Reflective Professional Development - Closing Statement

A critical and passionate engagement with education permeated my opening statement[1] and I would argue that this continued to evolve as the academic year progressed. I’m still “concerned with the state of education” and certainly find myself battling with the policies and rhetoric being championed by Michael Gove; which is seemingly being accepted as the “way it is” by the senior leaders within my own institution. The result is an obsession with meeting prescriptive Ofsted criteria; spoon-feeding to achieve targets; and a narrowing of the curriculum at the expense of creative, supposedly “less academic” subjects. Certainly contradictory to my personal values and beliefs about education, such a limited focus is at odds with a significant proportion of the research I have conducted; particularly in terms of assessment for learning, independent learning and e-Learning. Coming to terms with this has been difficult. However, it has provided added incentive to agitate against the system (from within my own classroom); as well as providing a sustained context, against which I have positioned my M.Ed research.

During the year I was fortunate to hear both Simon Finch and Ken Robinson speak. I agree with Finch[2] that dramatic changes are needed within education and believe that we (classroom practitioners) need to be that change, as Robinson[3] asserts: “We need to be part of the solution for the revolution and not part of the problem”. Consequently, I believe that one of the ways that teachers can become more active in changing and shaping the education of their learners, is by actively taking part in educational research. It has certainly impacted on my own practice, both in terms of practice but also motivation and values. Even though I completed my School-based Enquiry[4] last year, I have continued to build on the findings, using Google Docs to inform and develop AfL strategies with all of my classes. Subsequently, this increased the time I spent advocating and sharing what I was doing both at conferences[5] and Teach Meets[6].

One module that I undertook was a small scale ‘evaluative’ investigation into Independent Learning[7] at Key Stage 5. During the course of my research I came across the work of Catherine Cronin. While her focus and area of expertise is Higher Education, I felt that her belief in “openness, social media and student voice/choice”[8] chimed well with my own beliefs and practices. This set me on a path of implementing and advocating the same ideals within my own classroom. Furthermore, the module helped me to evaluate and develop existing practice, including blogging as a tool to encourage metacognitive practice and learner autonomy. One of the most significant influences came from Sugata Mitra’s research into MIE[9]. His findings have potentially game-changing implications for systematised education. My own research into IL has built on the student-centered learning already in practice and is one of the motivations behind my dissertation proposal.

The academic reading I have completed across the various M.Ed. modules has had a significant impact on my learning and growth as an educator, particularly that which I undertook for the Literature Review[10], completed as part of RPD[11]. Feedback from this module certainly suggests that it is an area of strength; and has aided me in developing a critical voice. Moreover the process of critically reflecting on such articles, alongside classroom-based research, writing of academic papers and the upkeep of a personal blog[12] have sustained my professional development as a reflective practitioner. This is both evident in my classroom practice as well as an improving, critical, writing style.

One of the more challenging features of the course was the Critical Review[13], also completed as part of RPD. While the subject matter was interesting the reliance on quantitative data posed a significant challenge to my expertise. So far, I have favoured more interpretivist methodologies throughout my research, avoiding analysis of large amounts of quantitative data. Coming to terms with a significantly positivistic study was therefore a significant test. However, the reading I completed into methodologies and data analysis helped me not only develop the skills needed to complete the review; but also encouraged a thorough and critical approach to my dissertation proposal[14]. The need to complete such detailed reading slowed me down, allowing me to grapple with the finer points of my proposal; giving due consideration to my chosen methods and their potential impact on my research. Taking such an iterative approach, I have been able to settle on a research question[15] that is focussed, combining personal and critical interests into a manageable project. What’s more, it has the potential to ask big questions about the systematised education which I am odds with.

The continued development of my skills as a learner and practitioner have given rise to questions in terms of my professional development and future career plans. Arguably, research is most effective when it can be applied and evaluated within the classroom. However, fitting in the research on top of my teaching timetable has been difficult. As such I am left asking a number of questions: How can I continue to research and advocate for change, once I have completed the M.Ed.? Should I consider completing an Ed.D.? Can I realistically achieve that on top of a teaching timetable? Most surprising of all, I have found myself considering a career outside of the school classroom - perhaps lecturing, with the chance to conduct wider, more detailed research. And while this is all very uncertain, I feel as though I doors are opening up due to my critical engagement with the M.Ed. course.

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[1] RPD Assignment - Opening Statement

[2] Simon Finch: ‘Something Better Change’ - Plymouth Enhanced Learning Conference 2012 Keynote

[3] Ken Robinson: ‘Leading a Learning Revolution’ - Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Closing Keynote

[4] SBE - ‘Does the collaborative functionality of Google Docs allow educators to better put formative assessment at the heart of their students’ learning?’

[5] Study Group Teacher’s Conference

[6] [TeachMeet Clevedon] AfL & Google Docs

[7] IL - ‘A short term investigation into the impact of a ‘holistic’ approach to Independent Learning with the AS Media Studies classroom.’

[8] Catherine Cronin - ‘Learning and Teaching Digital Literacies’

[9] Minimally Invasive Education

[10] RPD - Literature Review

[11] Reflective Professional Development

[12] jamesmichie.com/blog

[13] RPD - Critical Review

[14] ER - Proposal for Dissertation

[15] “To what extent can virtual courses support the development of independent learning beyond ‘real time’ curriculum delivery?”