Helping student teachers become reflective practitioners

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Newcastle (Australia)]On: 28 September 2014, At: 08:31Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Helping student teachersbecome reflectivepractitionersBarbara J. Griffin aa New Mexico State University ,Published online: 20 Jan 2010.

    To cite this article: Barbara J. Griffin (1997) Helping student teachers becomereflective practitioners, The Teacher Educator, 33:1, 35-43

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08878739709555156

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  • HELPING STUDENT TEACHERS BECOMEREFLECTIVE PRACTITIONERS

    Barbara J. GriffinNew Mexico State University

    Abstract

    Although reflection is a much desired practice in teacher education, thestudent teacher must often develop this practice on his or her own. Thegoal of this study was to aid student teachers in developing the long-terminclination toward reflection. The affective objective of this study was fornine student teachersduring the student teaching phase of their educa-tionto become practicing reflective teachers who were aware of theirown thinking and valued reflection as something they did for their ownself-understanding and improvement.

    Responding to the call that preservice teachers need exposure to ideasand assignments that will help them develop reflection (Goodman,1991), seminars were developed by the author designed to helpstudent teachers gain experience at becoming reflective. Reflection inteacher education is a concept widely advocated and generallyacknowledged as being developmental (Bullough, 1989; Calderhead,1989). Wedman and Martin (1986) suggested that teaching reflectivepractices must begin on the student teaching level and extend asneeded.

    Research is replete with definitions of reflection, dating back toDewey's (1910) definition: " . . . active persistent and carefulconsideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in thelight of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion towhich it tends" (p. 6). In addition, LaBoskey (1993) described reflec-tion as quite complex and composed of a number of features that arerelated in intricate ways. Therefore, for the purpose of this study,reflection will be defined as a conscious effort on the part of an indi-vidual to carefully consider the beliefs, theories, and personal experi-ences that affect his or her actions. Reflection is necessary in order forstudent teachers to make sense of and learn from experiences bothbefore and during student teaching. In this way, reflection is used torecapture experience in order to evaluate itnot to judge but to learnand move on (Boud, Keogh, and Walker, 1985).

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  • Background

    Colton and Sparks-Langer (1993) described teachers of thefuture as thoughtful persons intrinsically motivated to analyze a situa-tion, set goals, plan and monitor actions, evaluate results, and reflecton their own professional thinking. In order for this to be accom-plished, teachers will first have to be viewed and accepted as reflectivepractitioners instead of technicians capable only of followingdirections from others (Giroux, 1988). In addition, researchers willhave to develop new ways of investigating and reporting teacherreflection. Smyth (1989) reported that research in reflectionrepresents a "dramatic shift" from scientifically derived knowledge toartistic and intuitive knowledge; from an a priori view of knowledgeto one that perceives knowledge as being tentative and problematic;and from a view that presupposes answers to one that investigatescomplex social questions and negotiates their resolutions.

    Recent studies of student teacher reflection move away from acompetency-based evaluation toward an emerging philosophy thatstresses the capability of teachers to monitor their own teachingbehaviors in unique and diverse teaching and learning contexts(Hoover, 1994). Using the levels of reflection suggested by VanManen (1977), attempts have been made to categorize reflection as toits technical, practical, or critical aspects (Pultorak, 1993; Wedmanand Martin, 1986). Other researchers proposed that all three levelsare present in reflection and it is not a mater of proceeding from onelevel to the next (LaBoskey, 1994; Noffke and Brennan, 1991).Reflection and thought processes revealed through reflective writinghave been studied by Hoover (1994) and Wedman and Martin(1986). Efforts to implement reflective practices into teachereducation programs have been documented by Canning (1991),Korthagen (1992), and LaBoskey (1994).

    Present Study

    The affective objective of this study was for nine student teachers(eight female and one male) under the supervision of the author tobecome practicing reflective teachers who were aware of their ownthinking and valued reflection as something they did for their ownself-understanding and improvement. The goal was to initiate thedevelopmental process of a long-term internal inclination towardreflection in student teachers. It is hoped that this study will add tothe nascent knowledge of how preservice student teachers make senseof the phenomenon of teaching and the experiences that puzzle or

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  • perplex them. Reflection must be internalized by those who practiceit, and they must believe in its worth and utility for making thingsbetter (Clift, Houston and Pugach, 1990).

    Procedure

    In order to accomplish the study's goal, both time and practiceneeded to be provided.

    Scheduling Time for ReflectionBullough (1989) observed that " . . . beginners are limited in their

    ability to be reflective about the whole range of 'how to1 problemslimitations arising from lack of knowledge, experience, and time . . ."(p. 18). Therefore, the first priority was to provide the time to gainthe experience needed to become reflective. Within the studentteacher program at the southwestern university where the study tookplace, five on-site seminars were included in the schedule along withlarge group seminars and one-on-one observations and conferences.The small group seminars, consisting of the supervisor and thestudent teachers assigned to him or her, allowed the student teachersto ask questions and discuss topics that they would not be likely toask or discuss in the large seminars held monthly at the university.Also, the small group seminars gave student teachers the opportunityto be exposed to and practice collaborative reflective thinking.

