The Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) module has introduced me to the teaching profession and how education and learning works in the lifelong learning sector, but it has also introduced new theories and how they inform teacher practice. The aim of this reflective evaluation is to consolidate my learning throughout the (PTLLS) module to demonstrate professional growth and to show how theory has been applied and impacted upon my practice as a student teacher.
The PTLLS module has enabled me to gain new knowledge and skills in three main sub areas: teaching practice, theory and practical experience. However, Initially I began by researching what makes a good teacher. I reflected on previous teachers of mine, reflected on how they taught, how they engaged their learners and their teaching methods. I realised that a good teacher can diversify, make learning accessible, interesting and also captivate their audience.
The PTLLS module provided an introduction to the wider roles and responsibilities of the teacher and the role of the Institute for Learning (IfL) in providing an ethical and professional structure to guide practice (Duckworth et al, 2010; Gravells, 2011). IfL, 2008). Following the IfL Code of Professional Practice is the responsibility of all teachers’ as doing so ensures each learner is provided with a seamless service underpinned by respect, professionalism and quality (Gravells, 2011). All teachers should reflect on their practice (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008) to learn, grow and now that I am aware of the roles and responsibilities, I am able to act as a reflective professional who empowers each learner to achieve their educational goals.
The teacher is required to break barriers to learning (IfL, 2008) e.g. learning needs, and to identify these barriers through the use of initial and diagnostic assessments (Gravells, 2011) e.g. through application forms or interviews. Through learning how to identify needs, I believe I am able to empower learners by providing learning that is suitable to their needs. This has been achieved through following support plans for dyslexic learners and providing handouts on specific coloured paper based upon their needs.
Theoretically, I have learned numerous theories of learning, such as ‘Blooms Taxonomy’ and how the cognitive, affective and psycho-motor domains inform teacher practice. Bloom suggested that learner’s experience 5 stages ‘attention, perception, understanding, short-/long-term memory and change in behaviour’ (Gravells, 2011, p. 58). My understanding and learning of ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ now assists me with a deeper understanding of the learning process and how to plan lessons aimed to reach each domain.
Furthermore, I have developed knowledge and skills in learning styles analysis, such as Honey and Mumford (1992), and Fleming (2005) who indicated that there were four styles of learning, however the PTTLS module focussed on three: Visual, Aural and Kinaesthetic (Gravells, 2011). Through developing knowledge in how to identify learning styles, I am now able to analyse how each learner learns and processes information best, and so adapt how I provide learning to meet individual learner needs, thus ensuring inclusivity (Gravells, 2011; Silver et al, 1997).
Importantly, the PTLLS module prepared me for putting theory into practice. The micro and mini teach enabled consolidation all of learning, such as how to develop a successful lesson plan mapped to learning outcomes using specific, achievable, realistic and timely aims and objectives, how to embed functional skills necessary to meet legislation requirements set by the Education and Skills Act (2008) (www.legislation.gov.uk) and ensuring good time management within the lesson. A knowledge of, and experience of successful lesson planning is crucial to enable effective teaching and assessment (Gravells, 2011). This experience built confidence in my abilities as a teacher but importantly, it highlighted personal learning needs that I am required to develop and action in order to become a better teacher in the future, such as projecting my voice to make sure I am heard by all learners.
As a student teacher I understand the importance of learning and to continuously improve upon practice. Due to the nature of the profession, teachers’ must have a sound knowledge base, keep up to date with developments within their area of expertise in order to maintain professional standards and to ensure one is fit for purpose and fit for practice (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008). Student teachers’ should employ strategies for further learning, and skills acquisition, and in evaluating practical teaching and mapping it to classroom learning in Teacher Education.
A method of learning that teachers’ and all student teachers’ must participate in is reflective practice (Gravells, 2011). The importance of reflection should not be underestimated, as learning can take place anywhere and at any time. Teacher’s must evaluate their practice to continuously improve and become better teachers’ (Gravells, 2011) and become better equipped to deal with challenging situations. An example from my experience of reflecting on performance is through considering how to become better at classroom management.
As a teacher one must never stop learning. Continuing professional development (CPD) is a requirement of the IfL to prove teachers’ are providing a service that is current, quality assured and ensures that the teachers’ knowledge and skills are constantly replenished (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008; IfL, 2009. By maintaining CPD this ensures professionalism flourishes, demonstrates a commitment to IfL standards and most importantly, a commitment to your learners (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008; IfL, 2009).
I will now discuss three ways in which my practice has been developed since undertaking the PTLLS module.
Firstly, I believe that I have learned about the importance of planning. Planning lessons is crucial for success (Gravells, 2011). I have learned how to integrate functional skills into my lesson planning and to map them to learning outcomes, a crucial aspect of lesson planning (Gravells, 2011) and meeting the requirements set by the Education and Skills Act (2008) (www.legislation.gov.uk).
