Telling the Stories of Teaching: Reflective Writing for Preservice Teachers

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Boston University]On: 28 September 2014, At: 02:29Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Journal of Physical Education, Recreation &amp; DancePublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:</p><p>Telling the Stories of Teaching: Reflective Writing forPreservice TeachersDavid J. Langley a &amp; Terry Senne ba Department of Physical Education , Indiana State University , Terre Haute , IN , 47809b Department of Kinesiology , Elmhurst College , Elmhurst , ILPublished online: 22 Feb 2013.</p><p>To cite this article: David J. Langley &amp; Terry Senne (1997) Telling the Stories of Teaching: Reflective Writing for PreserviceTeachers, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation &amp; Dance, 68:8, 56-57, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.1997.10605008</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Telling the Stories of Teaching:Reflective Writing for Preservice</p><p>TeachersDAVID t. LANGLEY TERRY SENNE</p><p>T he basic structure underlyingstories or narratives can beused to guide the process ofreflective writing for preserviceteachers. Reflective writing is com-monly used in undergraduatepracticum courses to help preserviceteachers critically examine theirteaching experiences. In particular,the structure of stories can be usedto show how significant events areconnected and how problems orconcerns are approached and (per-haps) resolved.</p><p>The Value andStructure of StoriesStories are a universal means to orga-nize and express personal experi-ence (Bruner, 1986). A broad litera-ture base has developed in educa-tional research on the practicalknowledge of teachers as revealed inthe stories they tell (Carter, 1993,1995). Stories function to informboth the reader of a knowledge baseand to transform the reader by com-municating new ideas and concepts(Doyle, 1997;Jackson, 1995). Inphysical education, researchers havebegun to use a storied approach tounderstand the life histories ofteachers (Sparkes, Templin, &amp;Schempp, 1993) and to examinehow students describe and explain theskill learning process (Langley, 1995).</p><p>56</p><p>Carter (1993) suggests that storiesconsist of three basic elements: (1) aprotagonist/set of characters, (2) aproblem or situation involving con-flict, and (3) a sequence of con-nected events (a plot) that attemptsto resolve the conflict. The broad useof stories to understand personal ex-perience is evident in Scholes' state-ment that "any set of events that canbe sequenced and related can alsobe narrated" (1981, p. 205).Huberman (1995) agrees and sug-gests that it is common for teachersto connect teaching events into astory that has a beginning, middle,and end. Thus, stories are a vehiclefor delivering an ordered, coherentaccount of one's teaching experience.</p><p>Stories and TeacherReflectionReflecting on teaching can be viewedas a storied process. Reconstructingan event through stories helps usmake sense out of what has hap-pened (Mattingly, 1991) and therebylearn from that experience.Gudmundsdottir (1995) affirms thisconnection between reflection andthe stories produced from reflection:</p><p>Reflection involves thoughtful ex-planation of past events. Mere mo-ments and happenings have no sys-tematic cognitive connection. Theystand behind one another in a tern-</p><p>poral sequence and it is onlythrough reflection that they begin totake on the form of a story and ac-quire meaning. (p. 33)</p><p>The usefulness of stories for un-derstanding reflection is also impliedin Huberman's comment that "somepeople have nothing to tell us abouttheir past (experiences) ...perhaps,because they have told themselveslittle along the way" (1995, p. 136).</p><p>In the physical education litera-ture, Siedentop (1988) suggestedthat reflection requires a structuredapproach to examine events in thegymnasium as well as teacher/stu-dent relationships. We contend thatstories provide a structured contextto decipher the meanings thatpreservice teachers construct fromtheir practice teaching.</p><p>Connecting Stories andReflective Writing: Methodand ExamplesIn a recent field experience class forundergraduate preservice teachers,we explored the value of using sto-ries as a tool to understand whatpreservice teachers gained fromtheir teaching. Four different sites(two middle schools and two highschools) were used in the class. Four-teen students were enrolled, andeach student independently taughtsix or seven 40-minute classes for a</p><p>Vol. 68 No.8' JOPERD October 1997</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Bos</p><p>ton </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>2:29</p><p> 28 </p><p>Sept</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>six week period. One group of eightstudents provided lesson content forbasketball at the middle school leveland either badminton or selectedtrack and field events at the highschool level. A second group of sixstudents provided lessons for volley-ball and badminton (middle school)and softball (high school).