Models of reflection
Reflective practice is a fundamental process whereby practitioners begin to analyze previous events and gradually make improvements to enhance practice. It initially offers practitioners the ‘genuine improvement- orientated feedback’ on their practice in making changes for future references. Numerous reflection models are design as systems to help practitioners engage in reflection. These frameworks consist of Schon’s model and Van Manen’s model of reflection. The models guide individuals to look in a superficial way and allow deeper reflection to enhance practice. However, there are individual differences with the models as one model may be suitable for one practice and may not be relevant to another practice.
Schon proposed a theory that highlights two main aspects during reflection. This involves the theory of ‘reflection in action’, which initially suggests that practitioners reframe the practice during the event taking place, and ‘reflection on action’ where practitioners reflect on the situation after the event (Smith et al, 2011). Sometimes the action taken during the experience may not go smoothly and thus practitioners contemplate new ways of thinking through assessments in accordance to the context (Johns, 2013). This can be highly beneficial for practitioners when thinking about alternative solutions and suggestions to problems, for instance when reflecting upon an event that involves children having accidents. Practitioners can take instant action by ‘thinking on feet’ and alleviating the problem. This can reevaluated after the incident. This can result in merging possible solutions to prevent reoccurrences.
Moreover, Schon’s theory places emphasis on the aspect of ‘intelligent action’ that is represented through the effective response of practitioners in particular situations. However, researchers such as Dewey (1933, cited in Zwozdiak-Myers, 2012) contradict this and believe that reflection is based upon the ability to justify the behaviour rather than take on action. He believed that reflection should come after the event, as individuals do not learn from experience but rather from reflecting after the event (Moyle’s, 2010). Even though Dewey and Schon have differing perspectives on reflecting ‘in’ practice, they both have corresponding views in regards to reflection after the event.
In recent involvements, there has been an increased focus on the stages of reflection introduced by many researchers. Van Manen’s model of reflection involves many stages that begin with ‘everyday thinking’ and result in more and more complex phenomena such as ‘critical thinking’. The ‘reflection-on-action’ approach taken by Schon corresponds with the second stage of Van Manen’s model of reflection. Schon outlines the fundamental features of reflecting on practice that includes making assumptions and evaluating the situation to improve future practice. Correspondingly, Van Manen also places emphasis on having to perceive, assume and pre-judging the situation after it has occurred with a group of reflective practitioners (Myers, 2012).
Even though the models are effective during reflection, many critiques have questioned the approach. Moon (1999, cited in Hayes, 2014) identifies the concept of ‘reflection in action’ as being too simplistic. He highlights the uncertainty of ‘thinking on feet’ and questions whether it is achievable to reflect at the time of the event. Rather, it is sufficient to reflect after the situation through reviewing and modifying previous events, hence contradicting Schon’s theory of reflection.
Role of the reflective practitioner
Dalli and Urban (2008, cited in Hallet, 2013) have described the early years concept of ‘professionalism’ as practice that is constantly reconstructing and developing. One of the most fundamental mechanisms that essentially used to enhance practice is reflection. Kayapinar (2013) described reflection as the process of observing, analyzing, and evaluating a certain event so that they can critically analyse their practice to improve oncoming situations. Similarly, other advocates such as Pollard (2008) have indicated that reflection can offer professionals satisfaction towards their performance to support children’s learning in the early years.
Moreover, the role of the practitioner also includes implementing quality learning to enhance children’s development and capabilities. The choices made after reflection should be in regards to practical learning and pedagogical learning. This includes the availability of resources and factors that influence children’s involvement in play. The EYFS (2014) suggests how the environment plays a vital role in supporting children’s development. In order to achieve this, practitioners can work collectively to support ‘sustained shared thinking’ that offers them opportunities to reflect upon what they have observed. Siraj-Blactchford et al (2002, cited in Purdon, 2014) state that by undertaking this approach, practitioners can enhance their own personal learning as well as children’s learning through facilitating children with resources and contexts that suit their interests. Providing children with better facilities in their environment can result in progressive learning and enhancement of their knowledge and skills.
Furthermore, the role of professionals is to create change through critically reflecting on a situation. Committed practitioners are highly likely to see criticality in their pedagogies, which influences them to create a change. There are various different strategies that practitioners use after reviewing past experiences. Hayes (2014) identified the significance of reviewing the past, as it provides practitioners with ‘future development needs’. One strategy involves self-evaluations as it gives the opportunity to assess their own achievements and acts as a catalyst for personal and professional development. Research found that critical conversations with other professionals provide a framework on how things approached differently in the future (Zwozdiak-Myers, 2012). Similarly, Kienzler (2001) found that thinking critically could offer support in teaching. Engaging in critical thinking gives the ability to allow deeper assumptions that influence change. Not only does this benefit personal learning but also improves children’s learning through ensuring that they are learning in an enriching environment. On the contrary, Kuit et al (2001, cited in Lawrence-Wilkes, 2014) found that some practitioners might not engage in reflective practice due to self-criticisms during evaluation. If some practitioners show reluctance to engage in reflection, it would be challenging to absorb new learning that is necessary for their professional development.
To conclude, the literature provided has underlined the importance of engaging in reflection, how it enhances the role of the professional, as well as offering strategies to improve children’s wellbeing. The ability to think effectively as a community of professionals, offers beneficial solutions that can create a change in the context, hence improving practice overall.
