EDN470: Action Learning for Reflective Practitioners ... Action Learning for Reflective Practitioners ... by using a spiral model of reflection to inform my action research topic of finding ways to

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    EDN470: Action Learning for Reflective Practitioners

    Sandra Hesterman

    Assignment3: Professional & Action Learning Project Report

    Project Title:

    Finding a way to improve writing outcomes for Pre-primary students, using

    play-based approaches.

    Definition of Key Terms in my Project Title

    Writing Outcome: What students are expected to know, understand or be able to do as a result of

    a learning process (University of Western Australia, 2012)

    Play-based Approach: A context for learning through which children organise and make sense

    of their social worlds, as they engage actively with people, objects and representations

    (Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations [DEEWR], 2009, p.6).

    By Krystal Jager


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    Contents Page




    Reflective Discussion___________________________________________________________6



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    As evident in my Professional Learning Overview and Plan, my action research program began

    by using a spiral model of reflection to inform my action research topic of finding ways to

    improve writing outcomes using a play based approach. I first implemented a play-based

    approach to teach writing in cycle one which was successful however I lacked confidence in

    using this approach. In Cycle Two my confidence grew when I observed students extending their

    learning experience, which I previously struggled to allow. I was confident in Cycle Three

    because feedback from the previous cycles and implementing a play-based experiences showed

    me I am capable of teaching writing without worksheets.

    The immediate context that informed my teaching of writing was the English framework in the

    Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority

    (ACARA),2014). This framework has guided the 'act' stage of the cycles to ensure the writing

    activities are educational and appropriate for all students. I worked with six Pre-primary

    students, consisting of four girls and two boys aged 5. As the school is play-based students are

    familiar with this approach and demonstrated engagement and confidence with my play-based

    writing activities. The school has an extensive amount of resources I could use including ''satpin'

    mats' that were used in my third cycle.

    A key aspect of my professional background is the capacity to analyse and reflect on my

    practice which I implemented in the 'reflect' stage of my cycles. This aspect improved my

    teaching practice because reflecting identified effective traits of my teaching and different areas I

    need to improve. The information obtained from my reflections was then used to inform the

    'plan' stage of my cycles by ensuring mistakes were not repeated to further develop my teaching



    I identified my problem of struggling to incorporate play-based strategies to teach writing by

    using the spiral model of reflection (O'Conner &Diggins, 2007). This is because the spiral

    model requires continuous reflection, allowing me to reflect on many aspects of my teaching

    practice that need change or development (O'Conner &Diggins, 2007). I began by reflecting on

    my previous teaching experiences, guided by the question "What area do I want to improve in


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    my teaching?" This reflection indicated that my current approach to teaching writing is formal

    and consists of worksheets that students complete by tracing over dots on a page. Past feedback

    forms from my practical experiences confirmed this with various comments, such as "Don't be

    afraid to try informal approaches to teaching" (Praxton, 2011). I then reflected on my own

    experiences as a student being told to complete worksheets and remembered how disengaging

    this approach was. Although this reflection identified other areas of improvement in my teaching

    practice, such as lesson transitions, I felt most passionate about this topic as none of my

    memorable learning experiences as a student were worksheet-based and as a teacher I want to

    create learning experiences that my students will remember.

    My approach to selecting the strategies for my action research project was informed by the main

    ideas of action research. 'Plan' influenced my strategy of setting realistic goals because part of

    planning is establishing a plan of action, which MacNaughton& Hughes (2010) explain as being

    a set of goals you aim to accomplish. 'Act' informed my strategy of cooperative learning because

    I'm a social constructivist, inspired by Vygotsky (1978) and therefore aspire to implement my

    plans in a collaborative environment. 'Observe' inspired my strategy to review relevant literature

    because this knowledge provides a better understanding of what I observed and a critical

    awareness of my observations (O'Conner&Diggins, 2007). Finally, 'reflect' encouraged the

    strategy of assessment. Assessment is used in my action research to identify the effects of my

    lessons and inform further planning and subsequent actions to take place (Brady & Kennedy,


    My approach to identifying items of evidence for this project was also informed by the main

    ideas of action research. 'Reflect' and 'plan' informed my selection because reflections should

    identify what has been accomplished and what needs further development, subsequently

    informing further planning and actions that need to take place (Brady & Kennedy, 2012). 'Act'

    and 'observe' informed my selection of evidence by reminding me that any evidence collected

    during the implementation of a plan needs to be efficiently recorded to ensure the lesson flows

    and aligns with what is being taught and observed in the lesson. This ensures the evidence gained

    is accurate and fair (McInerney&McInerney, 2010).

    The statement for my project aims is:

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    To improve writing outcomes, using a play-based approach instead of a worksheet-based


    The Aims for this project are:

    1. The project will encourage me to methodically reflect on my teaching practice to further

    develop a pedagogy that is appropriately suited to the individual needs of my students.

    2. The project will provide me with confidence in using a play-based approach to teach a topic I

    would have normally taught with worksheet-based strategies.

    3. The project will provide me with play-based strategies to effectively teach writing and

    encourage students to remain engaged and active in their learning.


    In Cycle One the 'plan' stage was informed by my observations of students, their work and

    discussions with their teacher. This is because to be an effective teacher I must know the students

    I am teaching (Burns, 2007). I then implemented this knowledge into the 'act' stage of the cycle

    to create a lesson where students wrote 'sight words' (they have been doing in class) in sand.

