My Self-Assessment and Statement of Attainment was marked off by both my Mentor and the Deputy Head of my institution. They marked me as having made substantial progress in both ‘subject knowledge’ and ‘planning, teaching and learning’, so I have included these categories as strengths. I have also included ‘maintaining a positive learning environment’ as a strength since some of the defining criteria overlap the former two categories mentioned.
The following comment was written by the previously mentioned supervisors: ‘Alex’s confidence in terms of subject knowledge has enabled him to help students make links between topics, thinkers and concepts. He is able to explain cogently and check learners’ understanding’. My subject knowledge has been observed to be at a level at which I can competently assess learner comprehension and explain concepts to learners. It has not been noted that I picked good materials to aid learning based on my subject knowledge, however. In the future, I will try and develop this area of my practise further. As new concepts become more relevant, the OCR Philosophy and Ethics syllabus, used at my institution, may change, so it is important to keep subject knowledge up to date.
The category ‘planning, teaching and learning’ was also raised as a strength, the following comment being made by my supervisors: ‘Alex has made great strides since the start of his placement; his lessons are well planned and demonstrate his increasing reflective practise. He exudes a calm confidence to his learners, who trust him and respect him as a teacher’. Though they have said I have made great strides, and have claimed that I have made substantial progress, I am still only at the beginning of my teaching journey. I have largely learnt different teaching techniques from my institutions ‘How2s’ account, a catalogue of different methods to experiment with. I have tried a new strategy in every one of my lessons, broadening my knowledge as much as possible. That said, I had not even nearly reached a quarter of what the database contained. Furthermore, as I teach differing learners at differing locations in the world, it may be necessary to implement a broader set of strategies. Gregson (2015) writes ‘Adults learning, is written by practitioners in the field of adult education and training. There are sections on activities and conferences taking place, book reviews, website reviews and then a series of articles’. Subscription to this series of documents seems like a good way to stay informed about teaching practice, though regardless, there are clearly many avenues to acquire new information. An open mind and a commitment to continuous progression should give me the ability to overcome these future obstacles, though being unable to access scholarly articles will hinder my ability to innovate with theory-informed practice.
When my supervisors used the words ‘trust’ and ‘respect’ to describe the attitude of my learners to myself, the category ‘maintaining a positive learning environment’ became relevant. Though building mutual trust and respect is part of the criteria, I think I did not get marked as making substantial progress due to not maximising opportunities for learning as potently as possible. In my future practice, I will try and maintain building positive relationships built on mutual trust and respect, but I will also try and understand the individual needs of learners more acutely. This will help to further maximise learning opportunities for my learners.
The rest of the assessment criteria was marked at satisfactory progress, and no more direct comments were made. I have included one area of development mentioned on my last observational report from my Mentor, which is to learn the names of my students more thoroughly, and one area of development raised verbally by the Deputy Head, which is to find more techniques for assessing learning. Improving my professional conduct and my ability to support Mathematics and English is a reflection I have made about my own practice.
My Mentor wrote on my last observation report that I should work on learning the names of my learners and that this would improve my inclusive practice. I find it difficult to learn names, so I will incorporate memory improving techniques in the future. My Tutor has advised that I write the learners’ names down on a piece of paper and that for the first few sessions particularly, this will help drill the names into my long-term memory. I think, depending on the situation, learners, and context, I will ask the learners to make a name badge and wear it for the first few lessons. If I explain that I have difficulty learning names and that this is why I want them to do it, then the learners should cooperate, and a mutual relationship of respect and trust should be encouraged by admission of vulnerability. I base that statement on personal work experiences as a facilitator and in other roles, and on a talk called Listening to Shame by Professor Brene Brown.
The Deputy Head of my institution suggested that I work at developing my assessment of learning, explaining that I focused too much on peer to peer feedback. Furthermore, I did not always make the assessment criteria clear before peer review. I must improve at identifying areas of development in my learners and making my learners aware, in simple and direct language. Gregson (2015) writes ‘Rutledge uses the term tricky bits as a way of describing the common misunderstandings and misconceptions in a subject which students often struggle with’. Gregson goes on to endorse Rutledge’s approach, and that finding the common areas of difficulty which learners share can help inform and produce a more effective lesson. That said, each learner is fundamentally different. Attaining data on each learner to assess their learning at the end of each lesson should be a good strategy, increasing awareness of current and upcoming difficulties. This will help to ‘identify group and individual learning goals based on the outcomes of assessments’, part of the criteria of assessment of learning.
