Teaching and learning seem inseparable in life. No one at birth has all the knowledge needed for living from the cradle to the grave (Lave Wenger 1991). That, therefore, made the quest for knowledge a necessary weapon for human survival and continuity. It is with this belief in mind that all societies deliberately institutionalized ways and means of knowledge acquisition formally.
My personal position
My experience in learning and teaching first started as a student in the secondary school. I was made to believe that my teachers have absolute knowledge and cannot be questioned (Lave & Wenger 1991). Each time I entered the classroom I got amazed with what my teachers said in class and this made me wonder how they acquired this knowledge (Freire 1972). I got very interested in becoming a teacher as I grew into adulthood. I made it a habit to visit him immediately after school after taking my lunch at home, and there I enjoyed his company as he guided me through my assignments and other things that had to do with my education. Whenever my uncle gave me work to do, I did it successfully, and he commended and motivated me by giving me biscuits and sweets (Jurasaite 2010). This act reinforced and increased my desire of becoming a teacher (Sailors et al. 2010). Having completed my secondary education, I got admission into one university in my state where I studied education specializing in sociology and adult education. That gave my nurtured dream a reality. On completion, I became a teacher with my state teaching service board, as there was a pressing need for teachers with qualification.
As a teacher, I was exposed to different teaching techniques, and they changed my perception of the teachers being the authority in the classroom (Boud et al. 1985). I was made to understand that the student needs to contribute to the discussion in the classroom (Van et al. 2012). About four years ago, my state government in collaboration with the federal government of Nigeria organized refresher training for teachers of primary and junior secondary schools. I was selected to be one of the facilitators for the project, and I was trained to use child-centered methodology (Brookfield 1995). That is what further made me realize that the pupils need to be the focal point in the classroom and should be given the freedom of what they want to learn. This methodology of teaching has greatly influenced my position as a teacher coupled with the motivational techniques inherited from my uncle.
With Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning, I came to understand the importance of repetition for students. To help retain concepts that have been learned in the classroom, I came to realize that the more ideas are repeated, the more likely students get to comprehend and recall them.
The behavioral theory of learning developed from Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory states the role of reinforcement (Piper &Alliar 2011). Positive reinforcement leads to repetition of desirable behavior while negative reinforcement discourages negative behavior among learners. Through this, I came to learn the role of motivation in learning and teaching. Students were more likely to acquire new concepts even if the least form of motivation is used. Every time I want to teach a new concept to my pupils, I would give them little motivation such as giving a simple present to those who demonstrated an understanding of the concepts I was teaching. This act would encourage others to learn the concepts since they knew by so doing they would receive presents from me. If a notion were hard, I would promise a present to anyone who would get the answer to the problem, and most of them would do their best to get the solution. This encourageda learner-centered learning rather than a situation where the teacher was everything as I initially believed while I was a student.
To discourage negative behavior, I would, for instance, make my students miss things that interested them most. They would make desist from repeating the behavior in future. I came to understand as a teacher one should not give students punishment based on a concept one wants them to learn. Doing so would make it hard for them to learn the concepts I was trying to teach since they would associate the notion of the punishment and hence discourage them from learning the concept. Therefore, to allow them to learn and at the same time discourage negative behavior, one should look for punishment that is not close to the concept one wants the students to learn.
Society expectations from a teacher
As a teacher, there are high expectations from the society (Schon 1987). I came to learn that the changes that have been experienced technologically and economically demand a change in the ways concepts are imparted to the students. The teacher is expected to prepare a student who is can fit in the liberal world as well as the modern economic scenario. Therefore, I have come to appreciate that teaching must be linked to what is happening in the real world otherwise the concepts will be considered obsolete and not applicable to the modern society. The student needs to be prepared to get into the competitive market that has become global (Gersten et al. 2014). I understand that the society expects accountability and competitiveness from me as a teacher. I also need to think rationally and be in control of the situation.
In this regard, the state in which I teach has introduced assessment tools for teachers so that we may be accountable and also competitive in the world market. These assessment tools have helped me to set goals to be achieved in the course of teaching. These objectives help me to be effective as a teacher while at the same time being accountable to the authorities above me. I can show measurable results of the work I am doing and my students are well prepared to face life outside the classroom.
Professional development for improved teaching
I have come to understand the importance of professional development as a teacher especially in the subject I am teaching. Learning specific concepts related to the subject as well as being able to understand the teaching techniques that work for the modern teaching environment have made me a dynamic teacher who can fit into the modern world. This understanding has made it possible for me to prepare my students such that they can to fit perfectly in a world that is rapidly changing.
These personal development goalshave called for the attendance of in training services that prepare me for the current professional requirements for teachers. I have been able to learn the role of technology in teaching and learning (Learning Forward 2011). I have come to learn that the internet is an important resource for teachers and learners. For this reason, I have made sure that my students get in touch with new technology in learning by giving them assignments that require them to do research on the internet.
In enhancing my skills as a teacher, I have come to learn new teaching methods that work (Zapeda 2012) for a student who has been exposed to the world of the internet, most commonly known as the world wide web. Teaching for me and learning for the students have become fun for us since our classes have become an interactive activity where research takes center stage (Gersten 2011).
The role of critical reflection and reflexivity in leading improvements in practice
Reflective learning means getting to learn by reflecting on one’s experiences. It enables one to get new insights in life. These insights are significant in creating self-awareness on a person (Campbell & Markus 2011). They help one to evaluate his or her life by critically looking at it. In this regard, reflection enables one to improve areas that require working on while developing those areas one is good.
