Preservice teachers engaged in reflective classroom research

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Washington State University Libraries ]On: 16 October 2014, At: 00:22Publisher: 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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    Preservice teachers engagedin reflective classroomresearchRita A. Moore a , Amy Bartlett b , LaTreshaGarrison b , Kristie Hagemo b , JenniferMullaney b , Ashlee Murfitt b & Shelly Smith ba Elementary Education , Idaho StateUniversity ,b Western Montana College , University ofMontana ,Published online: 20 Jan 2010.

    To cite this article: Rita A. Moore , Amy Bartlett , LaTresha Garrison , KristieHagemo , Jennifer Mullaney , Ashlee Murfitt & Shelly Smith (1999) Preserviceteachers engaged in reflective classroom research, The Teacher Educator, 34:4,259-275, DOI: 10.1080/08878739909555206

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  • PRESERVICE TEACHERS ENGAGED INREFLECTIVE CLASSROOM RESEARCH

    Rita A. MooreElementary Education, Idaho State University

    Amy Bartlett, LaTresha Garrison, Kristie Hagemo,Jennifer Mullaney, Ashlee Murfitt, and Shelly Smith

    Western Montana College of the University of Montana

    Abstract

    During an eight-week field experience six preservice teachers, under thesupervision of their mentor professor, designed and facilitated anintegrated inquiry unit for a fifth-grade class. As a part of their fieldexperience, the preservice teachers investigated their effectiveness inimplementing the inquiry approach to teaching based on the children'slearning responses. Reflecting on their own teaching behaviors throughreflective classroom research challenged the preservice teachers to exploreimages of teaching that were often less than ideal but always informative.

    It is important to take time to look back and acknowledge that growthand learning required time and reflection. We might also take the timeevery once in a while to articulate where we've been, what we've learned,and where we hope to go . . . . (McKinney, 1995, pp. 81-82)

    Can preservice teachers effectively engage in reflective classroomresearch? I have often debated this topic with colleagues who say thatpreservice teachers do not have strong enough beliefs about teachingand learning to conduct reflective classroom research. Yet, the samecolleagues expect teachers to become "reflective practitioners" (Schon,1983) during their first year of teaching. I think that the real issue ofdebate is: Should teacher educators provide learning experienceswhere preservice teachers are taught how to gather, reflect on, andinterpret classroom data? If we do not, then how can we expect newteachers to have developed the skills necessary to conduct reflectiveclassroom research that enables them to better articulate andunderstand their beliefs about teaching and learning? Professionaldevelopment field experiences, such as the one described in thisstudy, provide a "training ground" where preservice teachers areintroduced to the methodology and procedures of reflectiveclassroom research within an authentic classroom setting. This kind

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  • of experience has the potential to office preservice teachers numerousopportunities to examine their beliefs about teaching and learningwithin the context of a planned research inquiry. It may also refineand focus the expectations that teacher educators have for preserviceteachers in professional development programs.

    If "learning from teaching is to be regarded as the primary task ofteacher education across the professional life span" (Cochran-Smith& Lytle, 1993, p. 63), then the process whereby a teacher reflects onteaching actions and beliefs in relation to learner responses andreactions suggests some rich opportunities in preservice teachers' fieldexperiences. The goal of the preservice teachers who co-authored thisstudy was to facilitate an inquiry curriculum during their eight-weekprofessional development experience by letting the questions andlearning responses of their students guide the planning anddevelopment of the daily classroom curriculum. For the purpose ofthis study, the definition of teaching through student inquiry wasthat the teacher allowed the questions and learning responses of thestudents to guide the design and development of daily learningevents.

    For eight weeks the preservice teachers assessed theirdevelopment of a true student-centered inquiry curriculum throughwritten reflections about their teaching actions and their perceptionsof student learning; in effect, they were practicing how to becomereflective practitioners. This process held for them the potential tosuggest continual adjustments and improvements to their teaching(Kottkamp, 1990).

