What do we mean by Reflective Practice as an educational research method?
Reflective practise allows us as teachers to reflect on their own teaching with open-mindedness, careful consideration and ultimately shapes our thinking and action. The method of reflective practice allows the educator to engage in a learning environment where “the learning takes place in a community of discourse that embraces the growth of all involved” (J.K. Jay, K.L. Johnson 2002). Reflection is tied with action, it is said by Schon that teachers should test out variable teaching methods and then modify their actions as a result from the findings. ‘Often our knowing is in the spontaneous intuitive performance of everyday life, we are knowledgeable in a special way – our knowing is in our action’ (1983, p.50) Donald Schön.
Action research begins with selection and reflection of literature, clarifying theories, identifying a research question, collecting and analysing collected data, reporting the results, practise is re-evaluated, and appropriate action is taken for modification.
Phenomenology philosophically is consciousness, thought, and experience. It is the study of consciousness and involves objects of direct experience. It is the way people think without explanation.
Autoethnography is the self-reflective form of data collection. Reflection on ‘the self’ can be both helpful and necessary to gain multiple perspectives about teaching styles and effectiveness of those styles. Collecting data and journaling allows the reader to see signs that may have been overlooked or help link the self in the context. ‘Journal writing is also a dialogue with the self in which students seek meaning and a place in their worlds, perspective, balance, and direction’ (Hedlund et al., 1989). Using autoethnography in my classroom will help me gain a wider cultural, political and social understanding of the students learning patterns and my teaching styles. Furthermore, journaling has proven to be a technique for effective autoethnography ‘Journaling allows educators to think thoroughly and systematically about personal experiences and professional practices, to alter those actions when appropriate, and to become reflective practitioners’ Rhonda S. Black, Thomas W. Sileo & Mary Anne Prater (2000).
A new methodology created by Margaret Somerville that she calls postmodern emergence ‘focuses on the irrational, the unfolding, the embodied and the messiness of research engagement.’ Somerville, M. (2007). Somerville acknowledges emergence as an important and underappreciated necessity for learning to generate new knowledge. Her research “illustrates something irreducible and fundamental about the development of a methodology of postmodern emergence because it is at the extreme end of the spectrum of emergence.” Using Somerville’s methodology can help to encourage students to wonder. This wondering which may be far from the norm and therefore seem disorienting or uncomfortable, but through that discomfort comes the power to undo assumptions and generate new knowledge.
Collective biography is where a group of writers come together to talk and write short narratives in the same publication. The writers exchange their stories and merge them into one ‘invaluable way of attempting to recover past experiences as well as of suggesting ways in which this was shaped by the broader structures in which it was situated.’ Cowman, K. (2012). Collective biography can be a useful tool in the classroom for examining the aims and intentions of individuals. It can also help determine the actions and help to understand the outcomes of those actions.
Using teaching strategies
Understanding and using teaching strategies can be a powerful tool in teaching. I will be focusing on high impact teaching strategies for my reflective practice project and I will touch base on all methodologies in relation to reflective practise, especially on the importance of autoethnography when teaching HITS.
My aspirations as a teacher are to create a safe, happy environment for my students that is a community of learning and wondering. I believe it is important to find a way to engage every single student in the classroom. If even one student is left out or not understanding, then the class is a failure. Using teaching strategies will help to engage all students no matter how slow or fast they learn, or what kind of mind they have.
The literature I have chosen to help with my project is ‘What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance’ (2015) published by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). One of the main questions I plan on addressing is whether “teachers are more likely to make effective use of student data when working together than when working alone” (2015).
The literature by CESE suggests that engagement by members of the community is necessary for the wellbeing of students and wellbeing and quality teaching are mutually reinforcing. (2015)
The prominent themes in this literature are
- High expectations
- Explicit teaching
- Effective feedback
- Use of data to inform practice
- Classroom management
The study of collective biography specifically the research by Cowman, K. (2012) will assist in answering this question and provide insight into how teachers can link their ideas with my own.
Hattie, John, and Gregory C. R. Yates. Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn (2013) similarly provides a research of evidence-based strategies of learning and achievement. Visible learning in summary is teachers being able to see through the eyes of the students and students being able to perceive teachers as the most important ingredient to their learning process. Hattie explains in his research that the most crucial singular part of leaning is feedback. The theory of visible learning ties in with the idea of reflective practise/action research explained by Donald Schön (1987) and J.K. Jay, K.L. Johnson (2002). While there are many components to reflective practise and action research, the key idea explored between these 3 literary sources is the importance of empathy towards the student and letting the student have more control over their own learning.
High impact teaching strategies published by the Department of Education and Training Melbourne (DET) (2017). The High impact teaching strategies (HITS) are as follows:
- Setting goals- lessons with clear learning intentions that allow and promote success.
