Reflective Professional Development - Opening Statement

I have never been a ‘model student’, in no small part due to the fact that I really did not enjoy my time spent as a learner in full time education. Being forced to take French at GCSE; often bored with my studies; failing Art A-Level - represent a number of experiences which made me question formalised schooling and its value. In contrast to this, I loved books; encouraged by my teachers and parents from a young age, I read constantly, developing a love for the written word, as well as a passion for learning. During the three years I spent studying American Studies at Northampton University I worked 39 hours per week in retail. I learned a lot working in retail about people, relationships, management and most importantly communication.

Having completed my degree, I stepped straight into a managerial position with a retailer. This was deeply unsatisfying and it was at this stage that I decided to embark on a PGCE course to become a teacher. It was my (somewhat naive) hope that I could step into the classroom and change the world.

Embarking on an MA in Education feels like a natural evolution of the reflective practices that I developed as a learner beginning with my development as a PGCE student. The combined experience of in classroom practice and academic study provided a firm foundation on which I could build my career as a classroom practitioner. I feel it is important for teachers to continue learning; to keep up with, critique, debate, reflect on and utilise the current thinking within their chosen fields.

My interest in academic research never waned and as I began to develop my skills in the classroom I began to form new interests. Pedagogy and various strategies such as assessment for learning collided with my passion for new technologies. What began as an experimental approach to investigating the potential benefits of technology in the classroom evolved into an area of expertise for which I have become widely known within my own school community and further afield.

A weakness that I began to perceive in my own practice was that much of what I embarked on in the classroom was based on intuition rather than critical research, reflection and evaluation. This was not to say that I didn’t evaluate what I was doing but that if I was to become a more effective practitioner I needed to be more objective and critical of the techniques, ideas and strategies that I was employing. Having connected with a community of dedicated practitioners via Twitter[1], I have become a more effective classroom practitioner.

Connecting with educators across a diverse range of key stages and sectors allowed me to develop more critical and independent thought, as a basis for advancing educational practices and my students learning. Furthermore, I was forced to reflect more objectively on my own values and beliefs as I began to read more  academic material and discuss my ideas/strategies. This evolved further as I was encouraged by a number people to share my experiences and ideas in greater detail via a personal weblog.[2] This was a transformative experience for me as a learner, providing me with a space in which I could reflect, hypothesise, test and discuss my own learning as an educator.

Since beginning to maintain my blog and having embarked on a PGCAEP[3] last year I have developed an aptitude for critical study. Moreover, I have improved upon my classroom practice by utilising action research techniques to investigate pedagogical issues and strategies. Moreover, I approach MA study with a growing knowledge of the following topics:

I have made a concerted effort to ensure that my classroom practice does not diminish due to pressures and time constraints incurred through promotion and leadership. It is my intention to set the example in terms of innovative classroom practice, developing an awareness of a range of models, tools, materials and learning strategies to promote learning.

I am very concerned with the state of education both in the UK and globally. I strongly believe that ‘systematised’ education is reaching the end of its lifespan - it’s time to start again - a complete re-imagining of what education can be for each individual learner. I am an ‘independent learner’ and to some extent always have been. At all stages of my education I have been dissatisfied with the ‘one size fits all’ system of education of which I am now a ‘cog in the machine’. Learning should be defined by the learner - passions and interests fostered to create a generation of learners who value learning not see it as merely an experience to be endured. I try as hard as possible to disrupt the system, to make my own classroom a place where independent learning is the norm not the exception - however, even I can not escape the dichotomy of a stringent curriculum and government pressure over results and league tables. My position as Leader for KS4 English brings this front and centre; everyday having to demonstrate how ‘we are going to get these students their FFTP[4] grades’, as if it is my job to do it for them.

I have been inspired by the research and writing of Keri Facer[5], Ken Robinson[6] and Sugata Mitra[7]. Each one of them pose pertinent questions, challenging educators to consider whether it is time to break free from the status-quo, and acknowledge that the current system of education does not suit the needs of today’s learners. I have also contributed to a recent campaign that asks the question: ‘What is the purpose of education?’[8] I hope that I can investigate this further, through the MA, considering whether ‘independent learning’ strategies and ‘new technologies’ offer an alternative (yet equally valuable) route to gaining a 21st Century education.

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[3] Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Educational Practice

[4] Fisher Family Trust Predictions

[5] Facer, Keri (2011), Learning Futures: Education, Technology and Social Change, T & F Books UK