Critical Reflection and Teaching Practice

Subject: Education
Pages: 8
Words: 2019
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

Teaching is a process that does cannot have a negative result. Teaching is either happening or not. An educator is to monitor their results continuously to make sure that the teaching is present; this is why assessment is such a crucial part of teaching for both the educators and learners. For a teacher to perform their duties efficiently only they need to be aware not only of the progress and academic success of their students but also of their own effectiveness as professionals. This essay provides an explanation of the four lenses suggested by Brookfield and their application within teaching practice. Besides, the paper explores the use of one of these lenses (the student lens) for the assessment of a teacher’s performance along with the strategies that could be employed for the facilitation of the critical reflection during PE1 and beyond. Finally, this essay discusses the limitations and advantages of gaining students’ feedback on teaching.

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Brookfield’s four lenses

Four lenses suggested by Stephen Brookfield present a way for an educator to discover the value and efficiency of their own teaching and to become critically reflective when it comes to their practice (Miller, 2010). Being critically reflective as a professional is rather important for a teacher because this skill provides them with the insights concerning the required improvement and adjustments that would maximize the efficiency of their practice for the learners. Just like in any other career field, the only key to the professional success of a teacher is ongoing growth and advancement. Critical reflection as an ability makes a teacher more aware of their performance from a variety of perspectives (Miller, 2010).

The first of Brookfield’s four lenses is self-reflection, of the Self Lens (also known as an autobiographical lens); it is responsible for an educator’s self-assessment and evaluation of their own practice in an objective way. This process in reality is very complex and challenging to handle since it requires a lot of critical thinking applied throughout the teaching process and covering all of its stages. Critically reflecting on their own practice and efficiency as a professional, teachers can monitor the consistency of their learners’ results by means of frequent assessment practice. The difficulty of critical self-reflection is that almost no one is able to stay aware of their own choices and behavioral patterns 100% of the time. The second Brookfield lens is called the student lens, and it represents the perspective of the learners on the efficiency of the teacher. This lens helps an educator to make sure that the students perceive their teaching activities the way the teacher intended them to avoid misunderstandings (Trevitt, 2007). The students’ perspectives on a teacher’s performance can be obtained either directly (by means of questionnaires, interviews, and discussions) or indirectly (through the interpretation of the students’ reactions to various aspects of the teaching process. The third lens suggested by Brookfield is referred to as the peer lens and includes the reviews of an educator’s practice by their peers and colleagues. This type of critical reflection includes the interactions between groups of teachers designed with the goal of providing and receiving a critical evaluation. According to Brookfield (1995), this kind of interaction helps the teachers to stop being isolated and add some team works to their practice. Regardless of the obvious benefits, this lens carries (objective evaluation, view from the side, new perspectives, professional insights), it can be treated with reluctance by teachers who generally are used to working on their own and be rather locked up when it comes to sharing their experiences, strategies, and personally developed lessons (Benson, 2011). Finally, the fourth lens uses theoretical literature as the source of critical reflection for a teacher. Literature is useful due to the fact that it provides alternative perspectives on the standard practices and is capable of enhancing an educator’s professional knowledge and self-awareness (Ainsworth, 2005). The examples from theoretical literature help the teachers view the teaching strategies and activities in a new way and re-establish their link to the learning goals.

Overall, critical reflection is extremely valuable for an educator as it provides them with new ideas and points of view on their practice. Due to this fact, the reflection needs to come from a variety of sources (self, students, colleagues, and theory) to maximize its effect on a teacher.

Student lens

The student lens is the one accompanied by the largest number of complications. It is possible to gain student feedback during the learning process employing two main approaches – formal and informal. Students’ feedback is required because it helps the teacher to follow the pulse of the learning process, identify the most and the least successful activities, and maximize the efficiency of their interaction with the learners. One of the strategies of obtaining students’ feedback informally is through a quiz that will work as a polling tool where students will be asked to provide answers to the educator’s questions about the learning process (Teaching Evaluation and Student Feedback, 2015). The items included in a quiz may be based on multiple-choice responses or Yes/No answers. Moreover, another way to collect learners’ feedback relies on an applications card that will require the learners to write down as many applications for the knowledge and skills they have obtained in class as possible. This type of feedback collection can be easily paired with the gratitude in learning technique suggested by Howells (2012), which would be very useful for the stimulation of the student’s engagement and enthusiasm for learning. This way, apart from the enumeration of the versatile applications for the skills the learners have obtained, they may be also asked to name the skills for which they are grateful. It goes without saying that a lesson is often overfilled with various activities and tasks, and this leaves very little time for an additional test. As a result, some of the feedback gathering means are designed to work quickly. Some of such blitz tests may include writing down quick insights concerning the most complex and the least understood parts of lessons, feedback about the activities of the day or a week in relation to the most and least interesting experiences (Teaching Evaluation and Student Feedback, 2015). When it comes to the formal way of feedback collection, an educational facility may have its own practices concerning this aspect. For instance, each teacher may be obliged by the school to conduct a test designed to gather the students’ feedback after every unit, or the reflection may be collected on a monthly basis. Such a feedback collection approach should rely on standardized forms for each subject.