- Structuring lessons- optimising time with teaching and learning activities that “stimulate and maintain engagement by linking lesson and unit learning”. DET (2017)
- Explicit teaching- Clearly showing students how and what to do.
- Worked examples- explains the steps required to complete a task or solve a problem.
- Collaborative learning- “students work in small groups and participate in a learning task, collaborative learning involves students actively participating in negotiating roles, responsibilities and outcomes.” DET (2017)
- Multiple exposures- students practise what they have learnt and are provided fast feedback for immediate improvement and correction.
- Questioning- questioning opens avenues for discussions, expressing opinions and alternative points of view and encourages students to argue (in the safe, educational sense)
- Feedback- feedback for the teacher or student means that they can understand where the student is in the learning process so that they can plan steps to further achieve their learning goal. Feedback is also a great tool for motivation and self-assurance.
- Metacognitive strategies- teach students to take control over their own learning. “Metacognitive activities can include planning how to approach learning tasks, evaluating progress, and monitoring comprehension.” DET (2017)
- Differentiated teaching- are methods used by teachers to boost the level of the whole class i.e. those falling behind as well as those way ahead. “These methods include high quality, evidence-based group instruction, regular instruction and individual interventions.” DET (2017)
As well as the literatures mentioned, I plan on advancing my reflective practise as an educator by way of autoethnography, specifically journaling regarding the research done by Hedlund et al., (1989) and Rhonda S. Black, Thomas W. Sileo & Mary Anne Prater (2000). I will explore the multiple modes of expression that contribute to the creation of the methodology postmodern emergence formed by Somerville, M (2007) and I will attempt collective biography with fellow teachers and explore the research by Cowman, K. (2012)
There are special unforeseen circumstances and therefore I have had no confirmations on the school I will be doing PREXUS at but the school I elected and hope to do my professional experience at is Oak Flats High School. The school is located at 42-44 The Esplanade
Oak Flats. The school has many support services such as counselling for students and family, translators for meetings, and a strong P&C to make important decisions for the school. I was unable to find further information.
Ethics & Data Collection
For monitoring the effectiveness of teaching strategies, I plan on using the Time Triangulation method, where I will do 3 different types of journaling. Spontaneous journaling will be done rapidly after the lesson or if need be, directly after a substantial teaching factor arises that compromise my project. I plan on making these entries as a tally on a graph that lists the teaching strategies and effectiveness e.g.
- Highly effective
- effective partially
- Not effective
- Collaborative learning
End of the day journaling will be more in-depth journal entries (2-3 paragraphs) considering the social and critical implications of the whole day. End of the week evaluation will be a broad evaluation, bringing together the notes taken from the week and putting them in context. The end of the week entries will also be the time I revisit the literature I have chosen and use my knowledge of action research to review if anything from my project proposal needs fixing or moderating, e.g. if I have more time for rapid reflection I could change my tally to a graph with notes etc. I can’t say for sure whether quantitative or qualitative data will be more effective in my project, but reflection on the self and action research of the data will determine which data collection method will be superior.
For reasons such as integrity, sensitivity, power relations, effect on the school community, privileged researcher/teacher, risk of legal action, NSW teaching standards and critical reflection, University of New England (2020), I will take precautions to avoid an ethics disaster. No names or photos will be taken of students and data taken will purely be of my own teaching performance. I will leave all data collection until students are out of the classroom, unless it is necessary.
I find the Model for data analysis created by Miles and Huberman (1984) to be a particularly effective way of interpreting data. The model involves 1. Data collection, 2. Data reduction, 3. Data display, and 4. Drawing and verifying conclusions. Data reduction involves selecting, focusing, simplifying, abstracting and transforming the data that has been written, this data is considered ‘raw’ (1984). Data display is where the information is organised and at the end is ready for action taking and conclusion drawing. Conclusion drawing and verification is the third part of the process (taking into account that data collection was a prerequisite step) and it is where things start to come together, patterns are formed and discovered, data starts to flow and configure, and final conclusions are drawn.
By reflective practise I will carefully analyse the data to find common themes, patterns and trends. I will look for meaning within the images and consider the conditions and context of the classroom and students as well as any social influences. Autoethnography and post-modern emergence will analyse whether the self is fluid, Sommerville, M (2007) has evolved throughout the process and phenomenology of the spontaneous journaling will be very important to capture pure emotions and thoughts.
There are many ways I might consider reporting my findings. There are 3 types of researches that will be explored in my project. Experimental is best reported in tables and figures as a guide to the key results, this can include negative results. Quantitative research should always go back to the original research question/hypothesis being tested, find important trends in differences and state whether these differences are significant.
Qualitative research is hard to present using visual aids such as images or graphs and requires written explanation. Qualitative data requires significant structure and therefore can be well presented with the use of headings, subheadings, themes, chapters and dates.