    During this lesson the 'observation stage' indicated that my lesson was appropriate because it

    related to students' interests and content they have been doing in class that I identified in the

    'plan' stage of this cycle. However I observed my lack of confidence with implementing a play-

    based approach caused my instructions to be unclear. This observation was confirmed in my

    friends review of my lesson. Therefore the 'reflection' stage of the cycle identified I need to be

    explicit and clear in my instructions which will inform what I need to do in Cycle Two.

    In Cycle Two the 'plan' stage was informed by my previous reflections in Cycle One and a

    discussion with my mentor teacher about ideas for writing activities to inform the 'act' stage of

    this cycle. From my planning I implemented a lesson where students write their names in glue

    and then put glitter on the glue for the 'act' stage. This is because the discussion with my mentor

    teacher revealed students need to practice writing their names. I also planned what I wanted to

    tell students before the activity to achieve my goal of giving clearer instructions than what I gave

    in Cycle One. In the 'act' stage of the cycle I was a facilitator of learning and in the 'observation'

    stage I observed students extend the lesson by writing their last name as well. Although I usually


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    struggle to let students do things outside of my plan I encouraged it because I observed students

    learning from this experience and Barblett (2012) says that self-efficacy and self-regulation

    thrives in student-directed experiences. In the 'reflection' stage the relief teacher emphasised that

    I had created an effective play-based writing lesson that students loved and directed. My

    instructions were clear but I found it hard to let students direct the lesson which I would like to

    encourage in the next cycle because student-directed experiences are a feature of a play-based

    approach, which I aim to successfully implement in my action research.

    In Cycle Three the 'plan' stage was informed by my reflections from Cycle Two and a discussion

    with my mentor teacher and students about possible writing activities. From my planning I

    implemented a lesson where students wrote 'satpin' words, using playdough (Jolly Phonics,

    1987). This is because during the 'plan' stage students said they loved this activity from last term

    and my mentor teacher had the resource available. In the 'observation' stage I observed my

    confidence had grown with using a play-based approach to writing. My teaching practice

    reflected this confidence where my instructions were clear and I was less nervous than I was in

    Cycle Two when students assisted in directing the lesson. The 'reflection' stage confirmed my

    observation that my confidence had developed when my mentor teacher said "It is great to see

    how much your confidence has grown" (Thomas, 2014).

    Reflective Discussion

    The 'plan' stage of an action research cycle is where I planned what I intended to do in the 'act'

    stage of the cycle (Arthur, Holly and Kaster, 2001). In the 'plan' stage I aimed to be provided

    with play-based strategies to effectively teach writing and encourage students to remain engaged

    and active in their learning. This was guided by the question "What strategies can I use to ensure

    students are engaged, and active participants in their learning?" I used the strategy of discussing

    this question with my mentor teacher for the first two cycles. However I realised I was only

    gaining my mentor teachers perspective on accomplishing this aim and Brookfield (1995)

    explains in his model there are four critically reflective perspectives we should consider, as

    practitioners. This includes students perspectives so I incorporated their perspective into the

    'plan' stage of Cycle Three to create a lesson that would engage students and encourage active

    participation because they participated in choosing the writing activity for the 'act' stage of this



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    In regards to the 'act' and 'observe' stages of the cycle I aimed to have confidence in using a play-

    based approach to teach writing. Unfortunately this aim wasn't accomplished in Cycle One and

    consequently gave unclear instructions which was embarrassing because I confused the students.

    I therefore posed the question of 'How can I become confident in using play-based strategies to

    teach writing?' To answer this question I implemented my research strategy of reviewing

    relevant literature. McInerney and McInerney (2010) revealed confidence can be established

    through gaining more experience. This proved to be true as my confidence grew in Cycle Two

    and Three because I had gained more experience of implementing a play-based approach.

    Pictures that were taken in Cycle One, Two and Three to assist in the 'observation' stage of the

    cycle demonstrated my gain in confidence with each experience as I continued to prove to

    myself I can implement a play-based approach to writing in each 'act' stage of the three cycles.

    Part of the action research cycle is to 'reflect' which I aimed to accomplish by methodically

    reflecting on my teaching practice to further develop a pedagogy that is appropriately suited to

    the individual needs of my students (Grundy, 1995). The accomplishment of this aim was lead

    by the question 'How will I know if I am reflecting methodically as a participant in this project?"

    to ensure I remained focused on my aim. Boud (1987) methodic reflections can be in many

    forms consisting of self-assessment and the reflections of others on your practice. Therefore

    self assessment, relief/mentor teacher reflections and reflections from a critical friend were

    essential strategies in my reflections because they provided multiple perspectives on my teaching

    practice that I could use to inform the 'plan' stage of each cycle (Brookfield, 1995). Although I

    felt nervous having people watching me they noticed things that I didn't which I could then

    reflect on by considering their positive and negative comments to decipher what I need to

    improve in my teaching practice.


    This action research project has contributed to the development of my teaching philosophy in

    beneficial ways. I now have the confidence to teach writing, using a play-based approach which I

    didn't have before. This action research project has shown me that a play-based approach to

    writing engages students and is not as difficult to implement as I first thought. Thanks to my

    action research I will not rely on worksheets to teach writing outcomes in my future classrooms.

    Instead I will incorporate a play-based approach because worksheet-based methods are


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    unnecessary. There are more active, authentic and engaging ways to teach what is in a work

    sheet (Lee-Hammond, 2013). At the start of this action research I couldn't have predicted how

    much it would positively influence my teachin...


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