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Research Methods in Education

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A REPORT ON THE EXPERIENCE AGAINST THE OBJECTIVES SET OUT IN THE MODULE ACTION PLAN FOR 5ED004.

BY KIMBERLEY WILLETTS

DATE: 15/05/15

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank my facilitator and the rest of the staff at my work placement for the opportunity and guidance during my placement.

Introduction
I undertook work experience in a primary school setting in my local area. They are a primary learning academy which gives them more freedom of the curriculum, staff pay, school hours and shape of the academic year. The school motto is ‘child-centred, learning focused’ which is evident in the ethos of the school. ‘The quality of education provided by this school is outstanding because all the major elements of the schools work are at least good’ (Ofsted, 2007, p4). The aim of placement is to gain more confidence and experience of the primary school setting and the role of teachers. See specific objectives in Appendix 1.

Findings:
Objective 1 (See Appendix 1) was achieved although it could do with being developed. As set out in my aims every opportunity presented to engage in group work was taken. On a few occasions I worked with children of a lower ability or children that have difficulty concentrating. This was challenging as it meant that each child needed the same amount of attention and support. To keep children engaged I communicated effectively using clear and concise language.
‘Good communication at work involves being able to relate to people from different backgrounds and age groups from your own’ (Herbert and Rothwell, 2005, p76)
To my surprise this was something I was good at the children all understood the task set. The problem was getting specific children to focus as explained in appendix 2. However, after a conversation with a teaching assistant some very helpful advice was given. Next time I worked with this group every child had an active role in the activity set. For example, when writing a report on how to look after a hamster the activity would be started off by asking the pupils if they had a hamster or any other pets and if so how did they go about looking after them, this got the children excited about the topic after sharing each other’s opinions and stories but also gave them ideas for their report. This was a very rewarding experience and the self-confidence lost from the previous incident was redeemed. Despite this, the objective was not met to its full extent as working in groups was rare as my facilitator would interrupt group work to ask if other tasks could be done such as photocopying, guided reading and to help prepare for lessons later that day. This was quite frustrating as the objectives discussed from Appendix 1 were not being met. However, as suggested in Fanthome (2004) I showed understanding for my facilitator as there were always other important things that needed to be done and so worked towards objectives set out in Appendix 1 when possible. Valuable experience was gained in accordance with objective one, although more time leading group work would have produced better results for me.
A clearer understanding of the interventions in place for children with autism was evident after the placement. There was a child in the class with severe autism so it gave me great hope that a lot of information would be given, however that was not the case. Most of the information gained was through observation in the classroom, this was due to a lack of time, and the fact that the child was supervised by his own key worker most of the time who was quite often too busy to answer any questions I had. A key intervention observed was visual support “One of the profound mysteries of autism has been the remarkable ability of most autistic people to excel at visual spatial skills while performing so poorly at verbal skills” (Grandim, 1995, p19). For example, a daily timetable is placed in the classroom so he has a visual representation of his day which was changed daily. After research i discovered common characteristic of children who have autism is that change is not openly welcomed and disruption from their normal routine can cause great confusion. This was a good way to help them to become more open to change. After finishing tasks he was often rewarded with time spent on his iPad where he would play interactive learning games and research facts about dinosaurs which was his favourite topic emphasising the importance of visual support. His key worker also used a mood chart where a photograph of the child showing happy, sad, worried, ill and excited emotions were placed next to where he works in order for him to be able to pick the emotion that he is feeling and place it on his mood board so that he can express how he is feeling throughout the day without having to communicate. Although a lot of information was gained through observation, more time working one to one with the child would have been more beneficial for my own reflection especially as after the placement working with children with SEN is something I have been interested in. The constraints against reaching objective 2 were already considered in Appendix 1 and as a result i was not too disheartened. However, in reflecting on the situation I feel I could have reminded my facilitator on the objectives set out in Appendix 1 more often but lacked the confidence to do so as my requests were often ignored. To combat this I could of conducted more research outside of placement and see how it related in practise but failed to do so this is something I will consider on future placements.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the placement was a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. It has made me realise that more work on self-confidence needs to be obtained in order to overcome obstacles that have prevented me from achieving objectives. The importance on reflection as emphasised by Moon (2004) was evident in achieving objective 1. It has also made me reconsider my career options from primary school teaching to a career focused more on children with SEN. This is because I witnessed first-hand the pressure put on teachers which is not something I originally associated with the job role. Recommendations: After this placement I would like to: * Work on my self-confidence in order to be more assertive in achieving what I set out to. * Think about my career options as primary school teaching is no longer something I would like to do. * Undertake a placement in an SEN focused environment. * Reflect on my experiences more in order to improve in practise.

References: Boud, D, Cressey, P, Docherty, P (2006) Productive Reflection at Work. Oxon:Routledge. Fanthome, C (2004) Work Placements- A Survival Guide for Students. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Grandin, T (1995) Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports From My Life With Autism. New York: Vintage Books. Herbert, I and Rothwell, A (2005) Managing Your Placement: A Skills Based Approach. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Moon, J (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practise. Oxon:Routledge Falmer. OFSTED (2007) Ryders Hayes Community School: Inspection Report. [online] [Accessed on 4th May 2015] Available at: <https://rydershayes.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/ofstedreport.pdf >

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