Challenging your own Assumptions TASK E (PLC)

Task E: Challenging your own assumptions...

Gillespie & McBain (2007) suggest that an assumption is an idea or proposed meaning that is taken for granted, as if it were true. The reading encourages us as teachers to be able to challenge this ‘default thinking’ in order to continue to be able to see the world with fresh eyes. In modelling this behaviour our students will greatly benefit from being more aware and more critical. By encouraging questioning students can then find the key messages, and understand how these have developed.

In Tinning’s (2006) “Reflecting on your teaching” the reader is vicariously challenged to categorise themselves regarding their use of systematic reflection within the teaching profession. The article suggests that ‘reflection is a personal act of constructing knowledge based on one’s inner voice’ (Rovegno, 1992. In Tinning, 2006 p.252) and is pitched at student teachers preparing to enter their next practicum. The article cites Jennifer Gore (1990), with reference to ‘recalcitrant, aquiescent, and committed reflectors’ as being; indifferent, compliant, or engaged in the reflection process respectively. The reader is instantly setting himself or herself against this construct, and is then faced with the outcome of a particular mindset, and its impact on ones performance and professionalism for the remainder of the text. Of particular note were comments about getting one’s baseline teaching skills (i.e. directing the class, lesson structure, management, etc.) mastered to an ‘automated’ level, so that one can simultaneously reflect-in-action, and subsequently reflect-on-action (Schon 1987. In Tinning, 2006 p.251) regarding ethical, values based, and strategy related criterion. Tinning uses Stenhouse’s (1975) notion of ‘extended professionalism’ to exemplify the model committed teacher, and goes on to emphasize the importance of systematic data collection, through the use of a journal coupled with peer support. This above all serves to notice commonalities in problem areas one would not ordinarily percieve as related, and can also identify other factors which may have amplified the result i.e. activities prior to episode. This article put forth a solid argument for the use of reflection as an essential element, near on a pre-requisite for all ‘professional’ teachers, and suggests the regular practice is beneficial for both teacher and student self-efficacy alike.

Research conducted by Markula & Pringle (2005) No Pain is Sane After All: A Foucauldian Analysis of Masculinities and Men's Experiences in Rugby, explored the assumptions made by many New Zealanders of the concept of 'manly' and the articulations and discourse surrounding this idea. This research found that "the cultural dominance of heavy-contact sport primarily encourages males to relationally distance themselves from practices deemed 'feminine' " (Markula & Pringle, 2005, p. 491). However, in contrast the study also found that sport does not unambiguously produce culturally dominant conceptions of masculinities, but rather acts as a complex and divergent medium for forming masculinity. This reading made us aware of the extremities of our assumptions, and how important it is for us as teachers to be aware of the language we use and the things we say subliminally. During the PLC we addressed and discussed the following assumptions (a - n), challenged them, and concluded: a. Teaching=Learning: disagreed that teaching doesn’t equal learning. Stating that there is no teaching if there is no learning. b. Māori and pacific students are better at PE : Disagreed that there is no difference – PE doesn’t equal sports, and ethnicity doesn’t determine skill. c. The teacher knows more than the students: Disagreed and came to the conclusion that it comes down to prior experience (children’s/teacher’s), different funds of knowledge, which lead to co-constructed learning. d. Fat kids parents should know better: Disagreed – this issue being widely media hyped and over publicised. It’s situational circumstance dependant on many factors which people cannot pass judgement on. Health education can improve awareness of healthy food choices but the teacher only has a certain amount of influence on this. e. Fitness=PE : Agreed/disagreed- It was part of the PE subject but not all of it. Knowledge of fitness should also be studied. The theory vs practice debate f. Busy, happy, and good= Learning: Disagreed – concluded that challenge and engagement= learning, busy, happy does not equal learning. One member posed the idea that there is too much emphasis placed on the success criteria, and the children all take different avenues to achieving these. g. Health Education in primary schools is all about the hand washing, teeth brushing, the food pyramid, and puberty: For many of us it was during our time in primary school, however through our practicum experiences we have seen health education integrated into many other subjects as much more than these broad areas. Although it was noted that no-one had experienced a silo health lesson. h. PE is not an academic subject: Disagreed/agreed – definition of academic “adjective -relating to education and scholarship: academic achievement, he had no academic qualifications) - relating to an educational or scholarly institution or environment. From this definition we agreed to disagree as some said they had seen no evidence of PE theory in schools and others said they had witnessed goal setting and other forms of theory. There is a large difference between theory and practice. i. Harold the giraffe can teach health: Disagreed – many of the PLC members had differing experiences of the Life education trust programme. We concluded that the programme does not inform the students enough to produce any concrete learning, as it is a once off annual lesson, usually not including any immediate signs of scaffolding for learning reinforcement. j. Going out for sports is the same as PE: Disagreed – no discussion k. Schools should only sell healthy food in their canteens: Agreed/disagreed – 1. Students should be allowed the option if they or their parents choose. E.g., some parents reward their children at the end of the week. 2. Healthy food should be modelled in schools and options should be for home. Sugar and other processed food affect learning. l. Doing physical activity helps to do better in ‘academic’ subjects: Agree that is helps with concentration and motor skills (gross and fine) and also encourages an overall wellbeing of the mind, body, and soul. However, it must be noted that the word academic is used rather loosely in this statement. m. Weighing and recording children’s measurements is an appropriate way to keep track of students’ health: Mostly disagreed, however one member had experienced this and shed light on the aspect of pastoral care as a teacher. However we concluded that it was not an adequate measure of health, if only in extreme cases. E.g., malnourishment. n. Physical Education=Physical activity: Disagreed – it is not every part of the subject, but rather a strong aspect of it.

Part 2

As a group we discussed how the assumptions we held affected and impacted on the ways in which we viewed situations, how these assumptions we held affected our behaviours and attitudes, and therefore the students' learning. - As teachers we tend to teach to what we know, staying in our comfort zone. We recognised the need to move from this and extend ourselves as teachers. - Therefore post discussion we decided that we must become educators who take risks and role model this behaviour to our students.

Part 3

Actions we would take to insure our views do not result in unjust practice/language/attitudes in our classrooms: - Constant reflection of students learning needs and styles and our own teaching styles. - Recognising our areas of weakness and addressing these assumptions/biases. - Positioning ourselves as the resource to the students rather than the expert. - Role model to the students that the teacher is also a learner.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.(page 49)”

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

These hats provide a useful tool to get children to start thinking critically and challenging assumptions.

external image 6hatstop.gif

Six Thinking Hats is a strategy devised by Edward de Bono which requires students (and teachers), to extend their way of thinking about a topic by wearing a range of different ’thinking‘ hats: White hat thinking focuses on the information available and needed. Black hat thinking examines the difficulties and problems associated with a topic. Yellow hat thinking focuses on benefits and values. Red hat thinking looks at a topic from the point of view of emotions, feelings and hunches. Green hat thinking requires imaginative, creative and lateral thinking about a topic. Blue hat thinking focuses on reflection, metacognition (thinking about the thinking that is required), and the need to manage the thinking process. The colours help students to visualise six separate modes of thinking and to convey something of the meaning of that thinking, for example, red as pertaining to matters of the heart, white as neutral and objective.

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