As an individual within the teaching profession, I realise how it is often important to examine myself to determine the effectiveness of my performance. It is an aspect of critical reflection that questions my actual performance, thereby helping me in finding answers to some of the most pressing questions.
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The critical reflection helps in developing the profession because it acts as a building block, enabling the strengthening of weaker areas and enhancing performance even further in best performed areas (Leung & Kember, 2003, p. 61). Learning and teaching processes or activities, although conducted differently, are similar in many important aspects (Roxå, Mårtensson & Alveteg, 2011, p. 99).
I consider the manner in which I learn fundamentally to have a direct bearing on the way I eventually teach my students. It is impossible to be a teacher without having undergone learning because the two are mutual. This paper draws from the principles of career reflection to reflect on my career as a teacher.
The paper explores the learning and teaching processes as a whole. The paper then delves deeper into the numerous factors that are involved before critically reflecting on some of the principle concepts that are involved in both processes.
Learning Process and the Factors Involved
Learning is a demanding process that evidently depends on the responsibility of the individual to a large extent (Bhusry & Ranjan, 2012, p. 313). Unless an individual feels that he strongly owns and is directly responsible for the entire process, learning may never be achieved regardless of how much effort is involved. I practically discovered this during my days as a trainee in graduate school.
Although I had very little thought initially about my exact style of learning, I eventually determined my precedence when I gradually appreciated the fact that the entire process depended on my own responsibility and resolve.
As a trainee in graduate school, I discovered that three critical approaches of learning were effective in my studies. They involved group discussions and learning, practical presentations and activity, as well as continually tackling assignments (Moores, Change & Smith, 2004, p. 77).
The results of this experience were manifest in me because my main strategy of learning had initially relied heavily on reading class work and other related texts. There was a clear change in my performance and overall grasp immediately I switched strategies. This assessment has increased my ability to make a substantive and intellectual conclusion regarding my way of learning.
I specifically understand what my strengths are and, consequently, realise some of the weaknesses that I face. I have a clear knowledge on some of the ways that can help in increasing opportunities for my career growth, including methods and techniques for addressing weaknesses.
Nevertheless, as Tomlinson et al. (2003) rightly assert, individuals differ in their learning ways and styles that directly affect their performance. While my strategies of learning paid off substantially, I realised that quite a number of my colleagues had their own suitable methods of learning that did not necessarily resemble one another’s.
Some trainees complained that learning in groups affected their concentration so much that there was little learning achieved in the end. They preferred doing studies on their own within very quiet and secluded environments.
The process of learning only becomes successful when it transforms an individual in terms of his understanding and knowledge. The basic principle of learning for any student is to begin with accepting and considering the need for change (Bellas, 2004, p. 19). This happens from an individual’s point of view where a learner must accept the knowledge acquired to transform him.
I have my main conception of learning as a process that leads to the acquisition of facts and procedures needed to achieve an objective.
As a learner, I often test the extent to which I have undergone transformation by attempting sample questions and applying the algorithms, skills, and formulae that I have studied before. I use the resultant score to these self-administered tests and sample assessment questions to determine the extent of the transformation undergone.
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Teaching Process and the factors Involved
Gurney (2007, p. 89) describes teaching as an educational process that should focus on creating nourishing experiences to enable the learning process to be natural and inevitable. Teaching should concisely refer to practical actions of expediting learning for the students, instead of focusing on any other related aspect.
Quality teaching entails ten basic characteristics that include focusing on the achievement of students, performing pedagogical practices that result in caring, and all-inclusive and unified learning communities. It must create effective links with the school’s cultural context, be responsive to the learning processes of the students, as well as offer sufficient learning opportunities (Gurney, 2007, p. 90).
Other quality aspects of teaching include compound tasks and contexts, which help in supporting learning cycles, effectively aligning curriculum goals, and a practice that insists on issuing students with feedback about their task engagement.
As Gurney (2007, p. 90) further records, teachers and students must often engage in coming up with goal-oriented assessment and formulate a system that promotes learning orientations, metacognitive strategies, student self-regulation, as well as a thoughtful student discourse.
My teaching methodologies have greatly been influenced by my learning styles. I have a greater feeling that encouraging students to study in groups can enhance their academic performance a great deal.
However, I also appreciate the fact that students are not all the same. Just like some of my colleagues in college did not approve of group discussion as the best way of studying, I realise that some of my students may also be finding it an ineffective method of studying, depending on their own understanding and belief.
Regarding Gurney’s quality methods of teaching (2007, p. 90), I have picked on engaging with my students constructively in order to carry out a comprehensive goal-oriented assessment.
I use such sessions to allow the students to determine the kind of difficulties they face in their studies, as well as evaluate their areas of strength. It eventually gives me the leverage to establish the best teaching techniques that suit each of the students, thus avoiding the mistake of using a uniform strategy for the entire class.