Supporting Mathematics and English within my subject is challenging, as although there are plenty of opportunities to identify and address difficulties with English, Mathematics does not often come up with in my subject, and I do not think it would be sensible to take up time teaching Mathematics when an A-Level syllabus needs to be understood by each of my learners. That said, Clark, Stump, Mitchell and Roebuck (2009) write ‘we ask that these teachers reinforce concepts and procedures that students have already learned but need to practice’. They go on to write that these can be broken down into concepts and procedures, and both can be incorporated into lesson questions. An example of a procedure mathematics question within Philosophy and Ethics could be ‘Aristotle wrote at least thirteen books. Aristotle died when he was 62. Roughly how many years did it take Aristotle to write one book, if he could write from birth?’. In this way, I could perhaps embed Mathematics into my lessons. Collaboration with the SEND department may flag up concerns with a learner, in which case Mathematical activities could be incorporated around that learners’ in-lesson tasks. I will research into the topic further and see if there are ways that I can incorporate the support of Mathematics while not interfering in the learning of lesson content.
Though I have not received specific comments on the category ‘professional conduct’, to develop my future practice, becoming involved in or founding a professional learning community (PLC) could improve my practice. These communities have been used largely in schools in the USA. They consist of teachers holding regular meetings, establishing a set of shared values and beliefs, and sharing valuable insights and experiences. Vicki (2008) writes ‘Although many of the 11 studies failed to describe specific changes in pedagogy, change in the professional culture of a school is a significant finding because it demonstrates that establishing a PLC contributes to a fundamental shift in the habits of mind that teachers bring to their daily work in the classroom’. In all eleven studies schools were shown to have the possibility to improve with the addition of holding PLC’s, though clearly what is strongly inferred is that a positive attitude to students, teaching and learning is key to maintaining and improving professional conduct.
Professional development goals for the 12 months after you have completed your PGCE
My immediate aims will be to research how to support Mathematics within Philosophy and Ethics, to research the most effective assessment techniques for the current OCR Philosophy and Ethics syllabus, to improve my inclusive practice by finding techniques for remembering names and modelling a positive attitude towards Philosophy and Ethics, in order to foster potential habits of mind that could improve professional conduct. However, I expect to find solutions to these problems. In truth, all the professional teaching standards will need to be continually reflected upon, and my conduct as a learning professional refined and improved through experimentation and innovation. Additionally, new challenges and approaches may be found through Continual Professional Development.
Depending on the type of institution I will work for and the work schedule I will have, I would like to keep studying a course that will improve my practice. The most obvious choice is further study at a University, though this may not be the best choice to make if I cannot work part-time, or if I wish to focus more on earning money and developing my practice. Part-time CELTA courses which run in the evening would provide more options, especially with charitable organisations aimed at helping refugees, or prisoners who cannot speak English. A DELTA would also aid my development as an educational professional, though I would need more money before I approached such a course. There are also MOOCs, which are often free and at a pace dictated by the learner. If I am always studying, then my teaching practice will be well informed and malleable.
Gregson (2015) writes ‘One argument for developing practice is that you are not a specialist who then has to think about teaching, but that your practice is a coherent whole (i.e. you teach plumbing or creative writing because you are a teaching plumber or creative writer or hairdresser, etc)’. Part of this CPD should be ‘doing’ your subject continually, as this updates your subject knowledge and keeps you relevant as a teacher. Within my subject, I had been going to Communities of Philosophical Inquiry CPD sessions, the purpose being that we would facilitate these sessions within the prison system. Though I have not facilitated such a session, I took part in ‘doing’ Philosophy with other Humanities graduates and listened to lectures from professors in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge. I will continue to attend such CPD sessions, as not only will it increase my ability as a teacher, but it models an engagement in life-long learning to my learners.
Overall, I will work on developing not only the categories outlined in the professional teaching standards but also myself as a creative professional. My first ambition is to try and pitch an initiative to a local council, or another institution interested in funding an educational intuitive. Creativity needs to be practised, so there are no failed attempts. We can learn from pedagogy, but we can also create it. As I accrue qualifications and experience, I hope to one day possess the knowledge and skill to deliver a lesson based on a pedagogical model that I developed. Perhaps this could lead to the influence necessary to produce effective and lasting social change.
Gregson, M. (2015) Readings for Reflective Teaching in Further, Adult and Vocational Education / Edited by Margaret Gregson … [Et Al.]. London : Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.
Stump, S. Clark, S. Mitchell, M. and Roebuck, K. (2009) Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School Vol. 14, No. 5 (DECEMBER 2008/JANUARY 2009), pp. 260-266
Vicki, V. (2008) “A Review of Research on the Impact of Professional Learning Communities on Teaching Practice and Student Learning.” Teaching and Teacher Education, vol. 24, no. 1, 2008, pp. 80–91., doi:10.1016/j.tate.2007.01.004.