Teachers as reflective practitioners

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I’m back in Ipoh, Malaysia, for a couple of weeks to work on the KPEC project. The photo above shows Jedd Bartlett, the NZ facilitator for the project, and his wife, Jenny, working with local teachers at a workshop at one of the local schools. It’s encouraging to see the progress that has been made, albeit in small steps, since I was last here – with teachers sharing what they are doing in classrooms with students to integrate ICTs into their teaching and learning. The KPEC programme is based on teachers planning their own “ICT Challenge”, and, supported by local facilitators and mentors, working through the challenge, all the time maintaining a log of their personal reflections and ‘learnings’ from what they’ve been doing. These are shared within the online environment which, at this stage, is available only to other participants in the programme – thus creating a community of practice where teachers are learning from each other’s experiences as well as from their own.

The focus on teachers as reflective practitioners has been a passion of mine for some years now, based in the belief that the most powerful learning we can do as professionals comes from the time we take to reflect and ‘unpack’ the daily experiences we have in our own classrooms.

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I was interested to discover recently the Making Teaching Public project (courtesy of Teacher’s College Record).

The websites in Making Teaching Public bring together videos, interviews, written reflections, curriculum materials, student work and other resources that enable viewers to examine many aspects of teaching and learning. An exhibition overview, slideshow, and invited commentaries explore some of the opportunities and issues of documentation and representation raised by the use of multimedia and new technologies in making teaching public.

These are well told stories that each of us can learn from. Take for instance the story of Martha Andrews’ 5th grade classroom at the Bronx New School. The following extract from Martha’s web entry summarises the approach:

Rather than highlighting “best practices”, the site seeks to provide an authentic slice of life of a teacher who is continually inquiring about her practice and using what she learns from her inquiry to deepen, develop, and refine her work. While the site captures many aspects of teaching and learning in Andrew’s classroom, it focuses on the way that Andrews adjusts, adapts and expands her initial curriculum plan in order to meet her students’ needs. It also provides a glimpse of how Andrews’ adjustments are informed by formal and informal efforts to assess what her students are learning and to reflect on the progress of the project.

Sharing stories like this, “warts and all”, provides an honest and empowering insight into the way teachers can shape and improve their classroom practice.

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Similarly, the experiences of the New Zealand eFellows over the past four years provides some in-depth insights into ways in which ICT can contribute in powerful ways to achieving the goals and outcomes for learners. Each of the eFellows have used an action-research process to reflect on and document the research focus that they had for the year of their fellowship.

Stories like this encourage me with what we’re doing here in Perak, and I look forward to similar stories being shared from among the teachers in this programme.

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