</p><p>As the practica drew to a close, wepresented the students with instruc-tions for their reflective writing. Thebasic focus of the paper was on eachstudent's experience as a preserviceteacher at the middle school andhigh school level. We suggested thatone way to talk about these eventswas to tell a story. Three basic partsof a story were revealed in our in-structions (Carter, 1993):</p><p>1. a main character and/or a set ofrelated characters. In this paper, youare the main character, while yourstudents, fellow teachers, supervisingteacher, or other individuals mayserve as related characters.</p><p>2. a problem orconflict that needsresolution. You will decide, on an in-dividual basis, the major problemthat you have had to resolve duringyour teaching experience. Try to fo-cus on one primary concern ratherthan a series of problems.</p><p>3. a setof related eventsthat lead toa resolution of the problem. Again,the way in which you resolve theproblem and the events that led tothe resolution will differ among stu-dents because of your diverse teach-ing experiences.</p><p>The preservice teachers wereasked to weave together a true storyabout their teaching that includedthe elements described. The explicitdescription of the structure helpedto avoid methods ofwriting that maynot have been directly comparableacross different individuals. The pa-per was valued at 10 percent of thecourse grade, and evaluation wasbased on content, organization, andappropriate length (2 to 3 double-spaced pages).</p><p>Three examples of reflective writ-ing using the suggested story struc-ture are presented here. The storieshave been reduced in length while</p><p>October 1997 JOPERD Vol. 68 No.8</p><p>retaining the basic three-part struc-ture. All preservice teachers providedinformed consent, and pseudonymsare used throughout this section.</p><p>Steve's Story. Steve began by de-scribing his elementary schoolpracticum experience in a previoussemester as "a fantasy. The childrenwere fun, polite, listened, andworked hard." This experience wascontrasted with his first field settinginvolving basketball at a middle school,labeled "Nightmare on Elm Street"</p><p>I arrived at Nightmare on Elm Street</p><p>and met 15 horror students lead by</p><p>Simon Krugger...Simon Krugger was</p><p>out of control, and when he was out of</p><p>control, his disciples were out of con-</p><p>trol. From the first day of class, Simon</p><p>was running around yelling, ignoring</p><p>the teacher and causing chaos...I had a</p><p>very hard problem keeping his crea-</p><p>tures on-task doing what they were sup-</p><p>posed to do.</p><p>Steve separated Simon from hisfriends and paired him with a highlyskilled male athlete during basket-ball practice activities. As a result,"he calmed down a bit, a verylittle...Krugger was still a terror thenext lesson, but I got stern with himand he calmed down a little."</p><p>Simon's friends were low skilled,and the constant off-task behavior ofthis group concerned Steve. Con-tinual vigilance by Steve in his moni-toring plan and a progressive set ofbasketball game-like activities paiddividends:</p><p>This was a genius plan. I now had all of</p><p>my class on-task almost the whole time</p><p>and they began to enjoy basketball.</p><p>The best move I made was separating</p><p>Simon Krugger from his disciples and</p><p>putting him with his angel Treybo. I</p><p>outsmarted Simon Krugger and his dis-</p><p>ciples and turned the class around</p><p>from a nightmare to a bad dream.</p><p>Tom's Story. Tom had not attendedthe university during the fall becausehe played professional football for aCanadian Football League team. Hereflected on his return to school in apractica setting:</p><p>I felt like something was totally missing</p><p>from my life. I realized how much I</p><p>missed working with students during</p><p>this break...Sitting out for a semester</p><p>really affected my ability to work with</p><p>students and caused problems during</p><p>my teaching this semester...During my</p><p>lessons I didn't feel as secure as I imag-</p><p>ined I would be.</p><p>The primary instructional prob-lem faced by Tom involved his ten-dency to show favoritism toward thehigher skilled students during a bad-minton unit at the high school:</p><p>When I went back and reviewed my</p><p>daily lessons on videotape, I noticed</p><p>that 75 percent of my comments were</p><p>directed toward the students who were</p><p>successful at the task I had planned...I</p><p>had left the lower skill level girls alone</p><p>on one task for at least 20 minutes. Af-</p><p>ter severa1lessons and constant film ob-</p><p>servation, I was not at peace with myself</p><p>because of my inability to develop an</p><p>appropriate lesson for the high and low</p><p>skill level students.