    Reflective Classroom Research: Rationale and PurposeConstructivist learning theory may be applied to teacher

    education (Keiny, 1994), with particular regard for preparingpreservice teachers who may begin to learn how to become reflectivepractitioners capable of studying their teaching actions and beliefsthrough classroom research during professional development fieldexperiences. Teachers need to. make sense of their teaching as much astheir students need to make sense of what is being learned (Huck,1989). In this case, six preservice teachers studied the data from theirreflective journal entries, the research questions formulated for thisstudy, anecdotal records they had made of the fifth-grade students,and student learning-log responses to make sense of what they werelearning about teaching through inquiry.

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  • Elements of Importance to This Study

    Seven elements were found to be critical to the conduct of thisstudy. They were: (a) a professional development program flexibleenough to encourage preservice teachers to assist in the design oftheir field experiences, (b) preservice teachers who were willing toreflect constructively on their own teaching actions and those of theirpeers, (c) the need to have a teaching goal to focus their reflectiveresearch, (d) the careful development of a simple plan for gatheringdata from both preservice teachers and their students, (e) acooperative classroom setting where preservice teachers wereempowered to experiment with teaching methods that might bedifferent from those already established at the site, (f) use of thelearning logs of the fifth-grade students as a data source, and (g)careful analysis and scrutiny of the data on a regular basis by thesupervising professor and the six preservice teachers involved in thestudy.

    The Professional Development Field Setting and ProgramThe professional development field experience program at a

    small rural college was designed so that every Friday morning from8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for eight weeks a team of six preserviceteachers under the supervision of a language arts education professortaught at one of the local elementary schools. The team of sixpreservice teachers was to share the responsibility for curriculumdevelopment and instruction of an integrated unit on Canada andMexico in a fifth-grade classroom.

    Participation in this classroom setting offered a laboratoryexperience for preservice teachers who were concurrently enrolled intheir language arts, science, math, and social studies methods coursesat the college Monday through Thursday. The six preservice teachersin this study and their supervisor worked together to facilitate aneight-week inquiry curriculum called "Neighbors to the North andSouth."

    The Preservice TeachersBefore beginning the professional development program in the

    field, the six preservice teachers in their various education methodsclasses had read, practiced, and discussed classroom researchtechniques for gathering descriptive data through questioning,observing, reflecting, and interpreting student learning and classroomexperiences. In methods classes, the preservice teachers oftendiscussed how student actions, reactions, hypotheses, and responses

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  • to classroom learning events could legitimately inform the planningand development of an inquiry curriculum, thus offering a "newtheory of knowledge for teaching" (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993, p.43). They were eager to put theory to practice and agreed to theground rules that required them to focus on positive and constructivefeedback during weekly discussions about their collective goal ofteaching through student inquiry.

    Focus of the Research through an Overall Teaching GoalThe preservice teachers decided that the overall goal of their

    eight-week professional development experience would be to find outif they were teaching through inquiry, that is, allowing the questionsand observed responses of the learners guide the development ofcurriculum and their own teaching strategies (Watson, Burke, &Harste, 1989). This goal was the focus of their reflective classroomresearch.

    A Simple Plan of ActionThe preservice teachers developed a simple, disciplined plan of

    study (Shulman, 1981) that began with the framing of a set ofresearch questions (see below) about how well they were developingan inquiry curriculum for a fifth-grade classroom. They then carriedout a simple easy-to-follow but well-organized method of gatheringinformation (Patterson & Shannon, 1993) in which they wroteweekly responses to the seven research questions, regularly wrotereflective journal responses, took weekly anecdotal records on thestudents, and studied the weekly responses from the learning logs ofthe students. The preservice teachers selected excerpts from thevarious data sources to share with each other and their supervisortwice a week with the intent of using the information from the datato plan and implement lessons that clearly focused on the questionsand interests of the fifth-grade students. Meetings of the sixpreservice teachers and their supervising professor were held aftereach Friday's teaching session and once during the following week forthe purpose of sharing the preservice teachers' perceptions of thevarious data sources. This process of "shared inquiry" builds oncurrent research that demonstrates that "a shift of focus fromteaching and method" to "student and teacher learning" builds amore meaningful interactive classroom environment for both teacherand learner (Thomas & Oldfather, 1995, p. 193).

