Learning to teach: becoming a reflective practitioner
Learning to teach: becoming a reflective practitioner

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Learning to teach: becoming a reflective practitioner

1.2 Professional judgement and practice wisdom

You may hear the terms ‘professional judgement’ and ‘practice wisdom’ used during your ITE course, particularly if you ask a teacher why they made a particular decision about how to teach. Sometimes, it is difficult for an experienced teacher to unpack what lies behind their decision-making processes (Hobson, 2002, Jones and Straker, 2006). What often lies behind professional judgements or practice wisdom is years of experimenting with different approaches, incorporating different ideas from research, theory and practice, and constant critical reflection.

Activity 1: Practice wisdom, theory and experience

Time: 20 minutes

There is a triangular relationship between practice wisdom, theory and experience, see Figure 1 (Lunenberg and Korthagen, 2009).

Described image
Figure 1 Triangular relationship between practice wisdom, theory and experience

Listen to ‘What’s in a name: mentoring and tutoring explained’ focusing specifically on the dialogue by Hannah Watson (mentor) and Dave Smith (tutor), about the difference between the two roles. (Please note that The Open University’s PGCE course mentioned in this audio has now been discontinued.)

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Transcript: Audio 1

Sarah Vaughn:
I’m Sarah Vaughn, I’m the PGCE tutor for the Open University.
Hannah Watson:
I’m Hannah Watson, I am a mentor at South Nottinghamshire Academy.
Simon Bland:
Hi, I’m Simon Bland - I am the student teacher here.
Hannah Watson:
Okay, well done. It’s always very difficult when you’re under pressure and you’ve got people observing and stuff. We’ve picked out some really positive points from the observation and some stuff-- Sarah’s got some really good targets that we’ve discussed for you to work on. The starter activity was good, for them to have a think about relating a bit to literacy, key words and stuff as well. A lot of the question and answering was quite good, maybe thinking a bit more about you can scaffold it, so how you can push the more able to give more explanations, so, going into a bit more depth with some of the more able, especially the instrumentalists. The difference between a tutor and a mentor is the mentor is school-based, whereas the tutor is based with the university. So, they’ll come in and do observations every now and the, but the mentor is the person who is there day-to-day to observe lessons and give feedback and give as much support as possible.
Sarah Vaughn:
We both felt that the pace of the lesson was very good for the first sort of two thirds of it. You gave them a task and said they’d got five minutes, but actually you gave them 12 minutes so then you’d lost time. And then you did your peer feedback and said ‘you’ve got two minutes’, and I’ve just written down here ‘how realistic is it?’ If that’s a valuable part of the lesson, two minutes is probably not long enough to do it in. And the knock-on effect of all of these little things was that the beginning of the lesson was so calm and focused and the end of the lesson felt more of a scramble, and your voice pitch went higher as your stress levels increased. And we all do it, and we all know having people observing you makes you much more sensitive to the fact that you haven’t done something that you’ve written in your lesson plan or you haven’t got everything through that you need to get done.
A mentor’s focus is on coaching and education; although the tutor covers that too, I take more of the bulk of the summative assessment role for actually making sure the assessment levels are accurate. So I will ask a mentor what grade a student has reached in a particular lesson; we’ll discuss the grading in terms of the overall levels of attainment for qualified teacher status.

Diegetic

Simon Bland:
So, should I have scrapped something at that point? ’Cause I knew I’d lost the time...

Non-diegetic

Sarah Vaughn:
I think being an effective tutor means that you’ve got to have really good, secure subject knowledge of your own. And I think it’s really useful to be a practitioner currently while you’re tutoring. I often refer to my own teaching experience while I’m talking to a student about the lessons that I’ve observed. Being a teacher has an impact on your knowledge of teaching to help coach your students.

Diegetic

Hannah Watson:
By giving them a few more minutes to go away and improve, and perhaps not doing the self-assessment when you’ve got that little time...

