I am 25 years old, father of a 5 year old son working as an LSA this last two (2) years. Currently I am also attending University for the first time, where I am following a diploma in Facilitating Inclusive Education. My last school experience was when I was 18 where there I finished 6th form and started working. There I got a pass in Biology advanced level, a pass in intermediate level in Maltese, Physics, Religion and Systems of knowledge but failed to pass in Chemistry advanced level which I didn’t like much. From there on I started working with my brother and refrained from doing resists also due to financial and personal problems.
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Momentarily I am working as an LSA in Thomas More Boys secondary school, the same school I started in on October 2008. Until now I always supported students with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. Working as an LSA full filled my dream, which is of teaching although not as I originally wished, but I can say that I am very happy with my job.
I consider myself as interested in many aspects of life and consider general knowledge as very important for me. The main aspects which pick out most of my interests are local and foreign news, supernatural aspects, science and local feasts. In fact I am involved a lot in my local village feast especially in ‘Ghaqda Armar Santa Marija’.
I wanted to follow this course since in many occasions I felt helpless in my work about how should I tackle students, problems that may arise from time to time and to understand better student’s needs and behaviour. This will surely help me to be of better service to the students and at the same time enjoy more my work, going home more relaxed with less tensed due to problems at work.
Theory and practice: the relationship
Many times we think that theory is not important. Aren’t common sense statements enough to make a good practitioner? Today we have a devaluation of degrees. There is an idea that working with children does not involve much work! Yet with the life of children one cannot afford any mistakes.
Common sense says that:
Praise is better then blame
Don’t expect them to sit for too long
When they get restless give them something to do.
Test them fairly at regular intervals
Give them feedback as soon as possible
Spare the rod and spoil the child
Open the windows
Never turn your back on them
Start though and you can afford to relax
Some problems with theory
• Feel frustrated when lecturers, head teachers and other people who are no longer practitioners offer unworkable advice.
• Accuse lecturers that it is all right in theory but not so good in practice.
• A lot of paper work which leads to know where in practice also creates conflict between theory and practice.
• At times theory is inadequate and not adapted for local examples.
• Theory can be misleading and presented in an unacceptable utopia
• Even though theory sounds good it can be that in a particular context such theories would not work.
Theories are generalizations about practice.
A set of rules presented in a certain generality or with disregard of a particular circumstance is called a theory … the practitioner must exercise his judgement to decide whether a case falls under the general role (Kant).
Theories have to be applied with discrimination to a particular situation.
There can never be a one to one correspondence between theory and practice.
Educational theories have to be applied by practitioners in an active, thoughtful critical and creative way.
Teacher should be reflective practitioners i.e. a professional in a practical situation.
Through continuous reflection on practice teachers develop their own practice – related theory.
Use theory in an intelligent way. Create own theory that is a result of what happened in class and what you know from theory – be flexible.
The reflective teacher
Teachers who reflect out of their own untutored perspective may fail to see, understand and act upon complex situations like the classroom. They fail to have alternative solutions to educational problem.
An intelligent well informed critical reflection on practice can only be the outcome of someone who is familiar with academic educational theory.
Reflective thinking is an analysis of what happens in a classroom and circumstances. The task of teaching requires constant classroom observation, evaluation, and action and it is not enough to just recognize what goes on in your classroom. Rather it’s very important to understand the how’s, why’s and what if’s as well. To understand this one must reflect and practice reflection regularly.
Reflective thinking is a learned process that takes time. Most of the time left in anyone’s day to reflect on previous events and design creative problem-solving strategies is very limited. However for a teacher or an L.S.A to achieve better results, time for reflection should be a very important task and ongoing practice. The following are examples of activities that aid in reflection and may be used after a school day.
Reflective Journal: It is a process of recording and analyzing circumstances in the way they happened. It can be a useful strategy to aid in reflective thinking later on.
Competency Level: Think about the goals in teaching set in the performance standards of your job. Check on the areas mentioned and on which scale you are performing. Identify the factors that inhibit you from performing better and reflect on what would be most helpful for better performing.
Action Research: Consider a problem area in reaching your IEP goals such as student’s motivation. Make more observations and research to learn more about the problem and how to act on it. Use this data to further think about the situation, act and reevaluate.
Written Self-Evaluation: Self evaluation is very important in checking on the positive and negative things one did during his day/week. Although some may think that an oral one will do, a written one is by far much better because it requires the individual to stop and think about aspects happened during the day.
Problem Solving Process: The following six step process can be used for any eventual problem both in class or even any other problem that one may face. It is intended to aid in problem solving and reflective thinking. This will help you on how to take an action for your problem.
Identify the problem
Generate possible solutions
Evaluate the solutions
Design an action plan
Implement the plan
Evaluate the results
Identify a Theory Think about daily practice … did the theory work and was it useful?
