Thinking critically

In my opening statement, I mentioned my belief that one of the most important things to be taken away from this course is the ability to continue developing as a teacher in the long term, in the best-informed, most considered way possible; essentially, making myself into an effective autonomous student of my role in the learning process. The analysis of critical incidents is the perfect example of something which works towards this goal – it appears to me to be a chance to develop a higher awareness of the implications of what happens in, and out of, the classroom for my understanding of teaching and learning. Independent awareness enables independent responsiveness, and being responsive to my experiences is absolutely necessary if I want to maximise my potential for development.

Being reflective about what happens in lessons encourages the connection of disparate events into a demonstrative sequence, outlining the changes in my attitudes and practices. The way I view something as it happens set against the way I view it further down the line could display in which areas I have developed, and the angle given to me on one critical incident by another would strengthen, or at least expand upon, the conclusions I can draw from each one. In this way, it seems crucial that this is not just a ‘phase’, but is a method of establishing a habit – analysing critical incidents will, at first, become expontentially more useful for my development as they feed into one another, and highlight changes that have taken place in my classrooms and in my attitudes over time. Once this habit is ingrained, it will be a form of continual self-assessment that will hopefully be a catalyst for constant growth, as opposed to complacency or plateauing.

There’s something about critical incidents which makes me think of ‘mindfulness’, which I understand to be consciously appreciating whatever’s happening at a particular time – being ‘present’ in the moment. I think this definitely applies to analysing an important, or especially everyday, occurence related to teaching. It’s easy to autopilot your way through a week, and sometimes you even find yourself forgetting what you taught that morning. This isn’t a productive way to be; you lose any value from the experiences you have if you just let them wash over you. The practice of actively searching for critical incidents is a way of combatting this, training a teacher to ‘notice’ things of importance. What this process offers though, which mindfulness doesn’t necessarily include, is the cross-referencing of such incidents with the panorama of incidents in your entire experience – sort of like a holistically experiential, and critically analytical,  version of ‘being in the moment’.

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