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  • The Research QuestionsThe preservice teachers responded to the following research

    questions in writing at the end of each of the eight teaching sessions:1. How did you initiate any part of the inquiry process today?

    What was your roleeither planned or unplanned?2. What were the students' reactions to developing curriculum

    through inquiry that you observed?3. What changes would you make in how we approached the

    inquiry process?4. What changes would you make in your own behaviors in regard

    to inquiry as a way of collecting information to support thedevelopment of curriculum?

    5. What went well today, and why do you think so?6. What did not go well today, and why do you think so?7. At this moment, what is your definition of teaching through

    inquiry, and what do you use to support your definition?

    The Cooperating School SettingThe regular classroom teachers from the cooperating schools

    associated with this study met occasionally with the preserviceteachers and supervising professor, offering suggestions and adviceabout special needs students or curriculum requirements. Theybasically turned their classrooms over to the preservice teachers andthe supervising professor every Friday morning. The cooperatingschools regarded the Friday professional development teachingsessions as an enrichment experience for the elementary schoolstudents; the college regarded it as a laboratory where preserviceteachers could experiment with the learning theories and strategiesthey were concurrently discussing in their methods courses.

    The unit taught by the preservice teachers was predetermined bythe regular classroom teachers who often relied heavily on followingthe textbooks that their district had adopted. In fact, one of the fifth-grade classroom teachers said, the "textbook provided thecurriculum." In contrast, the preservice teachers were encouraged toteach through student inquiry because it was being discussed as ateaching strategy in their language arts methods classroom at thesame time they were participating in this professional developmentexperience.

    Gathering Data from the StudentsDuring the first teaching session, writing in learning logs was

    introduced as part of the regular Friday schedule. The fifth-grade

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  • students had ten minutes at the beginning of the morning to readwhat the preservice teachers had written to them and ten minutes atthe end of the morning to write responses and ask questions. Thepreservice teachers read and responded in writing to a different set oflearning logs each week, returning them to the students thefollowing Friday.

    Involving the Preservice Teachers in the Analysis and InterpretationofData

    The preservice teachers were involved in the issues, theexamination of data, and the final analysis of findings of this study,in a manner similar to the one Fleischer (1994) described asinvolving students in the research process from "start to finish"(p. 116). The preservice teachers and their supervising professor mettwice a week to discuss what they were finding about their teachingof an inquiry curriculum based on their journal entries, theirresponses to the research questions of the study, anecdotal recordsthey were keeping on the students, and what the fifth-grade studentswere writing about in their weekly learning logs.

    Making Sense of the Data

    The supervising professor and preservice teachers decided itwould be illuminating to be able to view the "big picture" presentedby their research rather than just what it had suggested to them on aweekly basis. Therefore, at the end of their eight-week professionaldevelopment field experience, the supervising professor re-read andsorted all of the data into five categories of descriptive information.If a topic, such as "strategies for developing curriculum" emerged fivetimes within the body of data, it was designated as a "category." Thepresorted data were then presented to the preservice teachers fortheir scrutiny of the preliminary analysis of categories, as well as theirsuggestions on which data examples best characterized the variouscategories. The preservice teachers approved the categories andproceeded to assist with choosing the representative data samples.The descriptions of the five categories and representative datasources, which follow, are intended to describe, in chronologicalorder, the times during this study when data from the preserviceteachers' reflective research best informed their pedagogical actions,strategies, and beliefs about teaching through inquiry.

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  • Learning to Listen to the Students ' Voices: The First Four WeeksThe six preservice teachers began the study of Mexico by

    introducing KWL charts to the students. KWL is a simple inquirystrategy in which students are invited to brainstorm, then write onlarge wall charts what they know (K), what they want to know (W),and later, what they learned (L) about the topic of study (Ogle,1992). The preservice teachers discovered during this first teachingsession that the fifth graders were reluctant at first to ask questionsabout what they wanted to learn when the entire class was asked todo so. The supervising professor suggested that they divide the classinto two groups to make separate KWL charts and then compare thecharts later. This strategy proved more satisfying to both thepreservice teachers and the students. One preservice teacher wrote,"Dividing the class into two teams and then making the KWL chartsturned out to be an excellent way of discovering what the studentswant to learn." This marked the beginning of the preservice teachers'realization that large group discussions were really only a forum for afew students' voices.

