Attending the Reflective Tools for Teacher Development workshop led by Dr Steve Mann (Warwick University) and Professor Steve Walsh (Newcastle University), organised by the Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership based at Moray House School of Education, was a great chance for me to further develop my leadership skills. It had the extra benefit of allowing me to take part in professional learning that would enhance my teacher leadership skills within both my school context and also as a tutor on the SCEL Teacher Leadership Programme where I support others to reflect on their own practice.
The morning kicked off by challenging the classic view of reflection which was summed up by Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ and the notion that deep and meaningful reflection is a solitary process taking place within a quiet and calm environment. As a teacher and a mother of a young child, I know how hard it is to achieve that so it was reassuring to hear from both speakers that there is no ‘best method’. It’s about seeing reflective practice as a constant process, forming an essential dimension to our practice, that can take on many forms including activities such as post observation conferences and engaging with the PRD process.
But how do we ensure we are not just engaging in ‘inauthentic reflection’- we do so by making sure we know what to reflect on and how to go about it using a range of reflective tools. And if the ‘what’ becomes focused reflection on understanding the interactions that take place within your classroom, it can be very powerful. Professor Walsh talked about developing Classroom Interactional Competence (CIC) and defined it as teachers’ ability to use interaction as a tool for mediating and assisting learning. He argues that by putting interaction firmly at the centre of teaching and learning and reflecting on the relationship between language, interactions and the learning that is taking place, teachers improve their CIC and therefore the learning and opportunities for learning. As someone who strongly believes that positive relationships must be at the heart of learning, reflective practice focusing on interactions really appealed to me. It’s the subtleties of how we create the right climate in our classrooms to make everyone feel welcome and listened to that sometimes get overlooked.
So now we have the ‘what’ to reflect on, how do you go about it? This is where the reflective tools come in. One way is to take recorded snapshot lesson extracts of approx. 5-10 minutes at different stages throughout a lesson then analyse the interactions within the clips. If you want some structure to assess your interactions against, the SETT (Self Evaluative Teacher Talk) Framework was another tool suggested. Stimulated Recall procedures (see Lyle, 2003) takes this a step further where short sections of the lesson can be analysed with a critical friend to discuss in more depth what’s really happening. This collaboration with others enables us to learn through interaction by focusing on interaction.
Collaborative reflection was a key theme throughout the workshop. Cooperative Development (CD) is a collaborative approach to professional self-development talk where the aim is to create a collaborative reflective space. The roles of ‘understander’ and ‘speaker’ are adopted to facilitate the spoken reflections of the speaker and allow them to reflect, focus and develop ideas. It made me think about the reflective discussions that can take place within a mentoring or coaching relationship. For those interested in more information about training materials for CD, Dr Steve Mann can be contacted at Steve.Mann@warwick.ac.uk.
Another tool recommended to facilitate reflection when videoing a lesson was the free app VEO – something I have never seen before. This app allows you to record and upload your lesson then tag parts of the lesson in order to reflect on key features. You can then have it reviewed and discussed within an online learning space.
It’s impossible to share in great detail all the reflective tools talked about – but Walsh and Mann have a book coming out in May for anyone interested in reading more.