02 SES 02 B, Reflections on Vocational Teachers' Professional Development
With the persistent demand for quality provision in education the global call for reflective professionals remains ever present. The arguments for the use of reflective practice in education are well rehearsed in professional and academic arenas, both at a national and international level (Pedro, 2005). It is widely recognized as an essential tool for supporting the continued development of professionals by helping to inform change and improve practice and competencies in the workplace (Dewey, 1933; Schön, 1983; Moon, 2004). This paper focusses its attention on the role of self-reflection in a large scale in-service programme for teachers in Kazakhstan, exploring the perceptions of trainers of the teachers in relation to a new self-reflective strategy developed by the author – Self-Reflective Shapes – and how this was utilized to help them gain new understandings whilst contributing to their life-long learning.
One of the outcomes of the Centres of Excellence programme emphasises the development of teachers’ (and trainers’) abilities to reflect on their practice. Previous research by Brownhill (2014) reported that both Kazakhstani trainers and teachers found being reflective “not easy” and that much guidance, structures and support was sought from University of Cambridge trainers when Kazakhstani trainers are engaged in reflective thought, discussion, writing and presentation as part of their training. With a calling for more accessible (comprehensive, translated) resources and ideas to assist Kazakhstani trainers and teachers in their reflective endeavours, the strategy reported on in this paper was developed in response to this need.
Prior to the strategy development, informal conversations and general observations made by the author highlighted particular difficulties that Kazakhstani trainers had with being self-reflective. The emphasis that self-reflection places on the ‘inner dialogue’ with oneself (Švec, 2005: 78) and the need for personal and open honesty proved to be problematic for many who were “fearful of not knowing the definitive answer”. Whilst the likes of Zimmerman et al. (2007) and Denton (2011) acknowledge the many benefits of self-reflection for professionals, numerous issues including time, workload and understanding seemingly hindered Kazakhstani trainers in developing their knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes towards self-reflection.
As part of a period of intense training in November 2014 Kazakhstani trainers were introduced to Self-Reflective Shapes, an innovative strategy that was influenced by the writings of Maynes and Julien-Schultz (2011), as part of a suite of advocated self-reflective ‘tools’. Trainers were informed about how the strategy was developed (inspired by the graphic nature of reflective cycle models), how the strategy promoted self-reflective thought (via a wealth of prepared self-reflective questions), and numerous reasons as to why their active involvement with the strategy was encouraged (one being that it reduced the ‘fear of the blank page’ when trainers and teachers recorded their self-reflective thoughts in written form). In an effort, from a constructivist approach, to reinforce learning (Martin, 2000), and contribute to metacognitive development, trainers were then invited to put the strategy ‘into practice’ by self-reflecting on a period of school-based work that they had just completed. They were supported in selecting and drawing a segmented 2D shape which served as a graphic organizer into which they could record their self-reflective thoughts in response to series of ‘thought-provoking questions’ (Holdefer, 2014: 13) that were offered to them.
The research reported in this paper explores Kazakhstani trainers’ active engagement with the strategy and their perceptions of its value for personal and professional use. The paper argues that this is a useful practical strategy which could be effectively utilised by trainers and teachers across the globe (training, teaching) in an effort to support professionals in their self-reflective thinking.
Brownhill, S. (2014) 'Reflecting on Reflection': An Exploration of Trainers' Perceptions of Reflective Practice in Kazakhstan. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, 1-5 September, University of Porto, Portugal. Denton, D. (2011) Reflection and learning: Characteristics, obstacles, and implications. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(8), 838–852. Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think. Boston: D. C. Heath & Co. Holdefer, C. H. (2014) Understanding Yourself and Increasing Your Professional Value through Self-Reflection. Intercom, January, 13-16. Martin, S. (2000) Portfolios: Philosophy, Problems and Practice. In: LEARN (2014) Portfolio. [Online]. Available at: http://www.learnquebec.ca/en/content/pedagogy/portfolio/reflect/theory.html (Accessed: 31 October 2014). Maynes, N. and Julien-Schultz, L. (2011) The Impact of Visual Frameworks on Teacher Candidates’ Professional Reflection. LEARNing Landscapes, 5(1), 193-210. Miles, J. and Banyard, P. (2007) Understanding and Using Statistics in Psychology: A Practical Introduction. London: Sage. Moon, J. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge. Pedro, J. Y. (2005) Reflection in teacher education: exploring pre‐service teachers’ meanings of reflective practice. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 6(1), 49-66. Schön, D. A. (1983) The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. Boston: Arena Publishing. Švec, V. (2005) Pedagogické znalosti učitele: Teorie a praxe. Praha: ASPI. Wolcott, H. F. (1981) Confessions of a trained observer. In: Popkewitz, T. S. and Tabachnik, B. R. (eds.) The study of schooling. New York: Praeger. pp. 247-263. Yip, K-S. (2006) Self-reflection in Reflective Practice: A Note of Caution. British Journal of Social Work, 36, 777–788. Zimmerman, S. S., Hanson, D. J., Stube, J. E., Jedlicka, J. S. and LaVonne, F. (2007) Using the power of student reflection to enhance professional development. Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 5(2), 1–7.
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