Continuous Personal Development Plan

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Teacher’s Diary

You may have made what I shall call a Continuous Personal Development (CPD) plan for this year. This could be by way of New Year resolutions, courses or projects you’d commence at some point in the year or indeed complete this year, thereby adding another feather to your cap. Today is probably the first day back to school, for your students in the New Year while you may have already done two inset days this week with the rest of the teachers, training, planning and evaluating. Today, I’d like to recommend to you a tool for success that cuts across all discipline – reflective practice.

The concept of reflective practice is based on the idea of lifelong learning and requires you to analyse your experiences in order to learn from them. It is a process of self-observation and self-evaluation in which you are looking at what you do, thing about why you do it and thinking about if it works.

Following your reflection though may lead to your making great changes and improvement in your job or business. When we rethink or retell our experience, we are better able to categorise the happenings, emotions, individuals in the experience and ideas emanating from the experience. Consequently, we are able to link our intended purpose with the actions that we and others did or did not carry out. Some good models of reflection that you may wish to research are:

Rolfe (2001)’s cycle of three question.

Brookfield (1998)’s seeing…through complementary lens.

John (1995)’s patterns of knowing.

Gibbs 91998)’s structured debriefing.

Argyris and Schon’s (1978)’s single and double loop learning and Kolb (1975)’s experiential learning.

Good teachers have similar concerns and worries like the following that may benefit from the systematic application of a reflective model.

They worry about:

If their lesion went well or not, the whys either way

If the students understood (or didn’t) what was taught, the whys for that.

Whether teacher’s instructions and explanations were clear.

How much did the teacher talk and what about.

How much time was allocated to student talk.

How teacher responded to student talk.

Where teacher stood and the effect of their poise, positioning and movement throughout the lesson.

Who teacher spoke to/attended to in the lesson.

How teacher came/come across to the students during the lesson.

Reflective practice in education (Reflective Teaching) therefore refers to the process of the teacher studying his or her own teaching methods and determining what works best for the students. It also involves the ethical consideration of classroom procedures on students, for example, drawing up ground class rules, displaying them and carrying out penalties of default; or using effective desk arrangement that facilitates learning, for different lessons.

You may begin a process of reflection in response to a particular problem that arose in your class or as a way of finding out more about your teaching. Julie Tice (2011) in her article ‘Reflective Teaching; Exploring our own Classroom Practice’, suggests four means that the teacher could reflect by:

Teacher diary: Keep a diary in which you jot down points on how the lesson went. Use key words to note issues you’d like to clarify, read up on or investigate later. Express your feelings about the lesson, how you adjudge the lesson to have gone. Keeping your diary begs for self-discipline, but ‘freezes’ the exact event, making it easier for you to properly rectify the issue or keep up the good work.

Peer observation: Invite another teacher to come in and observe your lesson. You may ask the observer to note particular areas like student involvement and response or the use and effect of teaching aids and objects of references. If you are lucky to get constructive criticisms, jot them down, seek the opinions of excellent veteran teachers on how to improve; search on the web for professional articles that may address the issues found.

Record your lesson (audio and visual): One way to use your mobile phone responsibly during your contract hours, depending on its capacity, is recording your lesson on it. Play it back to yourself, this gives you an insight into vital aspects of your own classroom actions. You can detect whether or not your choice is effective, restrictive, enthusing, flat or balanced. Play this back to the students, watch and listen to their reactions. A video recording shows you aspects of your behavior; all your non-verbal behavior, where you stood, who you spoke to, how you came across to the students, their tell-tale body languages as you taught etc.

Students’ feedback: Ask your students what they think about what goes on in your classroom. Their opinions and perceptions can add a different and valuable perspective. This can also be done with simple questionnaires.

As you go along this year, periodically take some time out to appraise your own practice. Do not be afraid of peer appraisal and to seek feedbacks from your colleagues and clients respectively. Have an open minded attitude to observer opinion. Their contributions may be most if not all the ideas you need to incorporate and implement for a better you.

Omoru writes from the UK