Primary Education student Emily Gay’s reflection on collaborative observation

The Process

Upon starting this project, I could immediately sense the immense organisation of the process to ensure each stage ran as effectively and efficiently as possible. As a result, I did not feel at any point that I was unsure of the focus of the research and consequently, had greater understanding of my observation duties. This enabled my observations to encourage reflection without posing a judgement, a key skill that I was not confident with prior to this project.

This skill was developed during training sessions and regular meetings with the project team, thus showing the support offered to all members of the project team to aid them at each stage. The large amount of support involved in this project is, in my opinion, the biggest strength of the process. I believe this support derives from the overwhelmingly sense of collaboration that is constantly encouraged throughout the process. For example, as myself a student researcher as opposed to a staff researcher, I felt it extremely reassuring that there was another student researcher to share and discuss ideas with in Stage 4 of the observation cycle prior to meeting as a larger project group in Stage 5.

In the future, I will strive to regularly meet colleagues of the same job title in order to promote a collaborative discussion in which thoughts, ideas, problems and worries can be discussed and resolved. Therefore, an individual’s stress will be reduced, colleague relationships will be enhanced and a better output of work will be reduced.

My Lecturers

Whilst myself training within the education sector, I had not fully appreciated the wider considerations that need to be taken into account when delivering a lesson/lecture. However, this observation encouraged me to reflect on these considerations.

For instance, I observed the struggle for my lecturer to adapt different roles depending on the situation. Often my lecturers do not wish to adopt an authoritative teacher role due to the age of the students they are teaching and instead encourage positive relationships with students to restrict potential barriers to learning. However, after reflection on my observations it has come to my attention that it is not always a role that can be taken by lecturers as the role they take is greatly affected by the role the students are adopting. It is sometimes apparent that a teacher role must be used to tackle potentially challenging student roles. Therefore, I have learnt that whilst a positive and free learning environment is encouraged, certain situations force the lecturers to adopt a less favourable, authoritative approach. As a result, I am conscious to maintain a role as a student that does not alter a lecturer’s preferred role.

My Peers

During the observation, I noticed how different situations caused different peers to respond in different ways. For example, whilst certain students favoured particular teaching techniques, others did not seem to welcome them as much. Following reflection, I believe that this is most likely a result of the understanding between staff and students. This is because I feel that a student who understands the actions of staff and likewise staff who understand the actions of a student helps to combat the staff student divide that can be present in a learning environment. This is particularly important due to the nature of my course as often clarity is required as to whether a teaching technique is a natural style for the lecturer or is an example of a style we could use ourselves.

This reflection has further proved my belief that every action will be perceived differently depending on the relationship you hold with that person and the personality of the person.

Myself

The observation process as a whole has taught me that I am capable of reflecting deeply on a situation in which I can ask meaningful and thought-provoking questions in order to encourage myself and others to reflect on situations.

Furthermore, whilst I was aware of my ability to work independently and collaboratively, as result of this cycle I have concluded that the feeling of belonging within a wider team is a personal motivator as the pride and support that is involved with being part of a team helps maintain my enthusiasm even when a problem occurs.

My Emerging Teacher Identity

Finally, and potentially the most prominent lessons I have learnt as a result of this process revolves around my emerging teacher identity. I have concluded that my teaching style will accommodate for different pupil’s personalities and needs whilst maintaining a balance between teacher authority and approachability. This is because I feel it is vital that my students feel they can approach me with a problem yet also see me as an authoritative figure.

Moreover, I will ensure communication is to a high standard between myself and my teaching assistant(s) in order to promote a happy working environment in which teaching and learning is a priority. I also wish to involve parents as much as possible in order to create a collaborative effort to support a child’s learning and development.

Most importantly, after observing the benefits my lecturer gained from reflecting on their own teaching, I will reflect on my own teaching as a way of identifying strengths and weaknesses in my teaching style and continuously improve in order to be the best teacher possible.

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Primary Education student Charlotte Ralph’s reflection on collaborative observation

Classroom pedagogy is often understood through the method of formal observation as part of a summative assessment, however the experiences that I have dealt with by taking a collaborative approach have proven to provide a wider insight to the concept of observation. Although assessment is often circulated around the production of static results that are to be measured against a framework, collaborative observation can remove this idea of ‘meeting expectations’. Collaborative observation allows access to a broader insight that cannot be attained through sole opinions and views, through this, observation can become a much more effective tool to be used within educational settings. However, something which is to be considered is that observation is a fluid transition of stages and cannot be taken with a direct and rushed approach.

Before observation can begin, the outcomes need to be considered, as discovered, this largely effects how the observation will take place. All elements including both practical and analytical need to be considered for this can shape the structure of the observation. What was identified in our pre-observation meetings was this idea of not being able to observe everything, which is a very real issue that must be accepted. Having focused time slots and areas allowed for us to analytically observe the session or candidate in a way that is systematic. Only through the collaboration of multiple observers can nearly most aspects of the session be observed, as multiple views and opinions can be contrasted, compared and considered.

