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Slowing down with Self-study by Alison Adams

Understanding what we teach and why requires teachers to reflect upon their pedagogical practices. The methodology of Self-Study encourages practitioners to interrogate their assumptions and beliefs, and to consider how these beliefs influence the way they teach. For myself, the value of Self-Study lies in its insistence on slowing down, reflecting and making changes to practice that are both personal and purposeful. As a practising teacher who has been both a student and an Associate Tutor on the Self-Study module of the Masters in Leadership and Learning, I now ask myself the following questions when faced with a dilemma in the classroom: why am I concerned about this, and where did this concern come from?

The personal journey you embark on when engaging in Self-Study is both daunting and thrilling. Having never engaged in Self-Study prior to my Masters, I assumed it would be similar to Practitioner Enquiry and that I would implement, observe and document the effects of a change made to my practice. However, upon learning about Self-Study and taking a particular interest in its autobiographical roots, I began to look at my practice differently. I became more critical of my choices and more measured in my adoption of interventions that were ‘supposed’ to enhance the learning and teaching in my classroom. I had deep conversations with my colleagues about our experiences of school as children. I responded to my pupils needs by being open and transparent about my own learning needs as a student. With the help of Self-Study, I became a more resilient, authentic, and courageous practitioner.

Now, as an Associate Tutor on the Self-Study course, I am critically engaging with my practice once again. Yet this time, I am a participant in many Self-Study projects; all of which inspire and challenge my own beliefs. Having found my own journey through Self-Study so rewarding, it is a privilege to help others grapple with their own assumptions and beliefs as they embark on their own Self-Study journeys. As an Associate Tutor, I have helped to plan, prepare and deliver sessions to the Masters students, and I regularly take opportunities to share my own experience of Self-Study. Engaging in Self-Study from a different perspective has deepened my knowledge of both teaching and learning and the purpose of education more widely.

The challenges of this year have shown how committed, creative, and adaptable teachers are when faced with change. Self-Study gives teachers the opportunity to make sense of change, in the hope that future changes made to practice will be measured, informed and truly transformative.


Written by Alison Adams

Class teacher, Midlothian

PhD student at University of Edinburgh 


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