Reflective Teacher: Teacher Self-Development
by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)
Training v Development: Teacher Training is not the same as Teacher development.
Devised by academic management
Pre-determined training course structure
Addresses ‘global’ teaching issues*
Input from “experts”
Unthinking acceptance of knowledge
Teaching seen from ‘outside in’
Stresses professional skill
Initiated by “self”
Development through reflective process
Addresses ‘local’ teaching issues*
Input from “participants”
Personal construction of knowledge
Teaching seen from ‘inside out
Stresses personal development
* Note Global issues refer to teaching in general while ‘local’ issues refer to a teacher’s individual situation.
Teacher training is a good means of introducing new ideas and techniques but Teacher Development should really start with the teacher reflecting on what they do in class.
Development comprises two distinct features – awareness and direction; that is, awareness of where you are or what you do and the direction you wish to go in.
But how many of us have a clear and coherent view of ourselves as teachers? The more attention we pay to what happens in the classroom, the more chance we will discover something we want to change. Similarly, the more chance we will discover what things work and what do not.
The reflective teacher should be: experiencing → reflecting → conceptualizing → experimenting, and that this is a cyclical process.
Teachers need the opportunity to reflect on what happened in their lessons in order to think about new ideas and approaches. This is a ‘skill’ that needs to be nurtured, as teachers inexperienced with the process may feel they lack practical and theoretical knowledge needed for such reflection. But the more we reflect on and rationalize the classroom processes the more we develop a sense of self-control over what we do in the classroom.
Developing Self-Awareness in the Classroom
1) The Reflective Teacher
Pick a level or learner type (PG-KG, LE-HE, JHS, Adults etc) and after the class/es consider the following:
What were the learners doing in the lesson?
How did I give instructions?
How often and for how long did the learners speak?
What worked and why?
What didn’t work and why?
Changes I will make next time…
Considering your classes and what worked/did not work will allow you to ensure that “Golden moments” are encouraged and occur in other classes while problematic areas are avoided. This reflective format is especially good for collaborative analysis of lessons and that teachers can use that format as a springboard to discussing with colleagues
any issues they have with particular classes.
2) A Teaching Journal
A second, more personal approach is the teaching diary or journal. This is a useful means of recording and reflecting on what happens in your class, what you do and how you go about things. At first it may seem a bit strange to keep a regular journal but it is worth the effort. Of course the best element of this form of record keeping is that it is private and is used for personal reflection only and of course can follow any format you prefer. Although it can also be a good way of preparing for feedback and other meetings.
Below is an example of a Teaching Journal. Consider a class you teach regularly and use the form to make notes.
Keeping a Teaching Journal
* What was your personal aim for this lesson and how did you achieve it?
* What are your personal aims for the next lesson with this class?
* What was the most successful part of the lesson and why?
* What was the least successful part of the lesson and why?
* Did the lesson keep to your overall plan and timetable?
* How did you feel in terms of motivation and energy in the lesson?
* Comparing the lesson with previous week’s classes can you see any trends appearing?
There is, of course, so much more you can record in your journal. Look at the topics below and consider how a journal could help you with them.
When thinking about your lesson be sure to include a brief lesson plan so looking back you can easily reflect on what things worked and what things didn’t work
You can also use the plan again when teaching the same lesson or a lesson with similar language and activities.
Keep a record of learner activities whether good or bad. Can you identify any trends here? Is there anything affecting your learners’ behaviour at certain parts of the lesson or certain times of the year? Is there any evidence that learners react differently to different activities? This information will help you prepare for future lessons and anticipate problems.
Did some activities work better than others? Does this apply to one class only or all classes of the same level? As well as recording activities that worked take care to note activities that did not work so well and keep brief notes why this was.