Teacher knowledge, enthusiasm, as well as responsibility for learning are yet other critical aspects that determine teaching as a process (Eisner, 2002). Because teaching entails passing of knowledge, it will depend with the quality of knowledge that I have as a teacher for a student to learn fully as anticipated.
I often go through my prepared notes in advance before I go to class to teach the students. This gives me confidence because it assures me of whatever I am teaching, unlike entering a class without having previously prepared on the subject to be taught.
My Personal Learning Style
I am an extroverted individual with a strong sensing perception. I rely on intuition and feelings to make decisions. My attitude toward the outside world is mainly formed out of my own judgement as opposed to the perceptions that I have. Based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an extroverted, sensing, thinking, and judgement person (ENFJ) (Sample, 2004, p. 67).
My extroversion explains why I prefer group work as the best methodology for my studies. During my teacher training session as an undergraduate, my studying was done mostly during the day to allow for long discussion sessions with my colleagues.
After realising the fact that I performed well in study groups, we organised ourselves together in a study group of five people comprising of individuals with the same personality types. Learning mainly took place between 8 am and 4 pm, where we took turns in doing short presentations to enforce the transformation process of knowledge.
Most of the personal studies in my room in the evenings only lasted for a maximum of two hours as they only entailed tackling of assignments and sample questions. The tackling of self-administered assignments and questions offered me the opportunity to evaluate myself concerning knowledge transformation.
My general perception, which is ‘intuition’ as described by Myers-Briggs, had a strong bearing on my learning (Cools & Van, 2007, p. 359). This continues to affect my learning process even at present concerning the general life phenomenon. I am fast at learning and gaining general knowledge. I do not necessarily rely on value facts and data to enhance my learning.
While attending the study group in college, I would focus all my presentation of ideas and facts that I studied to support myself.
Equally, I would challenge other members whenever they made their presentations to support their positions with determined ideas and facts and show the extent to which they had understood a concept.
Another critical aspect of my ‘intuitive’ perception that has been critical in my learning is a routine application of the facts and skills learned. I insisted on using the exact terms and methodologies used in class by my instructor to enhance my grasping of the knowledge.
Honey and Mumford Test
As a teacher who has developed great interest in teaching and learning, I have done a Honey and Mumford test to understand my learning style. I have determined that I am an activist from the results. I have personally learned by doing things.
I involve myself directly in executing the concepts and ideas as they are established. This gives me first-hand experience to explore on what the knowledge or learning process involves. I am open-minded in my approach to learning. I accept new challenges in learning.
My preferred learning activities include brainstorming, where I prefer coming up with new ideas and thinking. I like involving myself in problem solving activities and encounters and participating actively in group discussion. I also prefer taking up roles that strengthen my learning by putting studied theories into action.
Competitions and puzzles also influence my learning because they offer a basis upon which I can compare with others and evaluate myself.
Howard Gardner’s Test
I have used Gardner’s multiple intelligence tests to further ascertain my personality and how it influences my learning style. The results underscore a low spatial-visual kind of intelligence, with a score of 5. It implies I am poor when it comes to making interpretations of visual images and pictorial imagination.
Thus, pictures, shapes, and images are not the best learning tools and materials that I can rely on. I have also scored poorly in physical and aural intelligence areas, meaning that the use of music, rhythm, sounds, touch, feel, and physical experience are not the best learning styles for me.
My verbal, social, solitary, and logical intelligences, however, are higher. I scored 16, 15, 14, and 11, in these categories respectively. It implies that I have a higher mastery of language and words used in communication, while my ability to socialise and relate with others is also high. On these two accounts, my most preferred learning style is by use of language and words, as well as through human contact, teamwork, and cooperation.
The high score in solitary or self-awareness implies that I am aware of my personal objectives and able to understand myself clearly. It also influences my relationship with others and the way I relate to the world. Self-reflection and self-discovery are, therefore, two of my most critical aspects of learning.
Additionally, a higher score in mathematical or logical intelligence implies that I am good in mathematical calculations, scientific reasoning, and general analysis of problems. Numbers and logic are my best learning styles because I am comfortable with them and I can easily make interpretations.
Piaget and Vygotsky Influence
Piaget and Vygotsky have contributed towards the subject of learning and education by establishing the cognitive development theory. According to the theory, the learning processes and capabilities of mental growth in children influence the way they learn (Pass, 2004, p. 18).
Understanding cognitive development, therefore, is crucial for teachers because it provides them with the advantage of treating each child in a unique way. In turn, it provides all the children with the opportunity to acquire knowledge in the best possible way without being hindered by their own integral limitations and barriers.
The cognitive-development theory holds that the learning process is affected by the attitudes and beliefs of the learner, as well as the context under which teaching is taking place.
