10 SES 12 E, Experience, Diversity and Critical Thinking
Like all education, teacher education requires a deep understanding, both by teachers and learners, of learning processes. Teachers’ learning has primarily been observed and assessed through teachers’ performance due to the process-product conceptualization of teaching which promotes focusing on teachers’ outcomes and orientating teachers towards desirable behaviours (Freeman, 2002; Karimi & Norouzi, 2017). In fact, teachers’ learning involves complex and unobservable cognitive processes and yet these cognitive processes are largely ignored in many studies (Freeman, 2002, p.2). As teacher educators, the authors are motivated to gain a deeper understanding of teachers’ developing cognition about teaching.
Teacher cognition has developed into a widely researched field; studies have focused mainly on teachers’ beliefs and practice about particular aspects of teaching such as teaching grammar and vocabulary. Recently, it has called for more attention to changes in teachers’ cognition, including beliefs, knowledge, and attitudes, after taking particular teacher training courses. However, little attention has been paid to how teachers think more critically during the process of learning to teach, what thinking more critically means, and what influences teachers' critical thinking.
In the literature on critical thinking in general, it is easier to find methods to promote it than models to define, conceptualize, and measure it. There are numerous definitions of critical thinking. It can be interpreted as critical reflection, critical consciousness of what one does, logical thinking, argumentation, or simply a reasoning ability – an ability to ask and answer “why” questions. There are also controversies over whether critical thinking includes transferable generic skills or domain-specific ones. Because of the sophistication of the concept, the authors rejected a behavioural approach which oversimplifies critical thinking into specific, observable, and quantifiable skills. Instead of adopting an existing theoretical framework of critical thinking, therefore, the authors decided to engage directly in teachers’ professional lives, and together with them construct understanding of thinking processes they went through and the intellectual developments they experienced.
As very few studies have been conducted to provide insights into critical thinking of pre-service teachers (İşlek & Hürsen, 2014, p. 294), this research addresses critical thinking in novice teachers and in particular how they develop criticality in their thinking during an important transition period in professional development – the teaching practicum and the first year of teaching.
The longitudinal investigation was conducted within a constructivist epistemology, “becoming” ontology, and a spirit of grounded theory. The authors believe such qualities as teachers’ “critical thinking” or “cognitive development” do not exist as an objective truth waiting to be objectively discovered by some correct research methods. Instead, they are abstract, sophisticated, multifaceted, and dynamic concepts that are manifested and shaped differently in different persons who live and work in different situations. Also, they do not remain unchanged but evolve over time and in various directions. Individuals construct their thinking processes in their own ways and different researchers also make sense of those thinking processes differently. Knowledge of an individual’s thinking process is therefore co-construction by both the individual and the researcher. The first author took an open approach to whatever happened in the reality of novice teachers with the possibility of generating a new theory which describes and explains notice teachers’ critical thinking development. The data collection involved the first author’s working closely with a cohort of 5 student teachers during 4 months of their English language teaching practicum in Vietnam. She was engaged in all their practicum activities as their secondary mentor but not involved in assessment of their performance to avoid conflicts of interest. She read their classroom observation sheets, read their email exchanges with their primary mentor about their lesson planning, observed their teaching practice, attended their meetings with their primary mentor and supervisors, and read their final reflection papers. The cohort and she also had intense group discussions every week, individual talks, written communication in their online diaries, and individual interviews at the end of the practicum. After the practicum, she continued following two of the cohort members into their first year of teaching for 16 months through individual Skype talks, Facebook, and Google-docs chats in order to discuss their experiences and thinking about language teaching in real-life contexts. The authors made use of data analysis techniques of grounded theory in analysing the data. To increase the trustworthiness, the first author kept contact with the participants during the data analysis and checked with them about her understanding of their data. Both authors also co-analyzed some of the data and brought their data to groups of colleagues for fresh perspectives.
The intimate and longitudinal interaction with the novice teachers incrementally constructed a picture of the complexity and dynamics of their thinking in their own pedagogical context. Rather than defining thinking with general skills as found in the literature, the results enabled the authors to specifically describe what the novice teachers focused on as they learnt to teach English as a foreign language (“focus of attention”), how their focus of attention was expanded and deepened to capture more aspects of teaching (“cognitive movement”), and how those different aspects were negotiated to resolve dilemmas and problems (“cognitive negotiation”). Novice teachers’ thinking development was found to be a process of developing multiple perspectives inclusive of four core aspects of teaching and negotiation in solving teaching problems. This paper proposes a theoretical framework of novice teachers' critical thinking development. This theoretical framework offers an approach to understanding novice teachers’ cognitive changes, a framework for novice teachers to reflect on their learning to teach, and a model for teacher educators to design training activities and programmes to promote novice teachers’ critical thinking. The research expects to be able to highlight the decisive role of teachers’ cognition on their teaching performance and professional identities. It thus calls for, in teacher education, an inward discovery, appreciation, and development of teachers’ cognition rather than merely the process-product paradigm of controlling and assessing teachers’ outside performance.
Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36(2), 81–109. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444803001903 Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. L. (2015). Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (Fourth edition..). Los Angeles: SAGE. Farrell, T. S. C. (2012). Novice-Service Language Teacher Development: Bridging the Gap Between Preservice and In-Service Education and Development. TESOL Quarterly, 46(3), 435–449. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41576062 Freeman, D. (2002). The hidden side of the work: Teacher knowledge and learning to teach. A perspective from North American educational research on teacher education in English language teaching. Language Teaching, 35(01). https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444801001720Fuller, F. F. (1969). Concerns of Teachers: A Developmental Conceptualization. American Educational Research Journal, 6(2), 207–226. https://doi.org/10.2307/1161894 İşlek, D., & Hürsen, Ç. (2014). Evaluation of Critical Thinking Studies in Terms of Content Analysis. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 131, 290–299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.04.119 Karimi, M. N., & Norouzi, M. (2017). Scaffolding teacher cognition: Changes in novice L2 teachers’ pedagogical knowledge base through expert mentoring initiatives. System, 65, 38–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2016.12.015 LaBoskey, V. K. (1993). A conceptual framework for reflection in preservice teacher education. In Conceptualizing Reflection in Teacher Development. London: The Falmer Press. Levin, B. B. (2003). Case studies of teacher development: an in-depth look at how thinking about pedagogy develops over time. Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates. Lidstone, M.-L., & Hollingsworth, S. (1992). A Longitudinal Study of Cognitive Change in Beginning Teachers: Two Patterns of Learning to Teach. Teacher Education Quarterly, 19(4), 39–57. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23475135 Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years; a scheme / [by] William G. Perry, Jr. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Schraw, G. J., & Robinson, D. R. (2011). Assessment of higher order thinking skills / edited by Gregory Schraw and Daniel R. Robinson. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub. Sparks-Langer, G. M., Simmons, J. M., Pasch, M., Colton, A., & Starko, A. (1990). Reflective Pedagogical Thinking: How Can We Promote It and Measure It? Journal of Teacher Education, 41(5), 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/002248719004100504 Van Manen, M. (1977). Linking Ways of Knowing with Ways of Being Practical. Curriculum Inquiry, 6(3), 205. https://doi.org/10.2307/1179579
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