Leadership and management
Recent research has been focusing on the effective role of leadership, and their strategic managerial approach in the early years. Costley and Armsby (2007, cited in Hallet, 2013) identify that management is when an effect leader manages to create a positive change within their work context, through decision-making, organising and taking responsibilities. The purposes of these goals are to enhance a sense of direction for practice. Implementation of management largely depends on the leadership style. This management style can either influence change in the setting, endorsed by good values amongst the community of practitioners, or create barriers between commitment and practice. Therefore, it is essential to give equal prominence to Leadership and Management.
Leaders deal with many complex situations, which may alter their leadership style in various different contexts. A transformational leadership style is most popularly due to its emphasis on motivation and supporting colleagues to develop. As identified by Turner (1993, cited in Kaya, 2015) those of transformational leadership style, possess a charismatic persona and have created a community of committed practitioners. These categories of leaders are able to deliver power and authority due to their unique traits of showing optimism, compassion, and consideration. On the other hand, those led by a laissez-faire leadership manage their own responsibilities; hence receive a lack of management support. Cross-cultural studies further support correlation between a lack of support for teachers and stress-related illnesses (Bush and Middlewood, 2005). A lack of direction towards support may result in complexities in regards to imbalance of their work. Taylor and Singer (1982, cited in Johns, 2013) have identified how some practitioners may feel demotivated or dissatisfied with disorganized workload. To overcome this, leaders can engage in reflecting upon their role in order to change their management strategies so that relationships are improved. According to the Department for Education (2003) having good relationships within the setting can facilitate learning, provides a sense of self-fulfillment and helps to maintain a positive atmosphere (Pollard, 2008).
Moreover, possessing a transformational leadership is beneficial in the process in regards to the pedagogy for children. By motivating colleagues to develop, their knowledge and skills can improve overall performance for children’s learning. However, research indicates how working with children from socio-economic backgrounds can be challenging due to language barriers (Moon, 2000). Leaders should work in a notion to improve the situation by providing further training for their colleagues. In doing so, new skills are developed through reflecting upon this situation and be implemented to practice. Managing new skills and new ways of thinking will improve the quality of teaching in the early years through encouragement, motivation, and resilience. This shows how setting new goals for practitioners can gradually create a change for the environment, adapting to new situations.
To conclude, creating a positive change largely depends on the amount of effort that leaders put towards their management. The higher the interaction between leaders and practitioners, the more motivation they have to reach organizational goals.
Own reflections relating to practice
In accordance to my experience, there were many challenges and barriers when working with young children. Key Components framework recognises the importance of working collaboratively with professionals who can provide support in recognising difficult areas in studying (Rawlings, 2008). This framework demonstrates how being reflective and analytical can help us to realise our inner strengths and abilities to make us better thinkers next time.
One of the most challenging situations in the setting was supporting children who displayed aggressive behaviour towards others. Instant action to support the child in developing self-control was taken. By implementing Schon’s model of reflection of ‘thinking on feet’ was considerably important in producing new actions to improve the situation (Parker, 2008). This was done through delivering an explanation to the child about why his behaviour is unacceptable and encouraging the child to use ‘kind hands’ so he can be rewarded with a sticker. Bullock (2011) highlights how children learn to overcome their behaviour through rewards as they are ‘recognised as individuals’. This would help children to develop self-discipline and self-consciousness through the motivation of achievements. In addition to this, Schon’s theory of ‘reflection on action’ was highly beneficial when working in a team with other practitioners to receive improvement-orientated feedback. By working collaboratively with professionals, enables individuals to exchange their views that lead to a co-construction of solutions to problematic situations (Paige-Smith and Craft, 2011). Feedback received by practitioners had highlighted very few weak points, one of which was my patience levels that had caused me to label the child as displaying ‘silly behaviour’. This feedback enables me to improve on my practice by avoiding stigma attached to children, as this can affect children’s overall performance in their learning. Reflecting on my experience allows new ways of thinking and helps to put policies into practice. The Early Years Foundation Stage (2014) states how children’s behaviour should be managed in an appropriate way. Taking this policy into account will help me undertake a better approach to manage children’s behaviour appropriately and patiently, so that future practice can be enhanced.
Other experiences that involved reflection was in regards to my own development of enhancing my confidence skills, this will enable me to interact confidently with parents. Payler and Georgeson (2013, cited in Hayes, 2014) indicate how a lack of confidence within Early Years professionals can inhibit multi-agency working. In order to build on confidence, professionals should come together as a team to implement self-belief in one another, which will result in the enhancement of competencies. When I had discussed this action plan with the practitioner, she instantly provided me with hope and belief that I was able to interact coherently without rehearsal, which was carried out successfully. Adapting Gibbs cycle to my practice, gave me the ability to evaluate my experience on whether the approach taken was good or bad. As the practitioner was present during my interaction with the parent, I was able to make conclusions about what went well and what can be done differently to enhance my practice. Research by Costa and Kallick (1993, cited in Hayes, 2014) suggest that having a ‘critical friend’ is crucial during evaluation as they are able to find effective ways to enhance performance. In relation to my critical evaluation, the practitioner highlighted how I hesitated to begin with but gradually became more confident in speech. In order to enhance my practice, I will repeat this process so that my confidence levels can gradually rise to the point where I am coherent.