Junior Aged Children as Reflective Practitioners
This paper sets out to discuss aspects of my recently completed EdD (Open) research into junior aged children operating as “reflective practitioners”. The study focused on the extent to which children are provided with sufficient opportunities to take responsibility for achieving “optimised design solutions”, through reasoned decision making and how this position can be supported or hindered by related elements of teachers’ classroom practice and inter group dynamics. In the context of this paper I shall focus on one of three key findings: that the encouragement of young children as reflective practitioners is related to an effective interplay between metacognitive questioning, clear task structuring (see also the notion of action patterns, below) and well organised collaborative endeavour, based on the establishment of sound ground rules. Whilst some evidence was found, during some twenty four classroom observation sessions of teacher-pupil interactions promoting effective reflective practice, such evidence was limited. Moreover, even when these key elements of effective classroom practice were appropriately employed to support children when working as a team, other factors seem to impact upon pupils’ ability to reach a shared and suitably justified/agreed understanding of how to make proficient progress; in short, to “reason together”. These factors, which tend to undermine a group’s ability to work towards optimised solutions to the problem(s) they are faced with, were linked to the notion of “cognitive dissonance”. This includes, for example:
• Children’s concerns about their personal levels of uncertainty.
• Their perception of their place within the group: not least how they view their own and others designing and manufacturing skills.
• Combined and overriding positions based on friendship rather than reasoned argument, in the most critically constructive sense.
• The need for reward or a simple desire to be getting on with the “doing” rather than engaging in further “thinking”.