The role of a teaching assistant has over the years become that of a professional. As part of any professional job, it is important to be able to carry out reflective practice. Reflective practice is the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning and where you need to seriously question your role and how you undertake the different tasks within your role. For example, if what you are doing is working and to evaluate if there is any room for improvement during any given situation. Reflection in action is recalling your previous experiences in other situations, and the lessons you learned with those, at the time when something new but similar happens.
It is how well you learn from your own experiences. It could be that you require more training or a better understanding of any policies or the use of different resources. Reflective practice is important for professional development, but it is also important to show how you carry out different activities with the children and young people that you work with. Carrying out reflective practice may seem to some like a difficult process to instigate but with some key questions to help get you started, the process will seem easier and prove to be very effective.
The following questions have been taken from the Gibbs reflective cycle. The model was created by Professor Graham Gibbs and appeared in Learning by Doing (1988)Gibbs’ reflective cycle has 6 stages. They are usually given the following headings:• Description – what happened?• Feelings – what were you thinking and feeling?• Evaluation – What was good and bad about the experience?• Analysis – what sense can you make of the solution?• Conclusion – What else could you have done?• Action Plan – if it arose again, what would you do?The aims of using Gibbs’ reflective cycle;• To challenge your assumptions• To explore different or new ideas and approaches towards doing or thinking about things• To promote self-improvement (by identifying strengths and weaknesses and taking action to address them)• To link practice and theory (by combining doing or observing with thinking or applying knowledge)After a certain task you have just performed with a child or a group of children be it good or bad, the more skilled you are at looking back at the task you are reflecting on, the better equipped you will be at handling the new event in a more positive way.
It is important to reflect on your practice on a regular basis, it may help to keep a reflective journal and participate in regular supervision sessions with your manager. Having the opportunity to talk over your ideas and thoughts with other colleagues will help you to identify your strong points and will also help you to look at ways in which to strengthen any areas of weakness you may have. This is particularly important when working with children and young people, because it allows you to learn new and improved ways of working – while you are working, and your personal efficiency will have a significant impact upon them and their learning. Taking time to think about your approach to your work with children is vital as you have a professional duty to consider the effect of what you do. Being in a role that has quite a range of diversity you will unsurprisingly have areas where you are more confident than in others however by recognising aspects in which you have been less successful through reflective practice, you will be able to identify where you may need to ask for more help in developing this area. Having the chance to reflect on your practice will help you to gain more confidence and become more efficient in the areas you may feel weak.
2.2 – Describe how own values, belief systems and experiences may affect working practiceEveryone has their own individual views, values and beliefs however it is essential that these should not impact upon the way in which we look after the children in our care, or the way in which we work. As a professional you should be able to separate your personal and professional views and be unprejudiced in the workplace. Some children you work with may have certain types of values and beliefs that will influence their day to day learning in school. These values and beliefs may be linked to their religion, they may have a daily religious practice such as prayer times or they may be simply based on the way they were brought up and the way they live their lives. Some schools and some organisations may be directly linked to church attendance and religious practice. Although schools that are linked with a church or a mosque do usually conduct religious-style assemblies and incorporate certain religious practices within their daily schedules, they are not allowed to discriminate against workers and pupils who do not practice any particular religion. In most cases, if you have an alternative religious practice or are non-religious, you will usually be able to opt-out of taking part in religious assemblies.
However, you should bear in mind that although your wishes will ordinarily be respected, there may be the odd occurrence when you may be asked to support a child in attending an assembly or similar, and this should not be turned down lightly. Culture has a large role to play in the way we appreciate the differences between individuals and between groups of people. There may be children in your care who come from a very different culture to your own.
For example, some cultures believe that boys and girls should be separate from each other. Other areas we could experience can be about the way children dress, the activities that they do in school or in external clubs, and how they should spend their time. In my current setting being a 1-1 teaching assistant working directly with a child, I meet with his parents on a daily basis. Where certain events have happened outside of the school setting involving his parents and home-life, I have to remain professional and diplomatic at all times. Some children may have been brought up in a way dissimilar to the way you were brought up or the way in which you bring up your own children, in these situations it is important to respect the views and beliefs of the parents and the children and maintain your professionalism and objectivity. Everyone has different approaches to the way in which they care for children it is important to respect this. Sometimes upon reflection you may find yourself reconsidering issues which previously you may not have thought to be relevant.
It may be difficult to consider your role as a whole as sometimes the different conflicts over beliefs and cultures can be hard to assess or change. When working with a variety of people from many cultures and backgrounds, reflective practice is extremely helpful for understanding the best way to approach certain situations and events.