    Use of Writing in Reflective PracticeThe second priority of the study was to establish a framework for

    the practice of reflection. This priority was accomplished by theactivity of written reflection. Wedman and Martin (1986) reportedthat "writing engages student teachers in making knowledge explicit"(p. 69). Reflective writing could act as an avenue for the studentteachers to deliberate and explore the congruence between what theyespouse in theory and their daily actions (Hoover, 1994). To guardagainst simple descriptions of teaching and learning situations or theout pourings of complaints and survival concerns, the studentteachers at each seminar were given a prompt that was more focusedon the retrieval of the meaning they attached to their situations. Inaddition to the written responses that were turned in at the meetings,die teachers were also encouraged to keep personal daily reflectivejournals that were not required to be shared. The purpose of thepersonal journal was to provide a place for them to practice anddevelop reflection on their own.

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  • Although the personal journals allowed the student teachers toaddress problems that were primarily immediate personal concerns,the topics selected for the seminars were purposefully selected to helpthem develop a broader understanding of teaching. Student teachershave subjective theories and constructs that are often implicit(Korthagen, 1992). To assist them in making their implicit mentalevents explicit, the following prompts were used:

    1. Why I want to be a teacher2. An effective teacher should . . .3. What background knowledge did you bring to your student

    teaching experience?4. How is the classroom that you are presently teaching in

    different from the classroom you will establish?5. Reflect on reflection. Was it helpful? If yes, how? If no, why

    not?Because the intent was to develop thoughtful reflection that

    would enhance their teaching, the responses were to be shared anony-mously. Anonymity was used to reduce reactivity and prevent thestudent teachers from writing down what they thought was expectedof them. The reflections shared in the next section are used toillustrate the depth and usefulness of reflection in the studentteachers' own words. The benefits of providing opportunities andguidance in the development of reflection can be seen through thecandid reflections of the student teachers during their studentteaching experiences.

    Findings

    Why I want to be a teacherThe first opportunity to reflect came after the student teachers

    read excerpts from Ayers' (1993) To Teach. This book was used toprompt the student teachers to delve deeply into their conscious-nesses to uncover the factors that motivated them to becometeachers. Although all the student teachers reported that they wantedto make a difference in die lives of children, several elaborated on justhow they would accomplish that goal. Two of the responses were:

    I chose this career to teach children, to build upon their knowledge, andto see them grow and change.

    Teaching is also drawing out knowledge from students and a continuallearning experience for me.

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  • Another perceived teaching as going beyond the confines of the class-room:

    I have realized that teaching is a very demanding way of life becauseteaching is more of a life than a job. Just because I leave school at 3:30doesn't mean I'm done. My students and their plans are still on my mind,no matter where I am or where I go.

    An effective teacher should...

    Reflections on effective teachers were articulated by some of thestudent teachers as being "well planned," having "good classroommanagement techniques," and being "well organized." Two of thestudent teachers were able to expand their reflections. One studentteacher wrote:

    An effective teacher reaches the children at each individual level and workswith the child there.

    The other student teacher felt that "[a]n effective teacher variesdie type of lesson." Going on to explain, the student teacher stated:

    Children learn in different ways: orally, visually, kinesthetically, etc., solessons should include such activities.... There should also be variationin the approach to the lesson.

    Another student teacher responded to the prompt by writing:. . . an effective teacher is one who has mutual respect for his/herstudents.... [A] teacher should not be a total dictator of the class, butinstead should collaborate with students and provide the most nurturingand risk-free environment.

    What background knowledge did you bring to your student teachingexperience?

    Responses to this prompt allowed the student teachers to lookbeyond textbook learning and rote answers to standard questions tosee themselves as sources of knowledge. This prompt was used to helpdiem connect what they were doing in the classroom with their priorknowledge and to connect theory and practice. Some of the teachersfJiought their roles as parents were beneficial to their backgroundknowledge. Another related that working as a social worker helped in"acknowledging children's differences and respecting children." Onlyone saw his/her position as a student applicable:

    My background knowledge would consist of the many years of myselfbeing a student, observing good and bad teaching experiences.

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  • Implicit theories of teaching can be seen in the strong feelings towardethical classroom practices. One student teacher reflected:

    Children are all individuals no matter what race or culture they arefrom.... Children learn at different rates. Just because they haven'tcaught on to something doesn't mean that there is a problem; they mightnot be mentally ready to learn that concept yet.

    How is the classroom that you are presently teaching in different from theclassroom that you will establish?

    This prompt was an attempt to help the student teachersdiscover whether or not instructional theories that they used wereinadequate or inconsistent. The majority of the student teachers werereflective of die managerial or technical aspects of die classroom,stating that they would "be more organized," "institute morestructure," and use a different "management style."

    Two of die student teachers reflected about concerns dealingwith analyzing student and teacher behaviors to ascertain whethergoals and objectives were met. One felt that this could beaccomplished by helping children to "adapt" and "be flexible." Theother st...

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