Abeerdeen University: The LOCIT process, critical incidents and learning moments



The LOCIT process is an inclusive approach involving teachers and their learners in constructing a shared understanding of successful learning.  The principles of the LOCIT process (Lesson Observation and Critical Incident Technique, Coyle and Wiesemes: 2008) start with an analysis of ‘lived though’ lessons by both learners and teachers, using ‘playback’ reflection and critical incident technique (CIT). For Tripp (1993:8) critical incidents are

…not ‘things’ which exist independently of an observer and are awaiting discovery like gold nuggets or desert islands, but like all data [..] are created. Incidents happen, but critical incidents are created by the way we look at a situation […..] an interpretation of the significance of an event. To take something as a critical incident is a value judgement we make, and the basis of that judgement is the significance we attach to the meaning of the incident.

In the LOCIT process (Coyle 2008) a trigger for critical incidents lies in the identification of learning moments. When teachers analyse lessons to identify and justify incidents which they believe are learning moments AND when learners also go through the same process independently of the teacher,  the sharing and comparing of the incidents is the basis for ‘respectful conversations’. These conversations which grow from positive subjective judgements about learning, can lead to a more ‘objective’ conceptualisation of learning, which has the potential to transform classroom practice. Ultimately, LOCIT aims to mediate teacher self-agency and learner engagement in shared learning. LOCIT seeks to encourage class-based research shared with colleagues and learners within and across schools.

At the micro level, LOCIT involves teachers engaging in class-based inquiry. The starting point is to investigate successful learning through video recording a sample of lessons, then to select one which they feel positively about in terms of classroom practice and learner engagement. The recorded lesson is then reviewed and edited by the teacher to select clips of say 5 minutes, which capture some learning moments from the teacher’s perspective. Each clip selected is accompanied by reasons for selection.  Learners working in small groups go through exactly the same process, with each group selecting learning moments and justifying their selection.  The final stage consists of a reflection lesson where learner clips and teacher clips are compared.  The agreement or disagreement between clips is discussed and an action plan for ‘change’ or development in learning and teaching is composed by both learners and teachers working together.  At the macro level, the clips and the accompanying narrative can be shared with the learning community e.g. learning agendas, critical incident clips and justifications can be shared with other colleagues and classes within a school and between schools.

Critiques of the process may question the validity and reliability of the learning moments and the multitude of factors which will affect their identification. However, this misses the point. The learning moments themselves are triggers for collaborative reflection and discussion between the teachers and learners to encourage dialogic interaction and shared understanding to emerge about the learning process itself. In other words, it is this discussion which can ‘grow’ dialogic spaces in classrooms which focus as much on the process of learning as the outcomes of it.  This does not stop at rationalising practice but instead leads towards collaborative reframing of classroom practice. Moreover, when a group of schools with very different learners and teachers in very different settings, carries out classroom inquiry with one shared objective i.e. identifying and analysing learning moments, there is a regulatory sense of a common goal which goes beyond individual contexts and provides a more reliable sense of shared outcomes.

LOCIT is at the point of entry an analysis of successful practice as perceived by the teacher in order to understand why it is successful and how it can be sustained and transferred to other areas of teaching. This induces confidence and provides teachers with genuine control – they can press the delete button if they so wish.

Classrooms are busy places with a ‘here and now’ urgency (Mardle and Walker, 1979). ‘Normalising’ inquiry as a form of regular practice requires a move by teachers towards self-agency i.e. genuine ‘control’ and ‘ownership’ of these processes which focus on practitioners’ concerns and successes (Roberts, 1998). As Dadds (1997) usefully comments: it is about nurturing the expert within rather than dependency on outsider experts. It is also about nurturing professional confidence in teachers to acknowledge that ‘practice is more than knowledge: practice humanises theory’ (Phelps 1991:883). We believe that the LOCIT processes will support professional confidence and learner engagement.

The LOCIT process has evolved though working with teachers over the years. Recent advances in technology, have provided us with an opportunity to create a digital tool to support and aid professional learning, to build a professional community shared space which would provide ‘evidence’ of successful learning validated by the learners themselves.

Do Coyle

LOCIT website: http://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/locit/


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