Students’ feedback collection strategies

In PE1, the collection of student feedback using informal means can be directed at the identification of the most and least favored activities, and the activities children do not feel are adequate. This feedback will serve to optimize the learning process and maximize its value for the children. In my opinion, one of the most useful strategies for feedback collection in PE1 will include children’s ideas about the multiple applications for the skills they obtain in class. The items and activities that will be named as the most useful would be rated as the most valuable practices. Besides, when it comes to PE1, it is mainly based on learning through play, this is why it makes sense to ask the children to name the games they enjoy the most. Besides, every modern classroom is very diverse, and it is crucial for the teachers to take this diversity into consideration and make sure that their teaching practices do not isolate any students based on any characteristics. To achieve maximum inclusion, a teacher is to gather feedback concerning the activities that make children feel incapable or inadequate, the practices that the children deem too complex, or the ones they dislike based on particular reasons. It is important to ask the learners to provide explanations as to why they perceive certain PE tasks in a negative way. Moreover, such assessments need to be conducted separately for practical and theoretical parts of the PE1 curriculum since these two aspects pursue rather different goals, and their optimization will develop differently.

Feedback collection strategies for the learner’s ages 5 to 12 may be conducted in a form of games and include teamwork and collaboration between the students. For example, students can be divided into teams and pick one most or least favorite activity to reenact it silently for the other groups to guess. Further, the teacher will ask the students why they like or dislike particular activities. If the opinions of the class concerning the most enjoyable activities differ, a teacher may hold a competition between the supporters of the different opinions and the activity chosen by the winner would be included in the lesson. To conduct a brief feedback collection, a teacher may distribute a short multiple-choice test where the learners will quickly express their opinions concerning the curriculum, or the activities of the past several weeks. This form of feedback collection is only suitable for older learners (9 to 12). To go beyond the PE1 program, a teacher may ask for suggestions from the learners as to the practices they would like to include in the program that is not already there, or provide a list of new activities and ask the learners to vote for those they would like to participate in.

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Benefits and limitations

The collection and use of the students’ feedback has a number of positive and also some negative sides. As for the benefits, students’ feedback is rather useful as a formative and summative assessment. First of all, as it was mentioned before, it allows the teacher to evaluate their own work as perceived by the learners and find out whether or not the expectations and perceptions of various teaching tasks and activities coincide for both givers and receivers of education. The mutual understanding that is also referred to as “being on the same wavelength” is vital for the successful education, besides, asking for feedback teaches the students that they are valued and appreciated by their educators as individuals and carriers of important points of view (Using Student Feedback, 2015). Secondly, students’ feedback can be very helpful for the organizational solutions within the educational facilities (base for promotions or probations). Thirdly, it allows modifying the curriculum in accordance with the needs of the learners making it more contemporary and relevant to the students’ day-to-day experiences (Using Student Feedback, 2015). At the same time, one of the main limitations of the collection and use of the students’ feedback is that its summative form does not provide enough guidance for immediate changes (Nair, Patil, & Mertova, 2012). Besides, to obtain sufficient knowledge of the students’ perception of the teaching process and its value the feedback needs to be collected on a regular basis which creates a risk that over some time the procedure of feedback collection may turn into a routine and stop being a creative and constructive way to assess the teaching practice and materials (Nair et al., 2012). Finally, another limitation is that the standardized forms and procedures of feedback collection may not be applicable to the creative teaching practices.

Conclusion

To sum up, critical reflection is crucial for any teacher’s professional success and efficiency. It may be obtained through the four lenses suggested by Stephen Brookfield which are self-reflection, peer review, students’ feedback, and theory review. The four lenses provide a broad assessment of both successful and unsuccessful teaching practices and approaches. As a result, an educator gains valuable insights concerning their performance and guidance for further growth and improvement. The importance of the students’ feedback as a form of critical reflection for an educator is high as it is flexible and may be used to assess various aspects of the practice (such as program planning, course contents, quality of materials, teaching strategies, and activities of choice, among others) providing the teacher with useful comments and suggestions (Nair et al., 2012). At the same time, feedback collection and use have such limitations as incompatibility with standardized assessment forms and the requirement for frequent updates.

Reference

Ainsworth, S. (2005). Becoming a relational academic. Synergy, 22, 1.

Benson, K. (2011). Teacher Collaboration in Context: Professional Learning

Communities in an Era of Standardization and Accountability. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. (UMI Number: 3461799).

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Howells, K. (2012) Gratitude in education: A radical view. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

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Miller, B. (2010). Brookfield’s Four Lenses: Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Web.

Nair, C., Patil, A., & Mertova, P. (2012). Enhancing learning and teaching through student feedback in engineering. Oxford, UK: Chandos Pub.

Teaching Evaluation and Student Feedback. (2015). Web.

Trevitt, C. (2007). What is critically reflective teaching? Web.

Using Student Feedback. (2015). Web.