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Reflective Teaching in School: Enhancing Practice and Learning
Answered

Question:

Reflective teaching is about individuals scrutinising their practice, and schools examining their approach to teaching and learning. By focusing on particular aspects, improvements can be made. There was no reflective practice under previous head teachers, and whilst the teachers may be doing some elements of reflective practice, it is likely to be coincidental, not part of a whole school approach. OFSTED identified planning, teaching and assessment as needing further improvement, and it may be the case that reflective teaching will be a vital tool in the school's development.

The questions to be investigated

What types of reflection do teachers within the school engage in?

How far and in what ways would the implementation of a staff development programme influence attitudes to reflective teaching?

How far and in what ways would the implementation of a staff development programme influence the practice of reflective teaching?

Subsequent activities asked teachers to reflect on the use of adults in the classroom, and the demands teaching puts on them, leading to questions they could ask to help them reflect on their teaching. From these we selected those which related specifically to teaching and learning, as listed here:

What questions have been used to enable children to question knowledge?

In what ways has children's language been enriched?

Has the work got clear evidence of where children have come from, and are going?

Did children have the opportunity to achieve the learning?

Were the learning objectives appropriate for all children?

What knowledge have the children gained?

Did the children have the time to ask relevant questions?

Were tasks broken into appropriate steps for children to succeed?

The next stage was to focus on these teaching and learning questions, and come to a consensus about which ones to adopt as a model for reflecting on observed lessons.  Those featuring questioning, language development and task design were considered the most critical of those arrived at by staff discussion. By talking through the questions, the following subset was agreed which would form the basis of reflection on observed lessons.

What questions have been used to enable children to question knowledge?

Were the learning objectives appropriate for all children?

Did the children have the time to ask relevant questions?

The youngest class were working on constructing vehicles from found materials such as egg boxes and lolly sticks. The learning objective was to design and make a wheeled vehicle. The children needed to ask questions related to the materials to be used and the methods of joining the materials;

'Can I use this box for my bus?'

'Do you think I shouM use sticky tape or glue for this bit?'

The teacher asked questions which were largely about improving the design of the vehicles;

'How do you think you could make this stronger?'

'Will this be too heavy to put on here?'

The group activities involved some reading and discussion, and then feeding back to other groups. The intensity with which the children became engaged in the learning was both surprising and pleasing, and subsequent reflection on the lesson, using the agreed set of questions, enabled the following conclusions to be made:

1. Questions were asked of the children that required them to engage directly in factual learning, linking previous and current information.

2. The activities were all closely related to the learning objectives, but because of the timings of each activity, the children remained much more focused on the tasks.

3. During the group work, the conversations and discussions were very precisely linked to the learning, and each child had good opportunities to engage in questioning, both at peer level, and with the learning facilitator.

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