How this knowledge influences my teaching style
I have learned that the quality of my teaching, which is directly reflected by the individual performance of my students, depends on the efforts I expend with a view of improving performance. Teaching is a process that entails many other factors including my personality and emotions, with the actual interaction with the students in a classroom environment only representing the final stage of the process.
Thus, I must build a personality type that will, in turn, sustain learning for my students. I often work on my moods and emotion, particularly when I am feeling low, because I realise this has a negative effect on my teaching.
The physical environment, equally, must be made in a way that supports teaching. The presence of features that distract concentration during learning need to be removed and a favourable environment created for the benefit of the teacher. In the school where I teach, I ensure the walls in the classrooms have reading material that students can look at and continuously get the reminder that it is a learning environment.
I have also integrated student feedback mechanism into my teaching style. This is something I previously never considered to be important. I discovered that some students are not bold enough to disclose to me as their teacher some of the issues that are affecting their learning (Alton-Lee, 2003).
However, with the use of an elaborate feedback mechanism, such students are confident enough to share some of the issues that they encounter during their learning. They mostly prefer written feedback, instead of direct physical talk that I preferred. I have consequently combined the two systems together such that I employ them depending on the preference of the students.
Feedback information gives me a lot of insight into the whole teaching practise. It is almost impossible to succeed in this work without depending on it.
It is a two-way system of both communication and evaluation, where I am able to appraise my teaching performance by analysing the feedback I get from the students. On the other hand, I also inform the students of my actual expectation of their performance and point out the exact areas that I expect them to add more effort.
Critical Reflection on the Key Concepts
The assessment strategy plays a critical role in the learning process as it helps in the enhancement of skills development. By using assessment, students are continually reminded about the need for them to grasp facts and concepts and be able to apply them correctly whenever the need arises. However, there is also danger in over relying on this strategy.
It may easily force students to resort to cramming as a way of learning, thereby defeating the whole logic and intent of the process. As a teacher, I am only impressed when the students I teach learn and understand whatever is taught without appearing to do it for the sake of excelling in their examinations.
Although, examinations provide the means for evaluating students and the extent of their learning, they may sometimes provide an erroneous picture about the whole scenario.
Critical thinking in learning, on the other hand, is only possible where the learners are transformed through education. Learning, therefore, represents the extent to which the individual is transformed in the way of his thinking and reasoning.
It is possible for a student to attend school, but still fail to achieve transformation. Such a student may score highly on examinations and assignments, but still fail to undergo any form of transformation. It is, therefore, important for other evaluation mechanisms, such as practical execution of tasks and concepts taught, to be used in evaluating students in combination with assignments and examinations.
Teaching and learning make part of a complementary process that can never succeed without going hand in hand. My teaching style mainly reflects the way of learning that I preferred most while still attending graduate school. I am an extrovert who mainly feels comfortable dealing and working with others.
My most preferred style of learning entails using discussion groups to make presentations and exchange ideas with others. I have, however, realised as a teacher that not all students prefer this method as the best for learning.
In essence, I use a mixed approach for my student depending on what they consider most appealing for themselves. The feedback mechanism is a critical mechanism for me as a teacher because it provides me with the ability to evaluate the responses of my students, as well as get their appraisal of my teaching.
List of References
Alton-Lee, A 2003, Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: Best evidence synthesis, Ministry of Education, Wellington
Bellas, MD 2004, How transformational learning experiences develop leadership capacity, Royal Roads University (Canada), Victoria, BC
Bhusry, M & Ranjan, J 2012, ‘Enhancing the teaching-learning process: a knowledge management approach’, The International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 313-329.
Cools, E & Van, dB 2007, ‘Development and validation of the cognitive style indicator’, The Journal of Psychology, vol. 141, no. 4, pp. 359-87
Eisner, EW 2002, ‘The kind of schools we need’, Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 83, pp.576-583.
Gurney, P 2007, ‘Five factors for effective teaching’, New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 89-98
Leung, DYP & Kember, D 2003, ‘The relationship between approaches to learning and reflection upon practice’, Educational Psychology, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 61-71
Moores, TT, Jerry Cha-Jan Change & Smith, DK 2004, ‘Learning style and performance: a field study of is students in an analysis and design course’, The Journal of Computer Information Systems, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 77-85
Pass, S 2004, Parallel paths to constructivism: Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, Information Age Publishing Inc, New York, NY
Roxå, T, Mårtensson, K & Alveteg, M 2011, ‘Understanding and influencing teaching and learning cultures at university: a network approach’, Higher Education, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 99-111.
Sample, J 2004, ‘The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and OD: Implication for practice from research’, Organization Development Journal, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 67-75.
Tomlinson, CA, Brighton, C, Hertberg, H, Callahan, CM, Moon, TR, Brimijoin, K, Conover LA & Reynoldsm T 2003, ‘Differentiating instruction in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile in academically diverse classrooms: a review of literature’, Journal for the Education of the Gifted, vol. 27, no.2/3, pp. 119-145