Critical reflection of my professional learning
This short paper seeks is a critical reflection of my own professional learning over the course of this EDUP007 module. But what do I understand as professional learning? According to Porritt et al (2017) it is everything we do to learn something new or update and refresh practices which should all lead to “improving what teachers do, not merely what they know” (Hargreaves (2011) in Porritt et all, p123). What does this mean for me? There have been three key learning points that have led to a change in what I do, not just what I know: pedagogy is a complex business; participant observation helps see practice better and; learning is not the same as teaching.
At the start of this module, when reflecting upon the GTCS Standards for Leadership and Management (2012), I identified Section 4.3 ‘ensure consistent high quality teaching and learning for all learners’ as my focus. I was particularly drawn to section 4.3.3 and the challenge to ensure I sustain processes and develop pedagogic practices across the school. ‘Pedagogic practices’ is a broad term and covers a multitude of approaches (Husband and Pearce (2010) offer nine for consideration). The sheer scale of ‘pedagogy’ as a focus for my enquiry triggered my first learning point – that pedagogy is complex and ‘messy’. As a result of my readings and enquiry, I am beginning to unpick the micro-practices incumbent within it and now examine these more closely in my setting.
Once I had narrowed my focus onto one such micro-practice (that of attending to intended learning), I was able to begin my data gathering including participant observations – my second learning point. The notion of participant observation is an interesting one in contrast to ‘management observation’ (my term). The latter is commonly employed by school leaders to observe classroom practice against some form of criteria. The former is about observing the environment – what is happening, the complexities of the classroom, etc. The latter is about the product, the former about the process. Delamont (2012) and Gordon et al (2005) describe an experience that is wholly more involved than what I am used to. It is more akin to the ‘fly on the wall’ documentary where the viewer sees and hears all and reflects on all. This approach to observation practice is one that I want to pursue and develop as part of our approach to classroom observations.
The reading associated with my enquiry led to my most significant learning point. In the GTCS Standards, section 4.3.3, it is interesting to note that the statements don’t mention learning at all. Teaching and learning cannot be separated. To do so suggests that all our practitioners have to think about it how they teach, not how their pupils learn. How pupils learn is complex but there has been significant research to support teachers understanding of this. Shimamura (2018) summarises such findings in his paper ‘Introducing MARGE’ and concludes saying that teachers “now have the tools to foster more efficient student learning” (p43). The science of learning has challenged my own practice and now needs to challenge pedagogic practices across my school.
To conclude, my learning as a professional has and will continue to focus on teacher learning that should, in turn, improve pupil learning.
Delamont, S. (ed) (2012) Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing
Gordon, T., Holland, J., Lahelma, E. and Tolonen, T. (2005) Gazing with intent: ethnographic practice in classrooms. Qualitative Research 5(1), pp.113–131.
GTC Scotland (2012), The Standards for Leadership and Management: supporting leadership and management development, GTC Scotland.
Husbands, C., and Pearce, J. (2012) What makes great pedagogy? Nine claims from research, National College for School Leadership.
Porritt, V., Spence-Thomas, K. and Taylor, C. (2017) Leading professional learning and development. In: P.Earley and T. Greany, School Leadership and Education System Reform, London: Bloomsbury
Shimamura, A. (2018) MARGE: A Whole-Brain Learning Approach for Students and Teachers. Available at https://shimamurapubs.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/marge_shimamura.pdf [Accessed 5.10.18]