1.What was the pedagogical strategy that you intended to implement in your course to promote autonomy in your students? Why did you choose this strategy? How could this strategy potentially benefit you as well as your target students?
Reflective journal writing. I chose this pedagogical strategy because I believe that it will help my students to become reflective practitioners. Through putting down their thoughts in words immediately after gaining some experiential learning experience in class may provide students with the space and time needed to clarify their thoughts and evaluate their learning effectiveness. As these students were going to conduct their first teaching practice immediately after taking this methods course, it is especially important for them to put themselves in their students’ shoes to reflect on their class learning experiences. It is my belief that the practice of switching between the role of the teacher and that of the student can deepen student teachers’ understanding of teaching methodology and raise their awareness of the potential impact they make on their students’ learning.
2.Did you explain to your students as to why you wanted to implement this strategy in your course? If so, in what way did you do it? If not, why not?
Yes, I explained the benefits of being a reflective practitioner to my students in the first class. I quoted research findings and my former students’ responses to my implementation of reflective journal writing in class to convince them that they should use precious class time to their advantage to reflect on their learning.
3.How did you monitor the implementation of this strategy in your course? Were there any particular incidents or student comments/responses that struck you as to whether the implementation of this strategy was effective or not? If so, what were they?
I monitored the implementation of this strategy by reading students’ written reflective journals after each lesson. If I found some insightful comments that were interesting to be shared with the whole class, I would refer to these comments in the next lesson. For example, I was pleasantly surprised when reading one student’s comment that he may consider integrating leisure writing (e.g. reflective journal/diary/weekly blog) into the informal curriculum as part of his duty as a class teacher to help his student enjoy writing. I shared this comment with the whole class in the following lesson and encouraged my students to put their teacher’s hat on while reflecting on their learning experience as a student teacher.
I also tried to make adjustments to my own teaching based on the comments given by the students. For example, when students commented that they found it unnecessary to spend so much time on activities, I tried to speed up the pace of teaching and skip the actual running of some activities by explaining the rationale of the materials design to the students.
4.Did you encounter any difficulties when implementing this strategy? If so, what were they? Was it possible for you to do anything to improve the situation? If so, what did you do? If not, why not?
One major difficulty was the packed schedule of this particular class. As this class of students had to squeeze all the sessions into eight weeks before the start of their teaching practice, we had a very tight schedule. There were a number of back-to-back 3-hour sessions and it was just overwhelming for the students to take in so much at a time. It was understandable that they felt exhausted towards the end of the lessons and it can be too tiring for them to write their reflective journals towards the end of each lesson. I could not change the situation because the class schedule was already the best possible version that the students voted for in the beginning of the semester.
5.If you were to implement this strategy again to promote autonomy in your future students, would you do anything differently? Why or why not?
Instead of making it an in-class writing task, I would like to build in more flexibility in the practice of reflective journal writing. I think keeping an online weekly blog could be an option for the students. I will explore how this can be set up for this purpose.
6.What suggestions would you give to teachers who are interested in using this strategy to promote autonomy in his/her students?
I think being flexible is the key. Students all agree that having the space and time to think and reflect on their learning is important, but if mutual consensus can be achieved in the beginning of the course as to how they would like to do so, it would give students a greater sense of ownership of the reflective practice they would like to adopt. Therefore, I suggest multiple options be provided for students in the same class.