Non-diegetic

Hannah Watson:
A good mentor is somebody who knows themselves what good teaching is, so that when they’re watching somebody else they can see what they’re doing well and how they can improve, and being able to give good quality feedback to help the student improve as well. Also, somebody who’s generally quite approachable so that the student feels that they can go and talk to them about any ideas that they’ve got or anything that they’re struggling with so that they can then have the support that they need. A good mentor is someone who is open to ideas as well, so not asking the student to do everything their way but happy for the student teacher to come and experiment with different ways of teaching, or different ways of doing things and not being afraid to let them have a go at doing that. Being able to sit and watch somebody teach and thinking ‘oh, actually, that was really good – maybe I’ll try that one time’ or watching something and thinking ‘yeeahh... I’m not sure about that, I would perhaps do it this way’; it’s quite a nice thing to be able to do because there isn’t a lot of opportunity to be watching lessons when you’re busy teaching all of the time. It was only a few years ago that I did my PGCE and it’s nice now, a few years later, to be able to be a mentor and realise how far that I’ve come in those years to be in the position where I can give advice and feedback and support somebody else – it’s quite rewarding to have been through that cycle. It’s good being a mentor.

Diegetic

Sarah Vaughn:
What I would like to see is you giving the task, the time-limit, checking that everybody has understood that, knows where they’re supposed to be going to do that--
Hannah Watson:
Yeah, you didn’t ask ‘any questions, is everybody happy?’
Simon Bland:
I do that! I have a horrible habit of always thinking ‘oh, and just one more thing...’ It’s like Colombo or something, but not in a particularly helpful way.
Sarah Vaughn:
And they’ve gone. They’ve started to move. The chairs are making a noise. They’ve started to chat ’cause they’re moving to the next stage. And you are going ‘hang on a minute, hang on a minute...’

Non-diegetic

Simon Bland:
Sarah knows completely what is required to pass this course and what are the common developmental needs of training teachers. She’s seen me from the start so she’s got a good idea of what my needs analysis was, where I’m going, what my blind-spots are likely to be. Hannah is obviously a lot closer to me, Hannah being my mentor – closer to me through this placement. They both guide me, they both make observations as to what I need, but Hannah obviously sees it closer. She sees the different relationships that I’ve built up with students and they’re students that she knows a lot better than I’m ever likely to get to know them.

Diegetic

Hannah Watson:
...I’m thinking about other classes, maybe like the year 9s, that could become a bit off-task if they can see the time’s going... then it’s a reference for you and perhaps for them...
Students:
This is Royal Alexandra and Albert School
Dave Smith:
You could have very easily said: ‘look, if you’re done this already, just go straight to the second question. But if you haven’t got a note, complete the first one.’

Non-diegetic

Dave Smith:
I’m Dave Smith, Open University tutor on the PGCE course. Well, the mentor is hands-on on a day-to-day basis and so inevitably they’re working within the structure and ethos of the school, and they need to help the student to perform effectively within that particular ethos and that particular context. And so often their advice might well be quite clearly directed towards what is required in a certain situation. The tutor is coming in from outside, seeing the student on a much less frequent basis, and is actually unable to be in a position to give specific advice on specific contexts; so, their role is always to open out the discussion to think about what might be done in other circumstances, how else could things have been done – that’s a really key difference between the mentor and the tutor.
Dave Smith:
A tutor has got probably two main functions. One is trying to get the student to apply things they’ve read about to--theories and so on--to their own practice. And the other is getting them to realise that, while certain aspects of their practice might be very applicable in the context they’re in, that they might need to modify or adapt that practice for a different group of kids or a different school or what have you. So it’s that idea of, rather than focusing on the here-and-now (which I think is very much the mentor’s role), the tutor has got to try and take them away from the here-and-now as much as possible, and try to get them to project possible alternative situations and alternative contexts, and how they might need to change in those situations.
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How does the discussion relate to Lunenberg and Korthagen’s diagram?

Discussion

Hannah clearly identifies the immediate, context specific nature of her role. She acknowledges the importance of being a good role model, yet being open and flexible enough to accept different opinions on practice. Although it is not explicitly stated, it is plausible that these different opinions and ideas may have come from previous experiences of teaching, personal experiences of teaching the classes at that school, and ideas from theory or literature.

Dave’s comments reveal that he believes it is his role to ensure that practice wisdom, theory and experience are brought together, considered and discussed with the student. He outlines his role as being one that ‘opens out’ the debate to beyond the immediate context. He explicitly mentions making links between theory and experience as a way of doing this.

Learning to teach is about working with these complexities, learning from them and successfully transferring your learning to new contexts. Reflective practice is one way to ensure this happens and we will now go on to think about what reflective practice involves.

LTT_3

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