A critical exploration of how my experiences teaching adults in Poland led me to a new career direction
I kept a diary of the events that took place whilst on placement. However, due to the intensive nature of the schedule this had to take the form of brief voice recordings after each session. I would spend a few minutes mentioning the key points that happened in the session and any thoughts/feelings/observations that I perceived as important. I also found it useful to annotate my copies of the materials given in an attempt to remind me of my experiences. When I returned home to the UK I sat down with my voice recordings and annotated teaching materials in order to write a reflective diary in which I could explore my emotions and perceptions and how these changed as a result of my experiences on placement. One advantage of this approach was that it would allow for further analysis of key events that had not been possible to explore whilst on placement due to the time constraints. However, I am aware that the risk with this approach is that some of the accuracy and authenticity of events may have become lost as they had not been written down fully at that moment.
As my report focuses on an understanding of myself and my perceptions of teaching adults I felt it was necessary to conduct this in the form of autoethnography. I favoured a style of ‘heartful autoethnography’ as I would be exploring my own values, assumptions and preconceptions which could leave me feeling vulnerable to the reader (Ellis, 1999). This approach however felt very natural and I felt that risking exposing my inner thoughts and feelings was crucial in coming to a new understanding of myself and the impact this placement has had on my career choice. This willingness to open up and be vulnerable is considered a valuable quality in a teacher by Freire (1970) and hooks (1994). Woods (1996) asserts the benefits of exploring our thoughts and feelings are not just limited to our own self-actualisation but can also prove beneficial to how we relate to others (particularly in my case to students and other teachers). This view is supported by Mead (1934), Dewey (1938), Tripp (1993) and Sparkes (2002).
In order to provide structure and focus for my report I have chosen to highlight moments that Tripp (1993) would consider ‘critical incidents’. These ‘critical incidents’ are key moments that occurred whilst on placement that I considered to be pivotal in changing my understanding of myself as a teacher and which brought about a change in my perceived career choice (from my initial aspirations teaching children to my new found desire to teach adults). As mentioned, I feel this will be an important tool for coming to understand these key moments. However, I feel it is important to understand the limitations of viewing experiences as isolated incidents as Dewey (1916) suggested that experience leads to personal growth and it can never be considered without the relation to previous experiences and those yet to come. This assertion adds validity to the issue of ‘transference’ argued by Britzman and Pitt (1996). Therefore I will try to explore how these incidents link to previous experiences and the implications for my experiences in the future. Where it is necessary to mention a person by name in my report I will change the names so as to preserve their anonymity in line with ethical principles. All of the participants in the story gave informed oral consent to be included in my report. Although I could not promise confidentiality I felt anonymity was of crucial importance as Sikes (2009) warns of the potential harm to participants, especially if they feel they have been represented or re-presented in a negative way.
I am the student's tutor: I asked if I could use this as an example for future students on the same module.
The student's voice is very clear in this piece, a good sign that they are writing at Level 5; academic requirements such as clear referencing to authenticate and strengthen the student's arguments are also in evidence, but the student goes beyond that to explain their own personal philosophy of education. Reflection is also very clear, with the student writing a very open and honest account of what seems to have been an important formative experience.
The writing is mature, and the student shows a strong understanding of ideas covered in this module (for example, referring to Tripp’s idea of ‘critical incidents’) but also including ideas from sources encountered in other modules (hooks, Freire, and Britzman & Pitt, for example).