opportunity to think and talkrather than the few confident children. Most importantly the range of questionsneed to be adapted to ability and be effective. I also need to encourage agrowth mindset within the classroom setting, which should help with progress. I also need to consider the way in which I deploy the TA,much research shows that TAs can help support children’s learning.
To gain themost efficient impact it is imperative the TA is briefed and has a clearunderstanding of what is expected of them. In terms of Behaviour for learningapproaches, thinking more carefully about the relationship children have withtheir learning and their peers and how this is linked with their behaviour,will allow me to implement successful Behaviour for learning strategies. In conclusion when planning andteaching, it is important to remember that not one approach will worksuccessfully for every child.
Being aware that different strategies, whetherthat is for differentiation, assessment, impact of TA or Behaviour for learning,will be more beneficial for some than for others, will enable me to develop myprofessional practice. To achieve this, I need to ensure that I have a flexibleapproach and am prepared to change existing strategies if necessary.