Critical reflection on teaching practicum:
From my experiences as a student teacher, I have been able to observe and
practice a variety of teaching strategies and study student learning. Through my
practicum, I have been able to reflect upon my own views and values in regards
to teaching, including different strategies of teaching, classroom management
and what makes a good teacher. In my previous practicum I taught year three
and am currently teaching a year two class. Most of my examples in this critical
reflection relate to my current year two placement.
Two teaching strategies that I have implemented in my teaching have been
activating prior knowledge and class discussions.
In every lesson I teach, I attempt to engage students in the learning activity
ahead by activating their prior knowledge. I mostly do this by asking students
questions of what they already know about a particular topic, or what they
remember learning in a previous lesson. By linking what a student already
knows to something they have yet to learn, the new information they receive will
be more meaningful as it will either fit into what they already know or provide a
new way of thinking about something. Activating prior knowledge fits into
Piaget’s (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2007) theory of stimulation and the individual
reaching an understanding from their own experiences. According to Piaget
through students actively thinking about what they already know about a topic
they will either assimilate or accommodate new information into their
knowledge and understanding (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2007).
In a lesson I recently taught to my year twos I used an activating prior
knowledge strategy to introduce a new topic. The students have been learning
about the schoolyard safari and about the different animals and insects they
might find in the school and their backyards, for this lesson we were going to
learn about habitats; what they are and the different habitats of a snail, ant,
worm and spider. To activate the students’ prior knowledge I asked the students
to describe where they live to the person next to them and to tell them what in
their homes meet their needs. I then linked this prior knowledge to a discussion
of how all-living things need to live in a place that meet their needs and this is
called a habitat. As a class we then discussed how a fish’s habitat couldn’t be in
the middle of the playground because fish need water to survive. After this
discussion the lesson continued to learning about the needs of a worm, ant,
spider and snail and what their habitats are.
Haynes et. al. (2006) state that high levels of background knowledge should
provide students the opportunity to make these connections between their
linguistic, cultural and everyday experiences. By getting students to think about
their own context and how their homes are their habitats the new information
about the animals habitats are connected to something that is known. Activating
prior knowledge is very effective as students are given a context to their learning
and connections can be made between what they already know and what they
are about to learn, which will make learning experiences more meaningful and
Another teaching strategy I have implemented while on prac. is class discussion.
I use class discussions to help students share their ideas and point of views about
a topic or problem, and find they are a really good strategy to use in maths. Killen
(2007) states “whole class discussion is a process of group interaction where
students are exchanging ideas, listening to a variety of points of view, expressing
and exploring their own views, applying their knowledge and reflecting on their
attitudes and values”
An example of how I have used class discussion to aid student understanding is a
maths lesson I taught that focused on using mental strategies such as near
doubles and bridge-to ten in addition and subtraction questions. To enable a
class discussion, I wrote up an addition sentence on the board and asked
students to think of different ways of working out an answer. Students then
shared their different ideas of how they worked out the answer and as a class we
discussed what strategy they thought worked best and why. The discussion
worked well in this instance because it gave students the opportunity to hear
different ways of working out the same problem which they might not have
thought of by themselves, and can reflect upon their own ways of working out
Killen (2007) remarks that class discussions enable students to work together,
encourage understanding and critical thinking, help students discover different
approaches and helps students organise and articulate their own
understandings. It is important to note however, to make sure in class
discussions that talkative students don’t dominate the discussion and that the
discussion stays on relevant information and ways of thinking about a topic.
Overall, I have found class discussions to be an effective teaching strategy
because they help students see a variety of views on a topic and can expand their
own understandings as a result.
At the current school I am visiting, choice theory is the classroom management
system being used. This system has been implemented on a whole school level,
and from discussions with my master teacher; she believes it is the best system
to use in the classroom, because it encourages students to be good for the sake of
Choice theory was developed by William Glasser and is based on the belief that
all behaviour represents people’s attempts to satisfy their needs at any given
time (Arthur-Kellyet.al.,2006). To Glasser all behaviour is motivated towards the
satisfaction of five basic needs- survival, belonging, power, freedom and fun and
the way for teachers to motivate students to be good is to make sure all their
needs are met. Arthur-Kelly et. al. (2006) outline that Choice theory in the
classroom should be structured to enable children to feel:
-A sense of belonging, so they feel a close identity to the class and perceive a
caring relationship with the teacher.
-A sense of power, so they feel respected and heard and not at personal risk.
-A sense of freedom, to choose an individual path in learning and individual
behaviours that respect the rights of others.
-A sense of fun, so they can enjoy the learning process, laugh and be excited by it.