As a trainee teacher, the methods used that I observed within the classroom by a well experienced teacher have changed my viewpoint about some approaches to learning and teaching. Being situated in a role that is somewhat foreign to most learners involved reverting from my typical dispositions in a classroom setting and facing ideas that were somewhat unnatural to me. However, what made the process somewhat more accommodating was the idea of posing questions rather than statements about the nature of the lesson that I was observing. This method of forming questions allows for a more reflective viewpoint from the both the observer and the observee, something which should be at the focus of any observation. The session itself forced me to the realisation that collaboration can be a real tool for learning and teaching, as having always been someone who likes to work alone this project encouraged me to stretch out of my comfort zone. During the observation incidences occurred where my interpretation proved to be different from that of my other colleagues, as a result discussion and reflection evolved as to why this might be and how much even a basic idea of positioning within the classroom can affect perception.

The findings from the observation have affected my views in regards to observation, as I have been able to see first-hand the benefits that arose from this style of learning. Collaborative observation gave a portal to the idea of ‘not being able to observe everything’ as it was interesting to see which factors I considered to have little impact compared to that of what my colleagues thought. Furthermore, the view of the lecturer conducting the lesson shed much light onto how different situations can be interpreted and understood, through discussion of our views compared with his, it became clear that our roles within the education system had had a great impact onto our understanding of educational situations. It was apparent that the lecturer wanted to shy away from the idea of hierarchy and the concept of ‘you vs. them’, however what was identified is that having been brought up in education system revolving around hierarchy this was no something that could easily be ignored.

Something that arose from our post- observation meeting was the idea of a ‘teacher identity’ and through collaborative observation, this has become a point of reflection for me. I have come to the realisation that collaboration is a tool that should be incorporated into most aspects of my teaching and something that is ultimately used in life on a day to day basis. The drawing below is of two children in the Victorian era working in the coal mines, although this situation is somewhat unheard of in the modern day, it represents how valuable the contribution of others can be. I think this image creates a powerful message of how collaboration is sometimes a necessity in life. This idea can be transpired into the classroom, for the input of multiple views can lead to a wider understanding of concepts, it is something I will focus on in my teaching as it has proven to be a valuable tool.

Victorian coal mine

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Primary Education student researcher: Charlotte Ralph

Having always been a learner who prefers to work alone, my educational experiences have somewhat been a challenge for me at times when group work has often been a favourable method of teaching. However, my experiences of achieving grade eight in a duologue acting qualification that I undertook throughout the whole of my high school career has been something that I would identify as having a major impact on my educational identity. For not only did my confidence grow, to the extent in which I thoroughly enjoy speaking in front of a large audience, but to the extent of my enjoyment in working with someone who has a similar passion for what I do. The beginning of my university degree has certainly added to my enthusiasm for learning and teaching, as this mutual interest for education has increased my desire to work in more collaborative environments, something which is key to the successful teaching and progression of child development. Although I still consider myself to be an independent learner something which I now also appreciate far more than I ever did is how positive the use of collaboration is towards education.

Furthermore, I have always had a drive and enthusiasm within me to persevere and achieve the most out of an educational experience that I can. Something that has greatly encouraged my desire to learn more was going on my first placement into a primary school. Having begun with little understanding as to what to expect, I left with the understanding of knowing that this was the profession that I wanted to go into. From this I have been driven to achieve as high as I can and achieve the most out of myself so that I can achieve the most out of as many children as possible.

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Primary Education staff: Leanne Gould

Leanne Gould

Senior Lecturer

Programme Leader Teach First East Midlands.

Developing my professional knowledge as a teacher impacted greatly on my understanding and approach to being a learner. As an early career teacher I often found myself developing learning behaviours in my students that I found difficult to apply myself when I approached my own professional learning. Studying the subject of education and promoting resilience in my young students encouraged me to reflect on my own resilience as a learner and to view my own professional development through a critical yet positive lens. I would describe myself as an ‘opportunist’ when it comes to learning, and I approach any learning opportunity that I arises with the belief that if I am accurately reflective and open to support I can use any opportunity to develop my professional capacity and make a learning experience relevant to my context.

The prospect of being able to continue my own professional development through educational research was an influencing factor in me applying for a full time post at BCU. The opportunity to explore different research methodologies, to acquire new skills in developing educational research and to extend my professional knowledge within my field of work whilst continuing to have an impact on the education of young learners in our local schools through teacher education was an opportunity that excited me. It was challenging applying my own values to my new identity as a senior lecturer, and being faced with the question about my own ‘academic identity’ I experienced an identity crisis. Through social construction with colleagues I had to reflect on what the term ‘academic identity’ meant to me which allowed me to re-align my learning values to my new role. Being an opportunist learner I have progressively developed my career from a teacher, to a teacher educator, a partnership lead and now a programme leader and I am participating in collaborative observation research as a motivation to support me to continue to explore and develop my professional capacity.

My strength as a learner is the ability to position myself so that any learning opportunity I undertake is applied creatively and relevantly to my professional context. My capacity to learn is enhanced through a social constructivist approach to learning which can help me to recognise and consider colleagues and other professionals’ views before reflectively positioning myself to synthesise my own learning experience.

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