10 SES 10 D, Reflections and Considerations from the Practice
As Gillies (2016) points, the concept of reflective practice is prevalent in teacher education and within the profession, and has attracted considerable attention since the publication of the seminal work by Donald Schön (1983). In the European context,
‘the predominant teacher paradigm … seems to be the clinician-professional model … which describes the teacher as a reflective practitioner, who actively carries out research and critically deploys scientific knowledge to inform practice’ (European Commission, 2011, p. 2). One of the reasons for the longevity and lack of critical reception of the concept is that it is hard to take issue with the main drivers behind it: placing ‘thoughtful action’ at the heart of professional practice; and resisting pressures to limit teachers to the role of executive functionaries in the context of teaching as invariable practice. It has been pointed out that ‘even though several references to key features of such a paradigm can be traced in most teacher education programmes … as well as in official documents regarding the competences required of teachers, the gap between theory and practice, between aims and results often turns out to be significant in the specific socio-cultural contexts of teachers’ professional activities’ (European Commission, 2011, pp. 2-3).
The proposed study builds upon the work of Gillies (2016), who draws upon the Hannah Arendt’s thinking on judgement and particularly her concept of ‘enlarged thought’ in order to provide a stronger basis for reflective practice, and to strengthen the validity of the exercise of professional judgement. As Gillies (2016, p. 149) suggests, it is necessary to interrogate ‘what is understood by reflection and questioning the capacity of beginning teachers, in particular, to reflect effectively on their practice without there being a context established within which it is to be conducted, and a knowledge base, a range of reflective resources, available to assist such activity’. These developments will also be considered in relation to increasing emphasis on student satisfaction, particularly in the UK (Fulford, 2013). The short-term nature of the common indices of student satisfaction brings into sharp relief some of the objections raised by prominent critics of reflective practice, e.g. Hatton and Smith (1995). Gillies (2016, p. 151) summarises their position as follows ‘different time-frames can create quite different models so that reflection-in-action can lead to ad hoc, instant changes in practice whereas other forms of reflection may gestate for some time before any resultant action is appropriate or envisaged.
The purpose of this study, part of a broader programme of related research activity, is to investigate how student teachers ‘bring into professional consideration outlooks from three broad categories: self; others; and literature’ (Gillies, 2016, p. 157) during the final stages of their university career and into professional practice. The project is closely aligned with the aspirations made manifest in the recent reform of teacher education in Scotland. The driving force behind The Donaldson Review (Scottish Government, 2011) was the aspiration to reinvigorate teachers’ professionalism and to develop teachers ‘as reflective, accomplished and enquiring professionals who have the capacity to engage fully with the complexities of education’ (Scottish Government 2011, p. 10).
The study will comprise document analysis (e.g. programme outlines, course handbooks) and the first phase of a small-scale longitudinal study involving students currently in the final phase of the four-year initial teacher education programme at UWS in order to investigate:
- How reflective practice is conceptualised within the institution
- Student teachers’ perceptions of the opportunities afforded to them to engage in reflective practice, in order to afford future generations of students with enriched opportunities to make sound judgements about their work and to enhance their practice.
Arendt, H. (1992) Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. European Commission (2011) Literature Review. Teachers’ core competences: requirements and development. European Commission. Directorate General for Education and Culture. Fulford, A. (2013) Satisfaction, settlement and exposition: conversation and the university tutorial, Ethics and Education, 8 (2): 114-122. Gillies, D. (2016) Visiting good company: Arendt and the development of the reflective practitioner, Journal of Educational Administration and History, 48 (2): 148-159. Hatton, N. and Smith, D. (1995) Reflection in teacher education: towards definition and implementation, Teaching and Teacher Education, 11 (1): 33-49. Scottish Government. (2011). Teaching Scotland’s Future. Report of a Review of Teacher Education in Scotland [The Donaldson Review]. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government.
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