    During subsequent teaching sessions, more diverse andsometimes more mature teaching strategies for involving the fifth-graders' voices in the inquiry process emerged as a result of thereflective data. For example, the preservice teachers decided that theirsecond session was far too structured. (It had been a set of lessons andlearning centers prepared by the preservice teachers according to whatthey thought the children should be learning about Mexico.) Whenasked by their supervising professor why they were ignoring the richinformation they had gathered from the KWL charts during the firstweek, they were reluctant to admit that they really didn't know whatto do next with the information. After some discussion, andreflection on the KWL charts, they decided to sort the informationfrom the charts into research topics that would be appropriate forsmall group study; then, during the third teaching session, thepreservice teachers assigned the children to study groups withdifferent research topics. With the help of a preservice teacher, eachgroup developed a different part of a travelogue on Mexico. (Thesepieces were later collated and housed in the class library, completewith student photos and group signatures.) The study groupsresearched the questions they had listed as a part of the first teachingsession on the KWL chart about Mexico and presented their findingsto the entire class in the form of skits, newscasts, and role playsduring the fourth session.

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  • The following journal entry represents the importance of thepreservice teachers' encouragement of students to act on their ownlearning ideas:

    When we first began our study group meeting, the ideas that were floatingaround did not appear to spark much interest within the group. However,once we began acting on one of the ideas, more and more suggestionscame pouring in.

    The Value of Choice in Teaching through Inquiry: The Second FourWeeks

    Another participant's journal entries characterize the preserviceteachers' overall concern for not giving students enough learningchoice when the students were assigned to study groups the weekbefore. This preservice teacher suggested using a different approachduring the fifth week when they began the study of Canada:

    I think we should approach the inquiry process more geared toward thestudent when we study Canada. With Mexico, the students gave us greatideas they wanted to learn about, but we didn't give them a choice ofstudy groups to be in. Is this somewhat the inquiry process, or did we, theteachers, make all the decisions? It feels like we need to make somechanges.

    The preservice teachers decided that during the final four weeksthey would invite the fifth-grade learners to take a great deal of theresponsibility for deciding what they would study about Canada andhow those learning events would be organized. During the fifthteaching session the fifth graders were scheduled to visit the college'scomputer lab, as a part of the approved field study program. Thepreservice teachers took advantage of this resource and introducedthe study of Canada through the college's Internet program,Netscape, and later in the morning with a visit from a college studentwho was a Canadian citizen. This resourceful and diverse learningexperience enabled the students to quickly and efficiently generatequestions and information that could ultimately be organized intoresearch topics for the sixth teaching session.

    One preservice teacher wrote about the experience: "Thestudents really got into researching Canada and found that a lot oftheir answers generated more questions." Insight into the role of theteacher during the inquiry process is characterized by the followingjournal entry: "The fifth graders thought of great questions to askour guest speaker about Canada. I caught myself giving the studentshints about what to ask, but then I realized this was their time toinitiate their own questions." Another participant's entry

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  • characterizes what the other preservice teachers also noted about theprogress of the fifth graders in taking responsibility and interest intheir own learning as demonstrated in the fifth teaching session:"The students in my group were very insistent that someone takenotes during the speaker's presentation so they would not miss out orforget the answers to their questions! Impressive!"

    At the beginning of the sixth teaching session, the preserviceteachers asked the class to suggest eight topics about Canada thatthey wanted to study based on the information that they hadgathered from the Internet and the guest speaker. The class thenvoted on the top six and formed interest groups based on their firstand second choices. One preservice teacher wrote, "This process wasall inquiry-based!" The preservice teachers then gave the studentschoices in how they might present their findings to the class duringthe final week we would be in their classroom; the vote for learningcenters was unanimous. The following comment from one of thefifth-graders' learning logs characterizes the overall enthusiasm of theclass: "Today was fun! We broke into our groups and got ready fornext Friday because we're going to let everyone come to each others'groups and learn what we studied."

