Reflective Practice – What Next?

So, last time I wrote about reflective practice and told you about one of my favourite strategies, reflective lenses, to get the most out of this process but what do you do when you’ve done all of this reflection?

The best kind of reflective practice leads to some development of your practice, of those around you and of the setting in which you work. In order for reflection to lead to these changes you need an action plan (and then to take action).

Once, you’ve reflected through lenses (even if you didn’t get to all 4) and you’ve noted some things you’d like to change, stop doing, do more of or try out. Make sure you create a list of these. If it helps, order the list.

You can do this in a number of ways: priority order i.e. how urgently that change needs to happen, impact order i.e. which things will have the biggest impact (on you, the children, your colleagues, the parents), or quick wins followed by longer term goals. What actions can you take immediately that will have an impact and what needs more time for planning, funding and collaboration?

Once you have that list, you need to create your action list, you should consider using SMART as basis for this. Have you come across this before? Likely you have but I’ll give you a quick reminder anyway.

S – is your action specific?

M – can I measure when I’ve met my action?

A – is it possible for me to achieve this?

R – is it a realistic action?

T – have I set a time frame for this action?

Here’s an imagined example: I noticed that I always take a ‘step back’ and let colleagues lead the singing sessions with groups of children. I know it’s down to my lack of confidence and notice my colleagues are happy to lead it so I don’t have to.

I want to take a lead with the group singing sessions and build my confidence.

My action could be written like this – I will lead a group singing session by the end of April 2018

Now, this won’t happen immediately and you will want to build up to this with support from your colleagues. You need to tell them you want to do this, you need to ask for their help and you need to break it down into baby steps.  

During the next singing session – lead one song – an old favourite such as ‘Roly, Poly’ and then ask for feedback from one person who was part of the singing.

Next, time, maybe lead 2 or 3 songs….after that, try out a less familiar one, before you know it, you’ll confidently be leading singing and helping a less confident colleague to try it!

So, reflect, plan, do and then, reflect again.   

The Reflective Practitioner – Learning Through a Lens

 

The reflective practitioner is a force to be reckoned with! Seriously. Is that you?

The power of reflecting on your practice is easily underestimated but it is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal; it is also one of the cheapest!

What is reflective practice?

You know how when you are working you notice what the children do, how they do it, what they say and how they say it? Have you looked at yourself in this way? It might not feel as easy because it’s not something we are used to but it is possible and, importantly, powerful.

When observing children you are aware of the skills they demonstrate, the words they use and the focus they give to their play, what skills are you using to support those children? What words do you use and how focused are you on that situation?

Is everything you have done today, yesterday, last week, been completed to the best of your ability? Be critical, what didn’t get your attention? What skills did you underuse? What communication was ineffective?

Got something? Good – we learn so much by noticing the areas we need to develop.

‘So, is that it then Fiona, just notice stuff?’ Nope, there are some tools that can really help you and make a difference to the way you reflect and the impact this reflection will have on your practice. I’m going to share one with you for now….ready?

Reflective Lenses

This is my personal favourite. It enables me to see how I do things from the perspective of those around me, not just how I see it.

Stephen Brookfield identified this approach fairly recently (2005) but it has been adopted by many in the education field as a useful tool. I’ve broken it down for you and made it relevant to you.

The idea is to look at your practice from different viewpoints to help you to see yourself in the way others might.

Lens one – your own viewpoint – how did you do there? What worked? What didn’t work? Why? How can you improve what you did in the future?

Lens two – The children’s viewpoint – how did they experience your input? How did they respond to your words? How did they react to your involvement in their play?

Lens three – Your colleagues viewpoint – how did they see what you did? How did they respond? Did they comment on what you did? Would they have learnt something from you?

Lens four – The early years approach* you use – how does what you did fit with this approach? Is it a good fit or could you do more to work more closely to this approach?

You can write your reflections down, I find that really useful, but even thinking it through in your head, alone, or something that takes a bit of courage, discuss it with a friend or colleague. Make sure if you do this, you listen to their viewpoint carefully – this can give you real insight.

Why bother?

If this sounds like a lot of work believe me when I say it is not! More importantly, time spent reflecting is never time wasted; you will always learn something about yourself.

As well as learning about you, if you try out the things you discover, your colleagues and children will really thank you. The benefits to those around you will be huge and this includes when something doesn’t work!

So, what now?

Have a go! Really, just try it, take 2 minutes and think about what you did really well today; it feels good doesn’t it?

Oh, and don’t just do it once, keep doing it because, as with any skill, you have to practice to get good at it!

I’m off to reflect on this blog post now….

*By approach I mean the ethos of the setting you work in, the curriculum you follow, the underpinning theory to your practice. E.g. ‘In the Moment Planning, Montessori, Play-based, child-led, etc

Further reading: https://radar.brookes.ac.uk/radar/items/8dfa1c7d-d4ca-457b-b52c-9568cfd8d867/1/?attachment.uuid=60936db7-77fd-4020-a806-d830f15accfc&attachment.stream=true

www.fionajoines.co.uk

Working with Children Learning English as an Additional Language (EAL)

My first experience of working with a child learning English as an Additional Language (EAL) was a lively, feisty 3 year old with an Italian family; I adored working with her and loved observing her emerging language skills. There were frequent moments, when out of frustration she’d punctuate an English sentence with an Italian word or phrase and then be further frustrated by not being understood. Except, of course we did understand. We learnt her mannerisms, her facial expressions, her sounds of anguish, horror, joy and excitement, just as we did with the other children in the room. During the 18 months I worked with her, she developed a wide vocabulary (in both languages) and was easily ‘school’ ready when she left us to start the next part of her learning journey. She’s probably just graduating from university this summer!

Since then, I have worked with many children and young people learning EAL, some take to English as swiftly and naturally as the child in my first encounter, but some struggled and found it more difficult. Of course, that made the job more challenging and all the more rewarding when the child successfully grasped English.

So, what is the secret to supporting these children? My honest answer: there is no secret, no magic wand, no perfect answer. Of course, you know that because you work with children and there is rarely one perfect answer to anything! However, there are some things that do help to move the setting in the right direction. (These are good practice for working with all children, you’ll know that too)

Patience is key to supporting children learning EAL, waiting, listening with every sense and waiting some more. Allowing children time to get out the words, actions, sounds that tell us so much about them. Gentle smiles, nods and strong eye contact help to reassure the child they can take this time. What is the rush?

Building relationships with the child and their family will support all aspects of the child’s well-being but especially the communication as a good relationship will be built on trust and security, once a child feels secure, they flourish!

All staff modelling effective communication in all interactions throughout the setting is an obvious one but children need to see adults having meaningful conversations, hear varied vocabulary and be involved in these interactions. Also, if we are all working together we can support the child learning EAL better too.

Resources that promote interest, build links with a child’s own experience and engage children are much more likely to provide opportunities for children to talk and listen to each other.

So, you see, no magic answer there….just solid good practice which benefits all children. Buona fortuna.

A fun update: last month, whilst door-knocking for democracy, I chanced upon the mother of the aforementioned bilingual child. I instantly recognised her and after dealing with the purpose of my visit I felt compelled to remind her of who I was. Before I had finished she exclaimed “Fiona, we all remember you, of course, and still talk about how Francesca helped to feed the fishes with you!” I asked how she was doing and got the thrilling response that she is currently studying a dual-language degree here in Oxford, meaning she has added a third language (at least) to her skills. We parted with a hug, like old friends and as I wonder around this lovely city I hope that one day I may spot Francesca to greet her too.