Connected Development: How blogging has aided my reflection and development (Part 1)

What my collective blog posts would look like in old-fashioned book form... probably

You may have heard (or read) these words from me a lot:
"I would not be the teacher I am today had I not started blogging." 
(or you may be reading them for the first time, in which case welcome to my blog!)

But what do I mean? What are some specific examples of how blogging has helped me develop? When has engaging with other teachers caused me to rethink and reflect?

Read on for some answers...

Food for thought from 'pink elephants'

We've all had tough classes at some point, especially those of us who have suffered with had the pleasure of teaching young learners. I had a class like that some six academic years ago and it was tough. I got some advice from colleagues but nothing seemed to have more than a temporary effect.

Observing a trainee teacher lead a lesson with them while having far fewer discipline issues prompted me to ask myself some questions about my approach to teaching that class and I took those questions (and my half-formed answers) to my blog later that week.

This was one of the first times I had started to 'get critical' with my reflections. Beyond simply describing what had happened in the class, I started to probe deeper with questions. Even if I didn't have the answers at that time, I had set my own reflection in motion.

I brought that class back to my blog at the end of the school year to update on their/my progress and also to explore what I could do differently if I had a 'difficult' class again in the future - an important part of any reflective process.

That future would not be far away as I got the same class back the following year. That provided a great opportunity to apply the plan of action to come out of my reflections and see how effective it was. 

Would all that have been possible without putting my thoughts into words on this blog? I doubt it...

4 Cs of blogging

No, not Tyson Seburn's excellent blog, but 4 Cs that have ensured blogging has become a key part of my CPD: community, collaboration, comments, and challenges.

You could argue that old-fashioned journal writing could have enabled critical reflection and self-development in that same way my blog has... but that would be missing the crucial element of community. A blog post is immediately shareable for the author and readable for teachers around the world. That might sound daunting but it plays a crucial role in furthering critical reflection.

Sharing blogs through social media platforms helps build a community of teachers. Reading other teachers' posts can set off reflections about our own contexts. Comments allow author and reader to ask questions of each other to clarify, offer advice, and share experiences.

All of that is evident in the above examples. If you read the initial 'pink elephant' post, you will see a reference to Jason Renshaw's use of the term on his own blog, which set off my train of thought. The comments at the and of that post are a critically reflective goldmine, offering different perspectives and ideas on why my students were behaving as they did and the best way to approach the issues. The second post came about due to a request from another teacher for an update on how that class had developed for better or worse through the year and the final post was my attempt to give something back by sharing my new and improved ideas for classroom management.

The interactions and sharing through these posts and many others all represent an indirect form of collaboration from teachers around the globe. Some posts were also the direct result of collaboration as well - one of my favourites was my split-screen chat with Cecilia Lemos, in which we shared and discussed our developing understanding of dogme (sadly, the video platform we used to make the recording is now offline and our chat has been lost with it).

That post was the result of an on-going challenge set up by Karenne Sylvester to get teachers discussing and exploring dogme in their teaching contexts. This prompted a large group of teachers to reflect through their posts and several more to engage through reading and commenting. Other challenges around the similar time were Jason Renshaw's Wandrous Whiteboard Challenge and my own Word Cloud Blog Challenge. These, and many other 'blog challenges' before and since, provided a fun way to build community through informal collaboration and a great way to prompt reflection by relating our own experiences and reading about/commenting on relatable experiences of other teachers in different contexts.

Wait... there's more

I was also planning to delve into the following questions:

Beyond single lessons, classes and 'moments', how has blogging helped me develop my thoughts and beliefs about teaching? And how has it helped me develop beyond the classroom? Well, it's getting late here in Bahrain so I will leave those questions to a post in the near future. :)


You can see my talk on Thursday 6 April, 12.00 – 12.30 in Boisdale 1 Room as part of the LTSIG Day.

Title - Connected Development – teacher reflection and online networks

If you are not attending IATEFL, don't forget you can follow the conference via...