    During the sixth and seventh teaching sessions, the fifth graderswere given full responsibility for planning the centers while thepreservice teachers observed and guided their work. The preserviceteachers were surprised by the effort the children made in planningand creating their learning centers. For example, one group wascreating a center about animals of Canada and brought in authentichides, furs, traps, and an insect collection to mark for display.Another group found examples of Canadian folk tales to read to theirclassmates when they visited the center; another group made up wordgames and puzzles that compared American sports to Canadiansports. Responses included, "I was so surprised with the wonderfulideas they had!" Another described the responsible interaction of thestudents in her group toward creating the centers: "The four studentsin my group did most of the work. I had asked them last week to dooutside research and all of them brought something in!"

    One participant frequently focused her reflective commentsaround student behaviors. Her anecdotal records contained manydetails of the self-worth the students derived from the importanceplaced on their own knowledge and questions (Greene, 1984). Forexample, this participant described the students' excitement as theycreated their own learning centers: "They were excited about playing

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  • a part in what was going to be learned. They were able to relate tothe subject because they knew their input was very important to themaking of their learning center." This reflective journal entrydescribes the final teaching session.

    Thinking back to three Fridays ago, we started the process of developingthe centers. All the topics were based on the questions of the students andmore importantly, all of the hard work was done by the students. Thisproject basically belonged to the students.

    Exploring and Interpreting the Fifth-Grade Students ' Learning LogsAll of the preservice teachers commented on the value of the

    learning logs as a strong strategy for supporting the inquiry process.The logs provided a venue for student questions that may not havealways been heard or responded to in the classroom. One preserviceteacher wrote, "the learning logs are a great way of assessing how thestudents feel about their work and what they are learning; they are awonderful way to address inquiry." The learning logs offered asimple, but comprehensive source of the interaction of the dialogue(Bakhtin, 1975/1981) among the preservice teachers and thestudents, often providing insight into the learning interests andunderstandings of the fifth graders.

    The following are representative excerpts from individual fifth-grade students' learning logs. These excerpts characterize thestudents' reactions to the inquiry curriculum which helped thepreservice teachers with lesson planning.

    How many states does Mexico have? I've always liked to know that.In Mexico do they have groups such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts?Are we going to learn about Mexican houses? If we do would we learnhow they make them?I learned Spanish words like el reloj (clock) and la bandera (flag).I liked acting out our presentations [about Mexico]. I have learned many,many Spanish words. My favorite presentation was the sports one.I wonder what is the biggest city in Canada and what kinds of clothes dothey wear?

    I want to find out more about rugby.Is there an Internet address I can use to find out something about citiesand economy of Canada?Today I drew pictures of animals for our learning center. I like to drawand want to do more drawings.My least favorite thing is doing the review every week. I like making thelearning centers!I liked how we got to pick which group we wanted to be in.

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  • Changes in Teaching Belie and ActionsThe preservice teachers experienced a period of confusion about

    teaching through inquiry that was rooted in feelings of inadequacy inregard to classroom management. This confusion often led tocomments about the changes they wanted to make in their teachingstrategies.

    After the first teaching session, one preservice teacher wrote,"Personally, I need to listen more to the students in regard to theirquestions." Essential to becoming a reflective teacher practitioner isbeing able to observe and reconsider one's own teaching behaviors inthe inquiry process (Roth, 1989). The six preservice teachers oftenmade critical observations about how their individual teachingactions supported student inquiry. For example, it was observed veryearly by one individual in the study, that the preservice teachers were"interrupting the students before they had time to get their thoughtsacross" and were "answering questions before the students even hadtime to think about them."

