This sub-topic can be used in conjunction with the resource pack Introduction to Teacher's Professional Enquiry.
In this sub-topic you will consider different ways of reflecting on personal practice and explore a variety of tools which can help teachers generate information useful for improving the provision of literacy.
Think about your beliefs about teaching literacy and jot down a few notes about your style and approach. You may like to consider the following points.
- What do I believe is the best way to teach reading and writing? What has led me to think in this way?
- How do the ways in which I teach literacy match my belief? For example, if I believe that children need to experience a broad and rich reading environment, how is this reflected in my classroom?
- What do I think about classroom talk and in particular teacher talk? Who has the right to talk in my classroom? Do my children have to bid (hands up) to make a contribution?
- If I were a visitor to my classroom, how might I know that the teaching of oracy, reading and writing is valued?
Your responses to the questions above can help build a picture of the perceptions you have about the teaching of literacy. The next stage of the reflective process is to consider whether the learners perceive your teaching in a similar way. If the two viewpoints are closely related then you can describe yourself as being 'in tune' with the learners' needs. If the viewpoints are very different that it may be that some changes in practice might be helpful.
There are different ways in which the views of the learner can be captured. Each approach has its own strengths and limitations and has the potential to generate different kinds of knowledge. These include:
- whole-class discussion
- focus groups
Take some time to research these methods of obtaining data and decide which ones best suits your needs.
Before embarking on gathering the learners' views it is important to consider the issue of reliability. To help you make judgements which are more reliable, it is useful to gather information using more than one method. If you rely on one method then the 'picture' that you begin to form might be considered biased. For example, a teacher or learner might have a very particular view on the teaching and learning of literacy.
The following activity contains a selection of sound-bites from children and staff on the topic of teaching reading and learning to read.
Listen to the sound-bites provided by the staff and children of a primary school.
Try and identify any common trends or patterns from the given comments.
What other method of collecting data might you use to verify some of these trends and patterns?
For example: a teacher might recommend a particular method for teaching comprehension. How might this recommendation be further verified as being effective?
The experience of thinking about gathering reliable information can now inform the process of approaching the learners.
Choose one or two of the research tools outlined in the first activity and gather data about the learners' perceptions/experience of literacy teaching in your educational setting.
When you have looked through the data and identified some findings, compare these with your perceptions identified in the first activity.
You may like to consider the following points.
- Did the learners' views match your perceptions or were there areas where their experience was different to that which you intended?
- Were you surprised/pleased/discouraged by any of the findings?
- Would you like to find out more about certain areas?
- Can you identify any strength of provision or points for development?
These activities are part of a practitioner research process which can be adapted and transferred to different settings. The aim is to inform judgements so that you are confident in making changes to practice. Clearly, this is an ongoing process and part of a reflective cycle.
If you would like to read further about practitioner research, you may like to use these key words as a useful starting point:
- case study
- action research
- ethical thinking
Before using any method of collecting data, it is important to consider the ethical implications of each approach. Involving learners' in any form of research has ethical implications and it is good practice to consider these at the outset of your research. The British Educational Research Association (external link) holds additional information on ethical thinking.
This sub-topic has given you an opportunity to explore some introductory activities related to practitioner research. These are the very beginnings of using a validated approach to create an evidence-based classroom.