Osterman, K. & Kottkamp suggest that “reflective practice is a challenging, demanding, and often trying process that is most successful as a collaborative effort” (p. 2, 1993). These aspects of challenge and demand have been ever-present in my Mindlab undertakings. I’ve done so much much, but this has not been the arduous element of the course for me. The most draining but ultimately fulfilling part of the course for me has been the thinking, unthinking and rethinking both as an individual and as a collaborator. To think deeply is a tiring activity as often it takes far more time than we realise and often as Osterman, K. & Kottkamp note “awareness is essential for behavioural change.” It is hard for educators to stand back and genuinely reflect in order to do less hard work and more smarter work for student success and personal and professional satisfaction and empowerment.
One of the most significant changes I have made in my practice is with respect to Criteria 7 of the Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC): “Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.” Through doing the course, I have become convinced of the merits of collaboration over in-class competition. Through using transparent and equitable student contribution platforms such as Twitter, Google Classroom, Coggle and Padlet, I have tried as much as possible to make sure all student voices are heard equitably and often. Through the use of whole-class Google Slides in my Year 9 Digital Thinking & Problem Solving classes, each student gets one slide to present what they think and feel. Through a whole-hearted and structured adoption of online learning, students can and are included in our learning space whether physically present or otherwise.
Where possible, I have encouraged students to put their cultural background as genuine, valuable classroom assets. I feel that if students feel that they and who they are and where they come from are valued, they are more likely to value themselves, their present and their future. Through a deliberate and sustained focus on my practice developing a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment, I have found that students increasingly take responsibility for learning & and begin to reflect on their own assumptions and thought processes. Lastly, as Resta & Laferrière believe “Social and team skills are developed through the give-and-take of consensus- building” (p.66, 2007). Increasingly in the shared environment I now exist in, students seek out collaborative opportunities and become more at ease with the fluidity and flexibility of role and team dynamics.
Through my learning, reflection and inherent cycle of inquiry, I have come to understand and present in thought and action, the need for considerable flex in my students’ learning and if I focus on their learning (authentic and transferable), the achievement will likely take care of itself. By achievement, I am not losing sight of the fact that our New Zealand still exist in a summative standards-based learning environment, but to me now, student achievement is also about the succeeding as themselves. They should have to be someone else or suffer in silence just to achieve.
In 2017, I now publish the learning outcomes for my students on Google Classroom. We then co-construct how and when we are learning towards these outcomes. The benefits of co-conceptualisation are clear. Students have greater ownership over the learning process and therefore are more likely to engage, and secondly, students have the ability to bring their personality and uniqueness into the learning and learning space. For the Year 9 Digital Thinking & Problem Solving rotation, we deliberately plan a program that is at least one week short of our term allotment. In doing so, we allow students to learn at their own pace, and the additional “free space” enables the students and me (to be honest) to go off on some pretty wonderful learning tangents. By having the term’s work completely transparent, the students can also see that 1) their opinion is valued and 2) there is still a systematic but transparent learning programme in place.
Lastly, a further key change with respect to my conceptualizing, planning, and implementing an appropriate learning programme is the move away from task-based learning to skill and thinking development. Through this change, the students are becoming increasingly aware that growth contexts such as computational thinking and regular reflective practice are best done regularly, formatively over summatively. Miri, B., David, B. C., & Uri, Z. (2007) among others highlight the need for the explicit and regular teaching of higher and critical thinking skills. They suggest with appropriate scaffolding in place; such targeted teaching can commence at a very early age without impinging on curiosity or creativity. In my context, each day, Each year 9 Digital Thinking & Problem Solving student is required to complete a daily Slides journal entry on what they did, how they felt and what would they change. They can change present images, words but what they must do is to think and reflect often as must I.
Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/
Miri, B., David, B. C., & Uri, Z. (2007). Purposely teaching for the promotion of higher-order thinking skills: A case of critical thinking. Research in science education, 37(4), 353-369.
Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California:Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on 7th May, 2015 from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files.
Resta, P., & Laferrière, T. (2007). Technology in support of collaborative learning. Educational Psychology Review, 19(1), 65-83.