    Another participant expressed concern about not answering all ofthe students' questionsthose spoken and unspoken. After the firstsession, this participant wrote in her journal, "When we're doingactivities with groups I think we need to make sure we address everyquestion the students have. We also need to be sure to respond to thequestions they write in their learning logs."

    After the second Friday session, one preservice teachercommented on a change she would make in personal teachingactions: "I would make sure to have the students get into the researchof what they want to knowto be more interactive; I tend to do allof the work." Another indicated that there needed to be "morehands-on experiences to answer the student questions."

    With the introduction of small study groups during the thirdteaching session came the preservice teachers' first awareness that thefifth-grade students became much more engaged in the inquiryprocess when they worked collaboratively in small groups. Then, afterthe sixth session, the preservice teachers reported a real change intheir satisfaction with classroom management, attributing what theyobserved as an increased interest in learning to the fact that thestudents were given greater choice and responsibility in the learningprocess. A journal entry about the importance of studentparticipation to learning stated, "What I like most about the waywe're teaching is that the students aren't at their desks the wholetime. They are up and participating. I believe this is part of reallearning."

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  • Problems and ChallengesOf course, things did not always go smoothly or as planned for

    the six preservice teachers. For example, the comments from onepreservice teacher's journal that were made after the second teachingsession characterize the confusion sometimes expressed by thepreservice teachers early in the study. This preservice teacher wrote,"To me, it seems strange that the students should develop the lessons.If that were the case, why do schools have curricula? I didn't have achoice when I was in school." Ironically, in struggling with twodifferent theories about how to teach, this preservice teacherevaluated the way she taught a geography lesson on that same Fridayas having been "too much lecture and too little studentinvolvement." A similar reaction was recorded in the journals of twoother preservice teachers who also noted the lack of "studentinvolvement" and low level of "enthusiasm" for the map readingactivity and worksheet prepared for this geography lesson.

    All of the preservice teachers remarked that the students neededgreater practice in sharing information in a social setting, as relatedto the fourth session's study group presentations. A samplecomment:

    The students in my group were excited about presenting theirinformation, but when they got in front of the class they seemed quietand disinterested. I think I could have done a better job of helping themprepare to present the material.

    Also indicated was a concern about the logistical discomfortinitially experienced by the preservice teachers and the fifth gradersduring the fifth teaching session when they were trying to organizethe children into interest groups by first and second choice: "Thebreakdown of groups did not go very well at first. The students werea little confused about which group they could be in. I think thatwas our fault; we should have been better prepared."

    Another problem often encountered was lack of resources andmaterials for the students whose questions often taxed the availabilityof information from the school library or the limited resources of asmall rural teachers college. The preservice teachers quicklydiscovered a variety of untapped resources, such as the mother of oneof the Mexican students who shaped and fried tortillas for her son'sclassmates during the third session; the Canadian college studentwho cheerfully fielded questions from the fifth graders; and aprofessor, also a Canadian citizen, who taught the children to sing"Alouette" and the Canadian national anthem during the sixthsession.

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  • A response to one of the research questions indicated,

    Classroom inquiry is a process that takes a lot of getting used to. It takes alot of preparation on behalf of the teachera lot more than if lessons arejust read from a basal text. However, the qualify of learning that takesplace through the inquiry method of instruction ranks above and beyondthe traditional basal!

    Limitations and Strengths of the Study

    Philosophically speaking, teaching through inquiry is placing thevoices of the learners at the heart of curriculum design (Watson et al.,1989) "by focusing on what and how students want to learn"(Thomas & Oldfather, 1995, p. 193). The following discussionpertains to the limitations and strengths of this study.

    Limitation of the StudyThe unit on "Neighbors to the North and South" was

    predetermined by the textbook curriculum designated by the schooldistrict. Although that may be considered a limitation to this studyof teaching through inquiry, it also represents a curricular reality thatpreservice teachers often face. Teachers do, in fact, often have tofollow district guidelines about what to teach; they are not alwaysempowered to let the questions of the students guide the design ofthe classroom curriculum as comprehensively as they might wish.

