13 February 2011
Paul Manning, Kirsty Bryant and I met Geoff Petty in London a couple of weeks back. This from the handout he gave to the audience, based in pat on what he said in his presentation. The following is a direct lift in which he places reflection central to any enterprise in improving performance. It is a great idea that we each have out own 'theory in use' He draws heavily on Donald Schon and is cycle of reflective thinking.
This from the horse's mouth.
"Every teacher and every learner has a theory about learning. You are no exception and you will have a set of beliefs, ideas, and assumptions about the nature of learning, and teaching. You will believe that certain practices bring about learning, and certain others don’t. You will use this theory both to plan your lessons, and to decide what to do while you teach. Schön called this your ‘theory-in-use’. Never mind what you might write in an essay or tell your tutor, it is your ‘theory-in-use’ which guides what you do, and informs you as you plan and teach your lessons.
If you ask yourself ‘how shall I teach this topic’ you will consider your ‘theory-in-use’ to help you decide. If a student started playing up in one of your lessons, you would use your ‘theory-in-use’ to decide what to do about it. If a lesson did not go well, it would be your ‘theory-in-use’ that you would use to explain to yourself why it went badly, and to decide how to make that lesson, or the next one, go better.
Your theory-in-use is:
1. What you believe learning to be, and how you believe teachers can bring learning about.
that leads to...
2. Your lesson plans, problem solving in the classroom, explanations for what worked and what didn’t in past lessons etc
that leads to...
3. How you teach
As your ‘theory-in-use’ guides your every action it is clearly very important. If it faithfully describes the reality of how your students learn, then it will be an accurate guide for you, and you will be able to teach very well. If it doesn’t describe that reality very well, then you will never teach effectively, except sometimes by accident! It is clearly crucial to get this ‘theory-in-use’ as right, and as comprehensive, as you can get it. So how can you go about that?
One way of course is to do what you are doing right now - to read about learning and teaching. Another is to attend an initial teacher training course. These can help, but in the end you must integrate this learning into your own ‘theory-in-use’ for it to affect what you do. This requires that you make your own sense, of these learning experiences, and work out how to teach as a consequence. For example, to learn about Maslow’s theory of motivation, and even to write about it is one thing, to integrate it into your ‘theory-in-use’ is quite another. That would require you to work out what Maslow’s theory means in practice for your students, and then to use this understanding to improve your student’s motivation. That is very demanding, and will require much thought and practice!
In the end you will only develop a fully effective ‘theory-in-use’ by teaching, and most particularly by reflecting on your experience of teaching. It is important, and difficult, to go right round the reflective learning cycle as described by Donal Schön; just doing and reviewing is not enough!
As you reflect your ‘theory-in-use’ improves and so you become not only more effective, but also more adaptable and better able to solve problems. Effective teachers are always changing what they do, this is because they are continually learning how better to teach".