</p><p>In reaction to this situation, Tomdeveloped a specific and measuredapproach to counter the teachingbehaviors he had observed from hisvideotape.</p><p>The first step was to spend more time</p><p>on my written lesson plans. I thor-</p><p>oughly revised each written lesson and</p><p>created proper progressions for success</p><p>and failure at each task. The second</p><p>area that I concentrated on was gather-</p><p>ing information on proper mechanics</p><p>of each skill. This allowed me to give</p><p>constructive feedback whenever a stu-</p><p>dent had a problem of performing a</p><p>skill...I feel that these experiences</p><p>helped me mature and rekindled the</p><p>fire for my desire to be a teacher. I</p><p>learned that you must be patient with</p><p>students. I think because I am an ath-</p><p>lete I expect my students to be flawless.</p><p>Kevin's Story. Kevin's story involvedthe importance of understandingthe meaning behind off-task behav-ior and the need to develop appro-priate communication skills. Early in</p><p>Continued on page60</p><p>57</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Bos</p><p>ton </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>2:29</p><p> 28 </p><p>Sept</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>Stories of TeachingContinuedJrom page 57</p><p>the high school practica, Kevinpaired his female students togetherbecause "there was something tellingme that they would work well to-gether and learn from each other"across the teaching sessions.</p><p>Yes, this was considered my lower</p><p>skilled group and they had problems at</p><p>times...At first! thought this group just</p><p>was not listening. Then it hit me. My</p><p>cues and directions for lower skill stu-</p><p>dents are just too complex. They were</p><p>easy to me and easy for the higher</p><p>skilled students but these cues just are</p><p>not for beginning students...! told my-</p><p>self to stay simple and lead each activity</p><p>into another similar activity to keep in-</p><p>terest up ...This worked as it did in</p><p>middle school for my lower skillievel...!</p><p>found that when the lower skill students</p><p>are challenged by competition they</p><p>tend to work together better and ex-</p><p>tend their abilities. The main moral of</p><p>this story is to remember the things you</p><p>learn through experience. Experience</p><p>is the best way to learn and! forgot</p><p>how to communicate to the lower skill</p><p>group... Communication is the key to</p><p>helping the lower skilled students be-</p><p>come confident and willing to participate.</p><p>Carter (1995) argues that storiesare well-suited for understanding thepractical knowledge of teacherswithin a particular teaching environ-ment. What do we consider illumi-nating in the stories and the processused to portray preservice teacherreflections?</p><p>First, the structure implied instorytelling-a series of connectedevents over time-forced thepreservice teachers to view their de-cisions and actions in light of theirpersonal histories. For example, Tomfelt that his background as a highlyskilled athlete initially compoundedhis inability to deal effectively withhis low skilled female students. In amore immediate sense, Kevin usedhis previous experience with lowskilled middle school students toguide the corrective process with hislow skilled high school female stu-</p><p>60</p><p>dents. Finally, the language Steveused to describe his middle schoolfield experience (a "nightmare") wasbased on his previous experiencewith elementary-aged students (a"fantasy"). Steve's subsequent actionswith the middle school studentsseemed focused on developing stu-dent behavior that paralleled his el-ementary students who were "fun,polite, and listened well."</p><p>Second, writing stories gavepreservice teachers an opportunityto show their adaptive capabilities inresponse to perceived concerns. Ex-pressing these capabilities on papercements the message in the mind ofthe writer and illustrates Anderson'scontention that "stories are first andforemost for the teller, not the lis-tener" (1997, p. 135).</p><p>Third, although the constructionof stories is considered a universalway of expressing knowledge(Bruner, 1986), we believe it is valu-able to provide specific instructionsto preservice teachers on the ele-ments of a story. In reading the com-pleted stories of our preserviceteachers, it was apparent that the es-sential, three...</p></li></ul>


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