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, UKThe Teacher EducatorPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information: 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, 35-43To link to this article: SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. 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Terms & Conditions of accessand use can be found at by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 STUDENT TEACHERS BECOMEREFLECTIVE PRACTITIONERSBarbara J. GriffinNew Mexico State UniversityAbstractAlthough 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).35Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 BackgroundColton 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 StudyThe 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 or36Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 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).ProcedureIn 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 theirability 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 forthe 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.37Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 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 studentteaching experience?4. How is the classroom that you are presently teaching indifferent from the classroom you will establish?5. Reflect on reflection. Was it helpful? If yes, how? If no, whynot?Because the intent was to develop thoughtful reflection thatwould 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.FindingsWhy I want to be a teacherThe first opportunity to reflect came after the student teachersread 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.38Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 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.39Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 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 student teacher related:Most of the work is done in cooperative groups, but there is a nice balanceof individual and whole group instruction. When I get my own classroomI would like to develop this type of atmosphere, but I know it depends onseveral factors such as makeup of the students, time of day, and learninghow to work in cooperative groups.Another student teacher was able to relate an ethical criteria todie practice that he/she saw in the cooperating teachers classroom.Concerning rewards this student teacher stated:I want a new system where outstanding behavior is the focus of rewardsand not every single thing. There is no intrinsic motivation [in the coop-erating teacher's classroom].Reflect on reflectionDuring the last seminar of the sixteen-week semester, the studentteachers were asked to assess the value of using writing prompts tosupport reflection during their student teaching experiences. All ofdie student teachers felt diat it was "helpful" and the only drawbackwas die lack of time. One student teacher reported:Reflection has been my most useful tool this semester. I have been able touse it to compare and contrast methods and techniques, especially whensomething has failed. Because time is never stagnant, I realize that reflec-tion is the key to teachingreflection and flexibility. This is a tool I willuse throughout my entire teaching career.40Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 Another student teacher related that reflection was a gradual growingendeavor:By the end of the semester, I was sitting down every night and reviewingmy plans and making notes in my lesson plan book like "This workedwell" or "This would be better if...."The value of the collaborative reflection during the seminars wasreported by another student teacher:it has helped me because it makes me aware of issues that I wasn'tfamiliar with, and then I could research those and discuss those ideas withothers.Perhaps the value of reflection was summed up best in the words ofthe following two student teachers:When I had a lesson that really bombed, I would go back and reviewlessons that I thought were good and revise and modify strategies toimprove lessons.I will continue self-reflection during my teaching experience. It helped meby putting my day into perspective. I often looked back to review what Idid to help solve a current problem.ConclusionPrompted by research recommendations that call for the develop-ment of reflection in teacher education (Bullough, 1989; Carter andGonzalez, 1993; Hoover, 1994; Pultorak, 1993) and convinced ofdie need for student teaching to be a time for preservice teachers tobecome students of their own teaching (Diamond, 1991; Goodman,1991), this study on student teacher reflection was conceived.Realizing that, because of time constraints, reflection was notsomething that student teachers would undertake on the own, amore supportive program with structured activities to promotereflection was developed. Heeding Korthagen's (1992) call for moredescriptions of activities or techniques that can be used in seminars inteacher education to promote reflection, prompts were used to stimu-late student teachers' reflections that went beyond "complaints andsurvival concerns" (Hoover, 1994). Agreeing with Noffke andBrennan (1991) that "every issue has its technical (how to), practical(what to), and critical (why) dimensions" (p. 192) there was no effortmade to analyze or categorize the reflective responses.It was rewarding to note that the student teachers in this studynot only saw the value of reflection but were willing and excitedabout continuing with reflection after the culmination of their41Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 student teaching experiences. This outcome concurs with thefindings of Canning (1991):Teachers found that reflection was an intrapersonal experience leading toinsight about themselves as actors in their worlds. It prompted changes inself-concept, changes in perception of an event, of a person(s), or plans fora change in some behavior, (p. 21)Implications for Teacher EducationWhile reflection is not difficult, it does take time and direction.Teacher educators cannot assume that student teachers will naturallystop and reflect on their teaching. They need to learn to be reflective.Teacher education programs need to provide a starting point to instillthe practice of reflective teaching. Student teachers need to discoverthat when dissonance occurs in practice or an action is impeded, thatis the time for self-reflection. Valli (1990) referred to this moment asa "trigger" to stop and assess the situation.Reflection is vital to intelligent practice, practice that is reflectiverather than routine (Richert, 1990). By reflecting on what they doand why, teachers can make meaningful connections between reflec-tivity and decision making, development of professionalism, andthe building of community (Bullough, 1989). Through reflection,teachers have the potential to go beyond predetermined practices andmethods to vary or adapt instructional practices based on the needsof students. If student teachers are not made aware of the need toreflect on their own practices and helped to consciously make aneffort to learn from them, then teacher education programs canexpect to do little more than turn out technicians who mindlesslyfollow the directives of others.ReferencesAyers, W. (1993). To teach. New York: Teachers College Press.Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). Promoting reflection in learning: Amodel. In D. Boud, R. Keogh, & D. Walker (Eds.), Reflections: Turning experience intolearning (pp. 18-40). New York: Nichols.Bullough, R. (1989). Teacher education and teacher reflectivity. Journal of TeacherEducation, 40(2), 15-21.Calderhead, J. (1989). Reflective teaching and teacher education. Teaching andTeacher Education, 5(1), 43-51.Canning, C. (1991). What teachers say about reflection. Educational Leadership,48(6), 18-21.Carter, K., & Gonzalez, L. (1993). Beginning teachers' knowledge of classroomevents. Journal of Teacher Education, 44(3), 223-232.Gift, R., Houston, W., and Pugach, M. (Eds.). (1990). Encouraging reflective prac-tice in education: An analysis of issues and programs. New York: Teachers College Press.42Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014 Colton, A., & Sparks-Langer, G. (1993). A conceptual framework to guide thedevelopment of teacher reflection and decision making. Journal of Teacher Education,44(1), 45-54.Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Boston: D. C. Heath.Diamond, C. (1991). Teacher education as transformation. Philadelphia: OpenUniversity Press.Giroux, H. (1988). Teachers as intellectuals. New York: Bergin and Garvey.Goodman, J. (1991). Using a methods course to promote reflection and inquiryamong preservice teachers. In B. Tabachnick and K. Zeichner (Eds.), Issues and practicesin inquiry-oriented teacher education (pp. 56-76). New York: Falmer Press.Hoover, L. (1994). Reflective writing as a window on preservice teachers' thoughtprocesses. Teaching and Teacher Education, 10(1), 83-93.Korthagen, F. (1992). Techniques for stimulating reflection in teacher educationseminars. Teaching and Teacher Education, 8(3), 265-274.LaBoskey, V. (1993). Why reflection in teacher education? Teacher EducationQuarterly, 20(1), 9-12.LaBoskey, V. (1994). Development of reflective practice. New York: Teachers CollegePress.Noffke, S., & Brennan, M. (1991). Student teachers use action research: Issues andexamples. In B. Tabachnick & K. Zeiehner (Eds.), Issues and practices in inquiry-orientedteacher education (pp. 186-201). New York: Falmer Press.Pultorak, E. (1993). Facilitating reflective thought in novice teachers. Journal ofTeacher Education, 44(4), 288-295.Richert, A. (1990). Teaching teachers to reflect: A consideration of programstructure. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 22(6), 509-527.Smyth, J. (1989). Developing and sustaining critical reflection in teacher education.Journal of Teacher Education, 40(2), 2-9.Valli, L. (1990). Moral approaches to reflective practice. In R. Clift, W. Houston,& M. Pugach (Eds.), Encouraging reflective practice in education: An analysis of issues andprograms (pp. 39-56). New York: Teachers College Press.Van Manen, M. (1977). Linking ways of knowing with ways of being practical.Curriculum Inquiry, 6, 205-228.Wedman, J., & Martin, M. (1986). Exploring the development of reflectivethinking through journal writing. Reading Improvement, 23(1), 68-71.43Downloaded by [University of Newcastle (Australia)] at 08:31 28 September 2014


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