Reflecting on Reflection
In the blog below, Drew Rowlands, Director of Development for IVE, describes the importance of reflection within the TDF project delivered by IVE in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and IVE’s focus as part of PHF’s Teacher Development Fund Pilot has been on the specific opportunities afforded to teachers by introducing Shakespeare in primary school through rehearsal room approaches. It was our contention that by focusing specifically on Shakespeare and theatre-making we could develop teachers’ skill, confidence and ambition in the classroom, which in turn can affect their practice across the curriculum.
We already had extensive evidence that introducing Shakespeare’s plays at an early age can have a positive impact on children’s language development and consequently their development as readers and writers. Through this programme, our plan was to integrate a reflective practice element early in the process, encouraging teachers to reflect on how the approaches they are being introduced to could be applied across the curriculum in their own school settings. We therefore ensured that training around our ‘Learning to Enquire’ action research methodology was interwoven throughout the immersive development sessions and reinforced through our mentoring/coaching visits to schools.
Whilst we sought to engender ownership of each enquiry, our overarching aim was concerned with identifying the approaches and processes that make teachers’ professional development in these areas most effective. It focused on how increased skill, confidence and ambition in one distinct area can affect teacher attitudes to their practice more generally as well as how an action research informed approach can most effectively support this.
Approaches to CPD
Both organisations had established approaches to CPD, which had been developed over time and based on considerable practice and research. However, most of the RSC’s experience had been to apply the rehearsal room techniques to the teaching of Shakespeare, rather than across the curriculum. Investigating this emerged as an additional strand of our mission. The IVE approach to enquiry as a key process in CPD for creative learning had not been so closely integrated with arts-based skills development before, and so it is the integration of these two aspects that was of particular interest. I think the fact that both organisations saw themselves as being learners in this journey, and that both were seeking to develop overall provision as a result of the programme, has been a real strength.
The team therefore modelled ourselves as a reflective practice team. The planning days, which we have before each set of teacher development days, allow for reflection on the programme to date and enable us to share insights captured from the mentoring visits. We also set aside time during the teacher development days themselves to observe and feed back to each other about the sessions. Input is adapted between sessions on each of the days to respond to our joint observations. At the end of each of the intensive two day development sessions, we seek individual feedback from teachers.
This feedback is analysed by the whole team and feeds into our planning.