Reflective activities help one to be accountable because it allows one to discover who one is especially in the practice of his or her career. Reflection serves a self-assessment role where one can look at what works and what does not work. It focuses on the individual rather than the group or the society. Therefore, the reflection looks into those factors that contribute towards individual’s professional development as viewed by him rather than as viewed by others. It helps individuals to see what others may not do in themselves. It goes beyond what others think about the person to what that person thinks about himself. Therefore, one can evaluate whether what others think about him or her is correct or wrong.
In this regard, the individual can make necessary changes in his or her life that will improve his or her professional life without necessarily blaming others for his or her failure. One can set achievable goals that are meant for personal improvement in one’s career so that one can be efficient and deliver the expected results. Since reflections arise from experiences, it is possible to use one’s skills to bring positive change in the performance of one’s profession.
For a teacher, one can reflect on the experiences that best deliver the content that needs to be taught to the students and work on areas that will make the students better understand what is being taught. Reflection can make individuals become experts in their field since one will be able to determine which experiences brought failure and which ones brought success. Therefore, one can avoid those situations that bring about failure while focusing on those areas that bring success in their field. It is a reflection that enables one to give professional advice since they can to look at those areas that brought them positive results and encouraged others to do the same while discouraging those areas that produced negative results.
Reflections also help professionals determine those areas that need change. It helps one discover that things that worked yesterday may not be necessary work now. The person is, therefore, able to make significant changes that will bring about the desired results and also make timely decisions that are not passed by time. This situation enables one to be effective in carrying out his her career. There is also the power of rational thinking since one can tell ideas that have become obsolete and did not work. It encourages dynamism and flexibility and avoids the rigidity that discourages growth.
Reflection encourages innovation since as one practices his or her profession one discovers that there are procedures that do not work. Therefore, professionals have to come with innovative ways to make things work. Reflection, therefore,can bring about the desired change as one looks for ways that will work. It can only be learned from experiences that one encounters in the course of the professional work.
Development needs as a teacher for improvement for learners
From the reflections on my experiences, I have discovered that I need to focus on my personal development as a professional teacher. The aim of this development is to bring about greater improvements for my students. I have come to understand that there are practices that will not work even if they worked before. From my reflections, I have come also to realize that there are some practices that I used that I thought were working but which were not necessarily working. That, therefore, calls for a change in my approach to teaching.
In delivering the content of my subject, I need to relate it to what is happening in the current world. This relating of things will make the students gain interest in the subject since they can recount their experience in class to the real world (National Middle School Association 2010). They will not find the subject as learning of concepts that have no relation to the real world. It is this connection that will make them grasp concepts learned in the classroom since they realize that these concepts apply to real life situations. They will, therefore, discover that the classroom is not just a place to learn ideas that do not have any relevance to the real world. This knowledge will make learning fun since my students will be able to make application of the exercises that we do in class (National Middle School Association 2011). In this regard, I will make assignments as more real and applicable to the real world as possible.
I also realize that I must come with innovative ways of teaching concepts to my learners. To do this, I realize that the place of technology in the current teaching and learning cannot be underestimated. I, therefore, will make sure that I work on areas that will integrate my teaching with the modern technology and make my students appreciate it by involving them in it. In this regard, I will make use of existing media platforms such as social media to teach concepts in my subject.
I also realize the important role played by critical reflection in my experiences as a teacher. It is suitable for self-evaluation. I, therefore, will create a self-evaluation tool that will make me measure how well I deliver the content of my subject with an aim to make necessary improvements. This self-evaluation will also be combined with an evaluation of my students so as to find out whether my evaluation of myself is a true reflection of what I think about myself. It will be done in mind that the teacher is not the custodian of all knowledge. The teacher is not the sole authority in the classroom.
Another area of improvement is making my teaching more learner-centered. With the reflection on my teaching experience, I realize that there is a lot to do to make my students participate in the learning experience. The students in my class should be a greater source of knowledge even as I am (Sun et al. 2013). This is not possible if I am the only one who gives them the knowledge. To deliver better in class, I will make use of research to improve on my content delivery. Students will be involved in many research topics to find out what they can discover on their own. This research is done in mind that as a teacher, I act as a guide for my students and not a water pump that gives without giving room to the recipient to exercise what they know.
On accountability, I will familiarize myself with the existing procedures that guide my work as a teacher. Rational thinking will be applied in my application of these processes, and I will set an action plan and a self-evaluating tool that will guide me in evaluating my progress in class (Croft et al. 2010). That will be like a form of contract that I set based on established procedures and bureaucracy in my workplace.
I understand, professionalism is part of my work, and that to deliver I need to do courses in professional development (Bickmore 2013). In this regard, I will make learning for me a continuous process. I will enroll in short courses that will enable me to learn the current trends in teaching and learning. I will keep up to date with current developments and best practices in instruction. I will make use of the current technology to do my teaching while making use of the traditional tools that exist in learning and teaching. This usage of technology will be done with the realization that old methods cannot be dismissed completely, there are those that work, and these should be integrated with the current methods to make them more effective (Severson 2012).
To deliver as a teacher requires a critical reflection on one’s experiences. It is what will make one a better teacher distinguished from the others. It should be realized that these reflexive practices offer someone a self-evaluation tool that enables one to become aware of oneself. This reflection offers one the chance to work on self-improvement programs that will allow one to be a better teacher and a professional one for that matter. There should be the realization that one is accountable to many people as a professional. One is not only answerable to the authorities above him or her but also to the entire society. The society expects much from the teacher since he or she is the one who prepares every generation to fit into the current world in all aspects be it social or economic. Another realization is that as a teacher, one is not the custodian of all knowledge. The teacher is just a guide guiding the students to the desired destination. Teaching in itself should, therefore, be learner-centered rather than teacher centered. The learners should be offered an opportunity to participate in the discussions in the classroom and bring out ideas they may have concerning the subject they are learning.