Centre for Educational Multimedia

Professional Learning

Reflection and peer support

A powerful strategy in professional development is to engage in reflection of one's practices. Sparks-Langer et al. (1990) point out that without reflection we necessarily submit to "mindless following of unexamined practices or principles" (p.147). Indeed, without reflective practice we are trapped in a vicious cycle of naively accepting commonly held assumptions (Brookfield, 1995; Mezirow, 1998) and as a result cannot effectively deal with a constantly changing and essentially ambiguous professional lives (Day, 1999; Sumsion, 1997) . Clearly 'reflection' in the context of professional development is more than simply thinking about an experience, it necessarily implies a certain level of evaluation or ability to critique our practices (Brookfield, 1995; Day, 1999) .

The teachers at St Pius X School were encouraged to keep diaries and to even video record themselves. They would bring this to the e-Learning meeting and reflect on their practices and plan the next cycle of research.

We have to keep digital diaries, and so we talk in our diaries... about what we've done and we reflect on, oh I did this, it didn't work or it did work, what shall I do next time? So every teacher has to keep a digital diary. I've got a leadership diary of the whole school and I've also got another one that we have to present. So we present our research at the end... We do have to keep evidence of what we're doing, because the E-learning team and the Catholic Education Board has to report back for their own funding too, so it all fits in, yeah. (e-Learning coordinator, St Pius X School )

The teachers used the same tools for reflection as their own students. For instance one teacher presented her diary using PowerPoint while another used iMovie.

The use of reflective learning within the e-Learning professional learning community was identified by the principal as being the most exciting activity in the school.

Interviewer: What excites you the most at the moment?
Principal: Well we've really put a focus the last few years on powerful reflection and that's reflecting on your own learning and what works for you, what you can improve upon, both staff and students. So that's been really powerful and having the e-Learning team. They meet every fortnight. Just working together and supporting each other.
Interviewer: So how are technologies used then to support this powerful reflection?
Principal: They use the iMacs to video the children, video themselves. When they make a presentation they're videoed so they can actually look back at it and reflect on it.
Interviewer: So this is the students looking at themselves.
Principal: That's right and the teachers, the teachers are also when they are in their meetings... they might record themselves, the actual interaction.

The supportive environment has been reported to have a significant impact on teacher perspectives. As one teacher said in relation to ICTs: "even at my age, I'm not afraid to learn" (Teacher Year 5/6, St Pius X School ).

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

I am learning all the time... I'm not scared of the computer anymore. I probably was scared in the beginning, thinking I'd make mistakes, but you can't make a mistake, you just need to have a go. (Teacher Year 5/6, St Pius X School )