10 SES 10 A, Beyond Teacher Education: Doctorates and Enrichment
Critical reflection is seen as fundamental for effectiveness in teaching (Brookfield, 1995, Danielson 2009). In Scotland, where this research took place, the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS), which regulates the teaching profession, incorporates a number of benchmarks relating to reflective practice in its Standard for full registration as a teacher. Reflective thinking implies ‘judgement suspended during further enquiry’ (Dewey, 1910, p. 13) as teachers analyse and assign meaning to their experiences in the classroom, in order to improve their effectiveness. Postgraduate student teachers, who may come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, may find the concept of reflection difficult (Spalding and Wilson, 2002). This study aimed to investigate what postgraduate student teachers found helpful in developing reflective capacities related to their practice in their first school placement.
The study explored students’ perceptions of the way they had developed a reflective perspective on their classroom practice through evaluation of their lessons, with a view to increasing their competence in areas they had identified as important to their progress. It also aimed to establish what challenges, if any, they had had in developing a critically reflective approach.
Smyth (1989), drawing on Dewey’s and Schön’s work, describes four stages of reflection which are sequential, related to the following questions:
- describing: what do I do?
- informing: what does this mean?
- confronting: how did I come to be like this?
- reconstructing: how might I do things differently?
Student teachers’ evaluations of their lessons could be characterised as broadly aiming to answer the questions above, however, what is not always clear is how students, beginning their career as teachers in their first placement, are helped to understand what it is that they are actually ‘describing’; what ‘information’ this gives them; the reasons for their actions; and how, once issues have been identified, they might improve by changing their practice. The study aimed to answer the questions:
- How do student teachers develop a reflective outlook?
- What forms of feedback might be helpful to develop reflection?
As student teachers in a subject department, all the students in the study had been allocated mentors in their placements. Much has been written about the importance of mentoring by a more experienced teacher, with relation to the development of reflection (Danielson 2002, Harrison et al. 2005). Within a social-constructivist approach, teaching students are helped to operate in their ‘zone of proximal development’ deconstructing apparent successes in lessons and identifying areas requiring improvement through discussion with the more knowledgeable other (Vygotsky, 1978). However, it is acknowledged that mentoring can bring some issues of inconsistency (Hudson, 2014) and we were keen to discover if students had developed additional strategies to enable them to analyse their lessons in order to improve their practice.
An important factor in evaluating the effectiveness of practice is feedback, either explicit, from a mentor or the pupils themselves, or implicit, that is, the student teacher's 'feel' for how effective, or otherwise, a lesson was, often based on factors such as perceptions of pupil engagement, pupils' active participation or fulfilment of the success criteria (Hiebert et al., 2007). The study aimed to investigate how student teachers developed their awareness of different kinds of feeback, and how they interpreted them, enabling them to develop a 'feel' for the effectiveness of the lesson, which would enable them to answer Smyth's questions more confidently and competently than when they had started.
Brookfiled, S. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Joey Bass Danielson, L. M. (2002) Developing and Retaining Quality Classroom Teachers through Mentoring, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 75,4: 183-185. Danielson, L. M. (2009) How Teachers Learn. Educational Leadership 66, 5 Dewey, J. (1910) How we think, Boston, D.C. Heath and Co.,Publishers. Groundwater-Smith, S., Ewing, R. & Le Cornu, R. (2011). Teaching. Challenges and Dilemmas. (4th ed.), Melbourne: Cengage. GTCS (online) Standard for Registration http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/the-standards/standards-for-registration-1212.pdf Last accessed 28th January 2014 Harrison , J. K., Lawson, T . & Wortley, A. (2005) Mentoring thebeginning teacher: developing professional autonomy through critical reflection on practice. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 6, 3: 419-441. Hiebert, J., Morris, A.K., Berk, D & Jansen, J. (2007) Preparing Teachers to Learn from Teaching. Journal of Teacher Education 58, 1: 47-61. Hudson, P. (2014) Feedback consistencies and inconsistencies: eight mentors’ observations on one preservice teacher’s lesson, European Journal of Teacher Education, 37, 1: 63-73. Johnstone, P.L. (2007) Weighing Up Triangulating and Contradictory Evidence in Mixed Methods Organisational Research. International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 1, 1: 27-39. http://mra.e-contentmanagement.com/archives/vol/1/issue/1/article/551/weighing-up-triangulating-and-contradictory Last accessed 26/12/13. Le Cornu, L. (2005) Peer mentoring: engaging pre‐service teachers in mentoring one another. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning 13, 3: 355-366. Patton, M.Q. (2002) Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods (3rd edition). London: Sage. Smyth, J. (1989) Developing and Sustaining Critical Reflection in Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education March 40, 2: 2-9. Spalding, E. & Wilson, A. (2002) Demystifying Reflection: A Study of Pedagogical Strategies that Encourage Reflective Journal Writing. Teachers College Record 104, 7: 1393-1421. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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