Social learning theory (Albert Bandura)
Albert Bandura believed that people learn from one another by watching, observing and imitating the behaviour of others. According to Bandura both positive and negative behaviours can be learnt. Learning occurs when there is a relatively change in behaviour. First the observer is reinforced by a model then there is the imitated behaviour. Students are also at times reinforced by third persons such as their class peers. In the case of the children I work with I use social learning theory instead of prompting them to do things. I encourage other students to stand up and take out books before the teacher comes in. Also during tasks I support other students in class and make it a point that the students I support take notice of others working. In other occasions I prompt my students by showing them that other students are all working or that certain behaviour is not done by others. My main aim behind such actions is in order not to irritate my students with constant prompting and also to show them what is expected from them and what is supposed to be done without making them nervous. Nowadays I can see that the frequency by which they follow others is increasing.
Also students are very influenced by adults in class and showing correct behaviour is very necessarily in giving a good example and being a good model to the students.
Reflection: the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat or sound without absorbing it: Reflected light. Reflection is a detection and correction of error.
Practice: Application or use of an idea.
Reflective Practice: An approach that enables professionals to understand how they use their knowledge in practical situations, how they combine action and learning in a more effective way.
Reflection in Action (RIA)
Reflect at the moment you are doing something.
Reflect suddenly while you are doing something.
Reflection on Action (ROA)
Reflect and evaluate after you do something.
Once you reflect on the results achieved planning can be improved.
The teaching cycle:
• Lesson planning based on an overall scheme of work and objectives.
• Implementation of objectives through teaching and activities.
• Reflection on every stage.
Reflection includes past, present and future. It involves: What happened? Why did it happen? What went wrong? What can be done? What is meaningful learning? What is interesting learning? Where there any distractions?
Thinking involves deliberation, making choices, levels of thinking, metacognition, investigation. Thinking takes time. We should give time.
Questioning- Pertinent questions – irrelevant questions – Broad Questions.
What if? I wonder why? Could it be that?
Detailed Questions example: What should I have done? What can I do next time? Why did I react that way? What have I learned?
Reflection- reflective thinking helps one to:
Resolve the conflict, allow for different viewpoints, seek other perspectives, look into your teaching and how students learn, consider strengths and weaknesses, Identify ways to improve, formulate a plan of subsequent actions.
It takes time to reflect on your strength and weaknesses and the viewpoints of others.
NMC (National Minimum Curriculum)
In 1995, tomorrow’s school document was published and it forms the base of the NMC.
In 1999 the NMC was published. The NMC is a document that states what education should there be in schools. The NMC is binding for all schools in Malta including church, state and private schools and it defines which areas to teach.
The idea of the NMC is to give importance on the student rather than on the subject but that is still a problem in Malta.
It is a reflective thinker about what is happening around you. This curriculum is intended to develop citizens who are independent, creative and critical thinkers. Questioning is very important for critical thinking.
The earlier children are given the opportunity to be critical the better.
Until now the idea is that until university only socialisation takes place and critical thinking is absent from our schools. Critics say that in university for critical thinking to take place is too late in the day.
According to the NMC students learn through an active process involving:
Estabilishing connections, investigation, experimentation, comparison of what has been discovered with what is already known, asking questions, listening, observing, searching.
Reflective practice a concept used in education studies and pedagogy was emphasized by many investigators. Moon defines reflective practice as ‘a set of abilities and skills, to indicate the taking of a critical stance, an orientation to problem solving or state of mind’. It involves of wide range of thinking about one’s learning. In 1999 Cowan suggested that learners reflect in an educational sense ‘when they analyze or evaluate one or more personal experiences and attempt to generalize from that thinking. Another investigator, Biggs points out that unlike the mirror that gives an exact replica of what there is in front of it, reflective thinking gives back not what there is only but also what ‘might be’ an improvement in ones professional job. Therefore in summary reflective practice is perhaps best described as an approach which promotes learning through the development of students understanding and critical thinking skills.
In recent years work by Schön in his book The Reflective Practioner (1983) he defined reflective practice in education as a process by the educator to reflect and study on his teaching methods used and what will work best for his students. Schön also said that reflective practice can help an individual to develop more personally.
We might think that when we speak of reflective practitioners we might be referring only to adults who are involved in some kind or another of activity (professionally or voluntary) however students in our schools need to be encouraged to such situations but in order to do so we must first be ourselves to be reflective on our job, what are our strengths, weaknesses and on what can we improve and how. Therefore we must first learn that reflective practice develops us more professionally and believing in this we can pass this on our students through tutorials, group discussions, questions, what have been learnt, how to use the skill they have learnt in everyday life and problem solving.
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