Pedagogical Reflection

I am a strong believer that students should play an active role in their education. I also agree with the pragmatic understanding that there are no absolute or eternal ideas in the world, but rather concepts which can be altered over time through experience. Similar to existentialist thinking, it is my opinion that people continuously make choices which define who they are. Thus, an education system which employs the idea of individual freedom and curriculum consisting of experience-based activities would be beneficial to students in finding a personal identity. 

Students collaboratively created their own
classification systems for various leaves. 
My time spent in my first practicum placement solidified many of my education beliefs I have developed over the past five years spent in the concurrent program. I implemented my concept of experimental learning through hands-on work and exploratory projects which enable my students to construct their own knowledge. I strived to implement the process of gradual release, coupled with tiered lessons to scaffold individual students’ understanding. Collaborative learning and group work was also very prevalent in my classroom, as I believe humans learn best in a social setting.

Furthermore, a strong emphasis on problem-solving and inquiry was a major focus when lesson planning, as well as student-centred learning to ensure an equity-based learning environment. As I do not feel memorization necessarily ensures understanding, I attempted to move away from rote learning and the regurgitatation of facts by giving students the opportunity to construct their own meaning. Through project-based culminating tasks, I encouraged students to link new information with their existing knowledge in meaningful ways.  

Students applied their new knowledge of classification systems to create 
a whole-class taxonomy of the animal kingdom.
For the most part, my lessons included a de-emphasis on textbooks in favour of varied learning resources. The use of math manipulatives, visual mind mapping, educational technologies, and kinesthetic activities aided students in problem-solving and inquiry in the classroom beyond what traditional texts could offer. I was fortunate enough to have a SMARTboard installed in my class, which enabled me to easily integrate a plethora of learning tools and software into my lessons, and provide students with an interactive digital tool to collaborate with their classmates.

However, despite being equipped with the professional knowledge of child-centred learning, I did find myself reverting back to a teacher-directed teaching style at first. My inexperience implementing my education theory in an actual classroom led me to teach the way I was once taught. In my future practice, I must be conscious of this pattern, and try my best to not slip into this comfort zone. Although I do recognize the value of explicit and direct instruction, I do not feel it should be the basis of my teaching model.

Another challenge I faced during my practicum placement was related to classroom management. Since I believe students should be able to roam and explore new concepts throughout the classroom, the environment became much more complicated to govern than a traditional classroom setting. This type of cooperative learning environment also fosters an increased noise level, which seemed to be bothersome to some of the students. I will be better prepared to navigate such dilemmas in the future, to best suit the needs of my students. Classroom management, specifically the idea of management versus discipline will be key areas of focus for me in my upcoming placement.

I need to always remember that my personal ideals, beliefs, and personality are who I am, and will come out in my teaching. I need to be aware of and eliminate my biases and stereotypes, to provide an inclusive schooling environment for my students. Furthermore, just as I bring personal baggage into the classroom, I must consider that my students will also bring with them experiences and opinions of their own.

I will attempt to constantly challenge and alter my worldview of teaching to best aid my students. Following the misinterpretation of his earlier work on progressive education, John Dewey wrote that educators need to think in terms of education itself, and not an ‘ism about education, even one such as ‘progressivism.’ For any movement which holds itself to any particular ‘ism becomes controlled by them (Experience and Education, 1938). I want to adapt educational theories and concepts to my own style, and not let one particular idea be my absolute guideline in the classroom. I hope to constantly question my approach to teaching as well as the common practices found within the education system.

Through ongoing reflection, I hope to solidified my values and intentions as a teacher to inform and refine my professional practice.

“Of all the teacher knowledge need to draw on, self-knowledge 
is most important (and least attended to)” (Ayers, 2001)

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