A “prudent understanding of variable situations with a view to what is to be done” (McCarthy, 1984, p.2) encapsulates that moment when a teacher is met with new experiences that need resolving. Teachers are met with acts that define their personalities. While working in Asia I was faced with one such dilemma as two students had complained to my manager that I was rude to them. I had mentioned, after class on the first day of a new term, that they had entered late, ignored me as they walked in across the class and sat down to subsequently talk with friends. Contemplating Asian culture which may ignore this kind of attitude, I still felt the need to deal with it. What is called a ‘technical rationality’ (Schon, 1983), my reaction, I hoped, was a means to an end by telling them, in not so many words, that I would like them to respect the learning students and the teacher teaching. In this given situation and given they were both adults, who was right as we both had views? For this piece of writing, I would like to like to draw on Gibbs (1988) model of reflection with the hope using the six steps to examine this classroom experience.
This ‘critical incident’ (Flanagon, 1954) emphasizes a direct observation of human behavior to examine the point of myself, the teacher, keeping two students behind after class to talk about their behavior towards the learning process. This is also the ‘concrete example’ (Peters, 1984)where we have to step back and test ourselves. One test is my ‘feelings’ (Gibbs, 1988) towards the students’ attitude of nonchalantly arriving late and traipsing past me. I felt angry as the class had been disturbed, disrespected as a teacher and unsupported by my manager who told me to apologize to them.
Moreover, to ‘evaluate’ (Gibbs, 1988), the third stage of Gibbs’ model, which highlights the good and bad, is first to say that I chose a quiet moment to explain myself; this being after class. The bad would be the students’ reaction to a situation they felt was not to be worried so much about which in Asian culture may have made them lose face. So, to make sense of the situation and ‘analyze’ (Gibbs, 1988) it, I was left feeling that I was in the wrong. My manager was now telling me to apologize and forget about it although he was driven by the Asian culture and business ethics of the customer is always right and do not say anything bad.
The “conclusion” (Gibbs, 1988) is to highlight and reflect on what more could I have done, seeing as I had to apologize (or jeopardise my job). Culture was an issue, but also I think attitudes to lateness of another teacher to which they had had the previous term. My ‘action plan’ (Gibbs, 1988) is now to see if the situation arose again what I would do. Of course, there are reasons for being late, and also for reactions to bad things said about someone. Culturally, I was too abrupt and too serious. Finally, laughter and a smile work in Asian culture and also getting the students’ personal feelings as to the right behavior instead of pushing my personally held beliefs.
Peter Scales, 2008. Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 1 Edition. Open University Press.
Geoff Petty, 2009. Teaching Today: A Practical Guide. 4 Edition. Nelson Thornes.
Yvonne Hillier, 2005. Reflective Teaching in Further and Adult Education. 2 Edition. Continuum.
Andrew Armitage, 2011. Developing Professional Practice, 14-19. Edition. Longman/Pearson.
‘If you want it done right, do it yourself’ is a seeming generalised way of introducing the subject of Action Research, this may succinctly give an idea of what it is, although as this piece of writing on action research continues I will delve a little deeper into how this research process relates to what the teacher can do to enhance a holistic experience within their classroom. This ‘teacher can do’ approach is echoed by British educational thinker Lawrence Stenhouse who said ‘curriculum research and development ought to belong to the teacher’ (Stenhouse, 1975 p. 142). Stenhouse proposed that the teacher’s work should not be studied; they themselves should be the ones studying it.
Additionally, Wilfred Carr, a Professor of Philosophy of Education and Stephen Kemiss, Professor of Education, stress ‘since only the practitioner has access to commitment and practical theories which inform praxis, only the practitioner can study praxis. When teaching is looked at from an outside perspective, it can be seen to be difficult. Action Research as a study of praxis must thus be research into one’s own practice (Carr & Kemmis (1986: 191). The focus here is on a world of teaching that is constantly changing and the social situations that teachers find themselves in with their teaching where they can make a social and organisational change. The teacher can then be the one who is in charge of the situation for change whilst with the participation of others, namely the stakeholders, striving for everyone’s well-being in education.
Moreover, Action Research is learning by consulting and daily problem solving and what the teacher can do to improve on the situations that surface through their teaching. Thus, within this daily practice, the teacher has to identify a problem, they have experienced, then imagine how they may change this, thus putting a plan of action together to overcome it. Once this plan has been instigated, it is to evaluate how the plan effectively succeeded or not. Action Research does not stop there as the focus is on cyclical research, so in this process, once the evaluation’s results have been collated, the process can start again where the class is modified on the back of the results. This may well end up as an ongoing process as shown in Stephen Kemmis’ diagram. In short, Action Research can be explained as – identifying the problem, then resolving it, then seeing how successful it was, then if you are not satisfied, do it again.