A Reflective Practice Assignment Demonstrating Personal and Professional Development Essay

This assignment will commence with a brief understanding of how reflective practice can be used to benefit teaching and learning. It will then progress through reflections on both personal and professional growth throughout this learning journey and experiences during placement in a special needs environment.

Since the introduction of this concept ‘reflective practice’ by Donald Schon in 1987, many authors (Kolb 1984, Evans 1997, Ferraro 2000) have provided their varying opinions about the meaning of the term. It is therefore appropriate and necessary for the structure of this assignment to give my personal interpretation. It seems that this is the process of putting thoughts and feelings about an experience down in order to analyse and then learn from them to enable planning for future actions. However it becomes apparent that there is no one prescribed method for reflective practice, the structure should be based around needs.

According to Ferraro (2000) this process was introduced as a critical process, as agreed to Schons’ (1996) opinion that that this critical process should be used to consider own experiences whilst comparing them to theory or practice by successful practitioners. Thus presumably, gaining a greater understanding into methods of teaching and learning, resulting in greater teacher effectiveness.

This assignment will focus its critical reflection on the journal evidence provided in appendix A. Schon (1987) provided a differentiation between reflection in action, and reflection on action. The focus of this assignment will lie in reflection on action whereby thoughts and feelings about events during the placement are critically analysed. However, the journal (appendix A) represents a form of reflection in action whereby I am recalling my thoughts from when the situation was occurring (for example; what can I change at this moment to adjust the situation? why are we doing this?).

The initial stage of this learning process began upon first impressions of the school and the pupils. Many authors (Babbage, Byers ; Redding 1999, Corbett 2001) write about a ‘deep’ sequential stage of inclusive education whereby the culture of the school community can be analysed. The initial feelings I got from my first visit to this environment (see appendix A, visit 1) included ones of ‘inviting’, ‘warmth’, ‘happiness’. This is what Corbett (2001, p41) talks about as the ‘hidden curriculum of rituals and routines’. What I first thought was going to be a cold, building where these pupils would have been ‘kept’ for the school day was in fact a totally different atmosphere. This ties in with literature by Corbett (2001) whereby she talks about how inclusion policies and curriculums can be so very well intended in schools but it is the ‘deep rooted culture’ of the school and staff that can make the difference.

Research by the same author (Corbett 2001, p44) states;

“How a university once spoke of the inclusion of children with Downs Syndrome that they felt in the UK we are very much stuck in the ‘dump and hope’ phase” (Research in Corbett 2001, p44)

Whereby the above is very much similar to the rather narrow opinion I had before I entered the school. Upon further reading surrounding this area, it becomes so clear to me that that the ‘deep culture’ of schools should be about what the pupil actually experiences from the school day, not how well they participated in netball, or if they scored a goal in hockey, but how they felt when they got to school, and at break times and at all other times when the lessons are not planned for differing needs. My previous opinions surrounding inclusion of special needs pupils in my lessons stopped at the end of the lesson, they did not carry on through to break or dinner or any other time when the pupils are experiencing day to day life in the school. This has brought a great deal of thought to me about how inclusion policies are and should be carried out in schools. The ‘whole’ school approach should be stressed and teachers should make it as important outside their lessons as it is inside their lessons.

In reference to previous thoughts regarding inclusion in education, the majority of awareness surrounding this subject has been in the form of ‘differentiation’, whereby lessons can be adapted to recognize the diverse needs of all pupils. In conjunction with appendix A (situation 2), thoughts and feelings were noted regarding the lack of confidence at differentiating the activity to fit in with the pupils needs. Through observation of the coach and through learning about the different needs of the pupils, it became quite clear about how these lessons could be carried out simply by differentiation. Bailey (2000) provided a framework displaying how differentiation can be used in planning for lessons.

Upon reflection of this situation in appendix A, I first thought that just because I didn’t know anything about these pupils conditions and what their needs were, then I wouldn’t be able to take a session or a warm up because I did not know what they were able to do. However, after reflecting on this, it becomes clear to me that using methods of differentiation in the session, as the teacher I could have adapted the lesson straight away according to the level of ability that I see on the pitch to allow for an inclusive lesson.

Reflecting back, I also think that before taking that session, I also could have liaised more with the support staff to enquire about their levels of ability and motivation. The role of the support staff for pupils with special needs in my opinion has been completely altered. Following the experiences during this placement (especially after situation 4 in appendix A) it has become so clear to me what a great difference having close support with these pupils can make. Wright and Sugden 1999 back up this judgment with opinions regarding the invaluable role of support assistants to a pupil’s education. From my experiences at West Oaks, it has reflected this opinion and anyone could see how important their role is if used in the correct way. During physical education lessons, I now stress the importance for myself to involve the support staff as much as possible with the lesson. Making sure that they know and understand what the learning objectives are and demonstrating ideas for them to aid in their support. This would allow for a more inclusive lesson within physical education.

The reflection from this assignment has demonstrated critically, the learning journey that has taken place throughout this placement. It has described practice in relation to theory and what action could be taken in the future in order to provide a more inclusive physical education environment for all pupils.

References:

* Atherton, J.S. 2003. Learning and Teaching: Reflective Practice [online] UK: Available: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~jamesa/learning/reflecti.htm Accessed 21st February 2005.

* Babbage, R., Byers, R., Redding, H. 1999. Approaches to Teaching and Learning: including pupils with learning difficulties. David Fulton, London.

* Bailey, K.M. 1997. Reflective Teaching: Situating our Stories. Asian Journal of English Language Teaching 7: pp 1 – 19

* Bailey, R. 2000. Planning and Preparation for Effective Teaching, in Teaching Physical Education 5-11, ed R P Bailey and T M Macfadyen, Continuum, London.

* Bailey, R. 2001. Teaching Physical Education: a handbook for primary and secondary school teachers. Kogan Page.

* Boud, D., Walker, D. 1998. Promoting Reflection in Professional Courses: The challenge of context. Studies in Higher Education, 23 (2): pp191 – 206.

* Butler, B., Elliot, D. 1985. Teaching and Learning for Practice. Aldershot, Gower.

* Corbett, J. 2001. Supporting Inclusive Education: A connective pedagogy. Routledge Falmer, London.

* Doel, M., Shardlow, S. 1989. The Practice Portfolio: A research report. University of Sheffield; cited in Eraut, M. 1994. Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence. London. The Falmer Press

* Evans, D. 1991. Assessing Students’ Competence to Practise. London. CCETSW.

* Evans, D. 1997. Reflective Learning through Practice-Based Assignments. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference (sep 11-14 1997: University of York) [online] UK: Available: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000468.htm. Accessed 21st February 2005.

* Ferraro, J. M. 2000. Reflective Practice and Professional Development. ERIC Digest. [online] UK: Available: http://www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/reflective.htm. Accessed 21st February 2005.

* Harris, A. 1998. Effective Teaching: A review of the literature. School Leadership ; Management, 18 (2), pp 169 – 183.

* Kettle, B., Sellars, N. 1996. The Development of Student Teachers Practical Theory of Teaching. Teaching ; Teacher Education. 12 (1): pp 1 – 24.

* Kolb, D.A. 1984. Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

* Schon, D. 1987. Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

* Schon, D. 1996. Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

* Wright, D., Sugden, D. 1999. Physical Education for all. Fulton, London.

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