    Another limitation of this study was that the preservice teachershad no previous teaching experiences upon which to draw for theirreflective research responses. As a result, the language of theirobservations at times was evaluative and egocentric. It was threeweeks into the study before their responses truly focused on the studyof teaching through inquiry, thus enabling the preservice teachers tobegin to link student learning with teaching strategies or actions.

    Strengths of the StudyAt the end of the professional development field experience, the

    supervising professor held an hour-long conference with each one ofthe preservice teachers to discuss what she had learned aboutteaching through inquiry from reflective classroom research. Thepreservice teachers described their professional developmentthroughout their recent professional development field experiencesbased upon their journal entries, anecdotal records, answers to theresearch questions, and their own personal analyses of the students'learning logs. The data that each preservice teacher had gatheredprovided specific and personalized examples of teaching through

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  • inquiry, which lead to meaningful discussion and reflection duringthis retrospective conference.

    Whether the information they gathered was used to make senseof their teaching actions or to plan future inquiry lessons, thepreservice teachers of this study all agreed that their descriptions injournal entries or their responses to the seven research questions werereally reflections on the importance that responsibility for learningshared by teacher and student had on the development of an inquirycurriculum. Even though the language of their responses is not thatof mature, experienced teachers, the reflective research conducted bythe preservice teachers in a real classroom setting gave them anexperiential awareness that reflective teaching is a social activity(Tabachnick & Zeichner, 1991) involving all of the learners in oneway or another. For the six preservice teachers, it was the opportunityto explore and experience the responsibility of being a reflectivepractitioner and teacher researcher.

    Some Final Thoughts

    Can preservice teachers engage in and learn from reflectiveclassroom research? Through their data gathering and continuinganalysis, the six preservice teachers of this study demonstrated agrowing confidence in themselves as teacher researchers, capable ofmaking changes based on what they were reflecting on and learningabout their teaching. Three weeks into the study, they were quitewilling to let their data sources guide the weekly pedagogical choicesthey were making about teaching through inquiry. An example ofthis willingness was their recognition of the value of small groupwork in giving greater voice to student inquiry.

    The preservice teachers faithfully kept reflective journals andaddressed the research questions after each teaching session. Theyread, responded to, and during weekly meetings shared the entriesfrom the learning logs of the fifth-grade students. The logs were oneway that the preservice teachers were able to get a sense of what thestudents perceived they were learning as individuals and what morethey wanted to learn, especially those children who were notparticularly outspoken or verbal during class discussions.

    During the process of final data analysis, the preservice teacherswere quick to point out that during the first two sessions of theirprofessional development field experience they were very focused onwhat one preservice teacher described as "ourselves as teachers insteadof as learners along with the students." Another commented about a

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  • very early entry she had made that was a clear statement of her angerand confusion in regard to letting the fifth-grade students "have toomuch choice" in guiding the curriculum. This preservice teacherlaughed and said, "I can't believe I wrote that! When we gave thestudents choices for making their learning centers, they showed lotsof interest and responsibility." As the preservice teachers and theirsupervisor reviewed the journal entries, the preservice teachers weresurprised at how often their earlier entries demonstrated theirassumptions about the way students should learn, often blamingthemselves for "not teaching the lesson well" or "being underprepared to answer student questions." Their later entriesdemonstrated a growing awareness that giving students greater choiceand responsibility in the learning process was integral to teachingthrough inquiry.

    Teacher education programs often focus on arriving at an imageof the "ideal teacher" (Tom, 1985, p. 36). Tom stated that thisdiversity and lack of definition becomes a problem in teacherpreparation programs because these images often change, especiallywhen the roles of teacher and learner are shared. Reflecting on theirown teaching behaviors through reflective classroom researchchallenged the preservice teachers of this study to explore images ofteaching that were often less than ideal but always informative.

