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
Assignment3: Professional & Action Learning Project Report
Finding a way to improve writing outcomes for Pre-primary students, using
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
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
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:
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
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).
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
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
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...