I have learned about the importance of using differentiation as an approach to teaching to respect the individuality of learners (Timmons, 2010). Utilising theory, such as learning styles analysis is crucial to ensure you are teaching effectively for each learner, and promoting inclusivity in your practice (Gravells, 2011). Theory informs teacher practice (Gravells, 2011) and the PTLLS module has given me a valuable insight to its importance.
Finally, and most importantly, the PTLLS module introduced the IfL Code of Professional Conduct (2008). This is possibly the most important aspect of learning in the PTLLS module because it has ensured that quality is measurable. I believe that following these standards of conduct and professionalism will act as a guide for providing a quality service to learners.
Duckworth, V., Wood, J., Dickinson, J. and Bostock, J. (2010) Successful Teaching Practice in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Exeter: Learning Matters
Gravells, A. (2011) Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 4th Ed. Exeter: Learning Matters
Institute for Learning (2008) Code of Professional Practice. London: Institute for Learning
Institute for Learning (2009) Guidelines for your CPD. London: Institute for Learning
Silver, H. Strong, R. and Perini, M. (1997) “Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences”. Educational Leadership. (9), pp.22-27.
Timmons, J. (2010) Becoming a Professional Tutor in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 2nd Ed. Exeter: Learning Matters.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/25/contents (Date Accessed – 18/12/11)
Types of reflective writing assignments
Journal: requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.
Learning diary: similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
Log book: often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.
Reflective note: often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.
Essay diary: can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).
Peer review: usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.
Self-assessment: requires you to to comment on your own work.
Some examples of reflective writing
Social Science fieldwork report (methods section)
The field notes were written by hand on lined paper. They consisted of jotted notes and mental triggers (personal notes that would remind me of specific things when it came to writing the notes up). I took some direct observational notes recording what I saw where this was relevant to the research questions and, as I was aiming to get a sense of the culture and working environment, I also made researcher inference notes   .
 I found the notetaking process itself helpful, as it ensured that I listened carefully and decoded information. Not all the information I recorded was relevant, but noting what I found informative contributed to my ability to form an overview on re-reading. However, the reliability of jotted notes alone can be questionable. For example, the notes were not a direct transcription of what the subjects said but consisted of pertinent or interesting information.
Rarely did I have time to transcribe a direct quotation, so relied on my own fairly rapid paraphrasing, which risks changing the meaning. Some technical information was difficult to note down accurately  . A tape recorder would have been a better, more accurate method. However, one student brought a tape recorder and was asked to switch it off by a participant who was uneasy about her comments being directly recorded. It seems that subjects feel differently about being recorded or photographed (as opposed to observers taking notes), so specific consent should be sought before using these technologies  .
1. Description/ explanation of method.
2. Includes discipline-specific language
3. Critical evaluation of method
4. Conclusion and recommendation based on the writer's experience
Engineering Design Report
Question: Discuss at least two things you learnt or discovered – for example about design, or working in groups or the physical world – through participating in the Impromptu Design activities.
Firstly, the most obvious thing that I discovered was the advantage of working as part of a group  . I learned that good teamwork is the key to success in design activities when time and resources are limited. As everyone had their own point of view, many different ideas could be produced and I found the energy of group participation made me feel more energetic about contributing something  .
Secondly I discovered that even the simplest things on earth could be turned into something amazing if we put enough creativity and effort into working on them  . With the Impromptu Design activities  we used some simple materials such as straws, string, and balloons, but were still able to create some 'cool stuff'  . I learned that every design has its weaknesses and strengths and working with a group can help discover what they are. We challenged each other's preconceptions about what would and would not work. We could also see the reality of the way changing a design actually affected its performance.
1. Addresses the assignment question
2. Reflects on direct experiences
3. Direct reference to the course activity
4. The style is relatively informal, yet still uses full sentences.
5. Relating what was learnt.
Learning Journal (weekly reflection)
Last week's lecture presented the idea that science is the most powerful form of evidence  . My position as a student studying both physics and law makes this an important issue for me  and one I was thinking about while watching the 'The New Inventors' television program last Tuesday  . The two 'inventors' (an odd name considering that, as Smith (2002) says, nobody thinks of things in a vacuum) were accompanied by their marketing people. The conversations were quite contrived, but also funny and enlightening. I realised that the marketing people used a certain form of evidence to persuade the viewers (us?) of the value of the inventions  . To them, this value was determined solely by whether something could be bought or sold—in other words, whether something was 'marketable'. In contrast, the inventors seemed quite shy and reluctant to use anything more than technical language, almost as if this was the only evidence required – as if no further explanation was needed.
This difference forced me to reflect on the aims of this course—how communication skills are not generic, but differ according to time and place. Like in the 'Research Methodology' textbook discussed in the first lecture, these communication skills are the result of a form of triangulation,  which I have made into the following diagram:
1. Description of topic encountered in the course
2. The author's voice is clear
3. Introduces 'everyday' life experience
4. The style is relatively informal, yet still uses full sentences
5. Makes an explicit link between 'everyday' life and the topic
Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting, Open University Press, Milton Keynes.
Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner, Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
The Learning Centre thanks the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.
Prepared by The Learning Centre, The University of New South Wales © 2008. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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