    Continuing and final analyses of all of the data sourcesencouraged the preservice teachers to begin to realize that their beliefsabout how children learn and their perceptions of their role asteachers were, for them, strong predictors of teaching actions.Developing classroom curricula through inquiry calls for reflectionand the willingness on the part of the teacher to test her or his beliefsand theories about how children learn (Watson, 1994; Duckworth,1987). When teachers are guided in the reflective classroom researchprocess they are able to reflect on and analyze their own teaching,hypothesize about theory, and, at some point in their professionaldevelopment, begin to bring into existence their own beliefs aboutteaching and learning (Watson, 1994). Preservice teachers can andshould be given the opportunity to learn how to become reflectivepractitioners, capable and confident of making pedagogical decisionsbased on what they are learning about themselves and their students.

    Teacher preparation programs often emphasize the introductionof new ideas to teachers, ignoring the important role of experience inshaping teaching beliefs and practices (Cabello & Burstein, 1995).Through observation, documentation, and interpretation of the

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  • learning situation, the six preservice teachers of this study reflectedon the experiences, misgivings, and limitations they were undergoingin implementing an inquiry curriculum. This experience allowedthem to make changes along the way based on the reflectiveclassroom data they continually gathered. They took the time everyonce in a while to articulate where they had been, what they hadlearned, and where they hoped to go (McKinney, 1995, pp. 81-82).

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    Holquist [Ed.], Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press. (Original workpublished 1975)

    Cabello, B., & Burstein, N. (1995). Examining teachers' beliefs aboutteaching in culturally diverse classrooms. Journal of Teacher Education, 46(4),285-294.

    Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1993). Inside/outside: Teacher researchand knowledge. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Duckworth, E. (1987). The having of wonderful ideas. New York: TeachersCollege Press.

    Fleischer, C. (1994). Researching teacher-research: A practitioner'sretrospective. English Education, 26(2), 86-125.

    Greene, M. (1984). Philosophy, reason, and literacy. Review of EducationalResearch, 54(4), 547-559.

    Huck, C. (1989). Integrating the curriculum for teacher preparation. In G.S. Pinnell & M. L. Matlin (Eds.), Teachers and research (pp. 81-91). Newark,NJ: International Reading Association.

    Keiny, S. (1994). Constructivism and teachers: Professional development.Teaching and Teacher Education, 10(2), 157-167.

    Kottkamp, R. B. (1990). Means for facilitating reflection. Education andUrban Society, 22, 182-203.

    McKinney, M. (1995). Confessions of a university teacher researcher: Adialogue in process. Teacher Research: The Journal of Classroom Inquiry, 3(1),69-86.

    Ogle, D. M. (1992). KWL in action: Secondary teachers find applicationsthat work. In E. K. Dishner, T. W. Bean, J. E. Readence, & D. W. Moore(Eds.), Reading in the content areas: Improving classroom instruction (3rd ed.).Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.

    Patterson, L., & Shannon, P. (1993). Reflection, inquiry, action. In L.Patterson, C. M. Santa, K. G. Short, & K. Smith (Eds.), Teachers are researchers:Reflection and action (pp. 7-11). Newark, NJ: International ReadingAssociation.

    Roth, R. (1989). Preparing the reflective practitioner: Transforming theapprentice through the dialectic. Journal of Teacher Education, 40(2), 31-35.

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  • Shulman, L. S. (1981). Disciplines of inquiry for education. EducationalResearcher, 10(6), 5-12,23.

    Tabachnick, B. R., & Zeichner, K. M. (1991). Reflections on reflectiveteaching. In B. R. Tabachnick & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Issues and practices ininquiry-oriented teacher education (pp. 1-18). London: Falmer Press.

    Thomas, S., & Oldfather, P. (1995). Enhancing student and teacherengagement in literacy learning: A shared inquiry approach. Reading Teacher,49(3), 192-201.

    Tom, A. R. (1985). Inquiring into inquiry-oriented teacher education.Journal of Teacher Education, 36(5), 35-44.

    Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higherpsychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman,Eds.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Watson, D. J. (1994). Whole language: Why bother? The Reading Teacher,47(8), 600-608.

    Watson, D., Burke, C., & Harste, J. (1989). Whole language: Inquiringvoices. New York: Scholastic.

    Author's NoteThe research for this article was completed during the spring of 1996 at

    Western Montana College of the University of Montana.

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