Through observation in my practicum, Choice theory has been put into practice
in the classroom with students having roles and responsibilities and being held
accountable for their own actions. My Master teacher has rules and
responsibilities written up on the wall, with the students knowing what is
expected of them. If disruptions occur in the class, my master teacher will ask the
disorderly student whose choice is it to behave and reinforce that it is their
choice to be responsible. If behaviour is unacceptable my master teacher will
write the student’s name up on the no activity list on the board, which means
that they will miss out on activity time on Friday afternoon, unless they can work
their name off the board with good behaviour. Students in my year two class
understand that there are clear boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable
behaviour and that there are fair consequences for their actions. This idea links
into Thorsborne & Vinegard’s (2004, pp.9) thinking on restorative justice where
“a restorative classroom will be characterised by high levels of support as well as
clear boundaries, where problem solving around issues are done with students”.
In my personal view, students should know and be empowered by their rights
and responsibilities in the classroom and be upheld to a certain standard of
behaviour at all times. I want to create a classroom environment where students
know they belong, are respected and feel comfortable and encouraged to
participate in all activities. I believe that students should be continually praised,
but not continually rewarded for good behaviour, because they should want to
be alert and engaged regardless to if they get a sticker or a lolly. I believe good
classroom management builds students who want to be in class and are excited
to learn, and this can be done through explicit teacher modelling, clear
responsibilities and boundaries as well as mutual respect.
Through my practicum experience I have seen many teachers in a variety of
different lessons, and this causes me to reflect upon what makes a good teaching.
Is it the way that a lesson is taught? Is it the way the teacher knows the content
in detail? Is it the way the teacher is up to date with the latest theory? What is it
that makes someone a good teacher? Connell (2009) in his article on teacher
quality and professionalism argues that views on what makes a good teacher
have varied overtime and between and within cultures. What is perceived as a
good teacher in one context will not be in another, as what is considered as a
good teacher is dependant on the values and ideologies the society/community
hold at the time. In his article Connell (2009) describes how Australian teachers
who were seen as good in the past were those who were a servant to the
authorities and taught a tightly controlled school curriculum. This has changed
overtime to a good teacher being seen as someone who has a extensive
knowledge of learning theories, different strategies for teaching and have field
specific skills. It therefore can be seen that good teaching is a contested subject
as what is valued in teaching is continually changing.
The Department of Education (DET, 2003) has put out a quality teaching
framework document that outlines what the department see as good teaching.
The DET views good teaching in three dimensions of pedagogy – those being;
intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance. Intellectual
quality refers to teaching that focuses on learning that uses higher order thinking
and deep understanding. Quality learning environment refers to teaching that
creates classrooms where students and teachers work productively in an
environment clearly focused on learning. Significance refers to teaching that
helps make learning meaningful and important to students.
From my experiences seeing other teachers at work I have seen some teachers
who just capture their class. My current master teacher is great at engaging the
students in the task ahead by being really enthusiastic and really explicitly
explains activities so that all children are on task at all times. My current
placement only has a blackboard in the classroom, and only a few IWBs in the
school, so I have seen how resourceful my teacher has to be with displays and
books which id really interesting to observe. I have seen other teachers who are
really organised and well resourced which means that lessons run really
smoothly, and I feel that the best teachers I have seen show that they know and
care about each individual student.
I believe that good teaching is where quality-learning experiences for children
are provided and where the teacher supports their students in both their
academic and social needs. I feel it is important for teachers to cater for all
students in their classroom differentiating for those with different needs and
give extra support for those who may be struggling. Good teachers use a variety
of teaching methods including the use of technology such as Interactive White
Boards and provide for a variety of learning styles. I feel it is important that a
good teacher enables students to develop into well-rounded, informed and
Through my experiences in my practicums thus far, I have learnt so much, not
only in how to teach in practical ways, but also in reflecting on my values and
beliefs about teaching. From reflecting upon my own teaching as well as the
strategies implemented in the schools I have visited, I have come to
understanding that being a teacher is such a complex and significant job to have
and plays a role that can make such an impact in students’ lives.
Arthur-Kelly, M., Lyons, G., Butterfield, N., & Gordon, G.,(2006) Classroom
Management 2e, Cengage Learning, Australia.
Connell, R. (2009) Good teachers on dangerous ground: Towards a new view of
teacher quality and professionalism. Critical Studies in Education, 50 (13), 213-
Department of Education (2003) Quality Teaching in NSW Public Schools
Haynes, D., Mills, M., Christie, P., & Lingard, B., (2006) Teachers and Schooling:
Making a difference: Productive Pedagogies, Assessment and Performance, Allen &
Unwin, Crows Nest NSW.
Killen, R. (2007) Effective teaching strategies: lessons from research and practice
(4th ed.) Thomson/Social Science Press, Melbourne.
Thorsborne, M., & Vinegard, D., (2004) Restorative Practices in classrooms:
Rethinking Behaviour Management, Inyahead Press.
Woolfolf, A., & Margetts, K., (2007) Educational Psychology, Pearson Education
Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW