10 SES 06 D, Research on Values, Beliefs & Understandings in Teacher Education
In this research project the student teachers in Finland and in Turkey reflect the worldview of their own and worldview of the other through virtual dialogue.The paper investigates the main learning experiences reported in the group interviews after seven weeks email dialogue. As an academic study of teachers’ professional identity and educational reflection this paper shows the importance of exploring the basis of deep ontological beliefs and values that affect the teacher as a human being and an educator. White (2014) argues that teaching is described as an intensely intimate encounter, so we need to understand how the teachers’ private biographies influence their public roles as educators.Another aim of the article is to contribute to the perspectives of religious and worldview education, as it is vital that education prepares both students and teachers alike to face the worldview diversity.There is an urgent need to develop understanding between different worldviews in today’s world as the deep societal flux, secularization and changes in the traditional religiosity in the European countries are challenging the ways religions and worldviews should be considered at schools. Religion is often attached to the negative inspiration for shaping people’s identities and possibly motivating them into extremist thinking and actions. (Berger 2014; Casanova 2018).
The concept of worldview is defined here as a value-laden-way of looking at the world, which entails a particular ontological, epistemological, and ethical orientation to the world (Poulter, Riitaoja, Kuusisto 2016). Unlike terms such as religious or non-religious, the concept of worldview allows for variations, fluidity and inclusiveness of all worldviews (Åhs, Poulter, Kallioniemi 2015; Van der Kooij, de Ruyter, and Miedema 2015). We emphasize heterogeneity inside religious and worldview traditions and the opportunity for multiple individual understandings and interpretations.These definitions come very close to the transdisciplinary worldview approach developed by John Valk (see Valk, Albayra & Selcuk2018), which assists in viewing the world as a meaningful whole, and both religious and secular worldviews provide meaningful answers at all personal, social and cultural levels.
In this study, we have employed the concept of the teacher’s identity in relation to the worldview dimension. This has not been discussed much in studies on teacher education. White (2014) claims that a teacher’s personal and professional identities are not two distinct or separate entities and more studies are needed to recognize the interplay between a teacher’s personal and professional experiences.As Lanas and Kelchtermans (2015) note, teacher educators need to know more about who student teachers are in order to influence their education process and subjectivicationeffectively. Following Larrivee’s (2000) model for becoming a reflective practitioner, examining our core beliefs is a critical aspect of self-reflection. This philosophical level of reflection – which often remains largely untested – includes values, religious beliefs, ways of knowing, life meanings, and ethics. Importantly, this study differs from those studies on teacher subjectivity and literature on self-reflection in that it goes deeper into the personal life-history and formation of values, beliefs, ontological and epistemological basis of teachers as human beings whose professionalism is firmly based on what they ultimately think about the good life.
The study is motivated by developing teacher education through negotiation about the difference and similarity between and within worldviews. Turkey and Finland were identified as being different in cultural and worldview contexts, yet both officially representing European, secular values. The study will explore the following question: How do the Finnish and Turkish student teachers reflect the meaning of worldview in the process of encountering the Other and how does this relate to their professional identity formation?
The email interaction took place between six teacher program students at the University of Helsinki and six students from Eskisehir Osmangazi University. Both students and teachers were familiar with the worldview education paradigm and were willing to expand their learning through new research experiment. The students were matched randomly as email friends and they started the conversation independently via email. Nevertheless, the guidance for discussion was given by the teachers and the instruction for the stages of dialogue was given prior to the project. The research material for the project consists of student assignments such as open questionnaires, personal emails and group interviews. The focus of this paper, however, is on analysing the transcribed group interviews from both contexts. From the Finnish side, two 90-minute group interviews were carried out. One student was not able to attend the interviews and therefore he completed the reflection in a written format. From the Turkish side, all students were interviewed in one session lasting approximately two hours. As a research method, critical content analysis was employed to examine the data. Content analysis provides the basis of a process to interpret data by identifying prominent themes and codes (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). In addition, NVIVO12 software was used for thematic analysis of the interview data. In order to identify the main themes, both researchers read through all the data, and identified relevant research categories through coding. Throughout the process, the results of coding and categorization were discussed and compared between the scholars until agreed upon. The researchers used criticality as an interpretative lens in reading the data as the students’ family backgrounds, educational levels, ages, religious or spiritual point of views, and genders were identified as important identity markers in the process. All six students from Turkey identified themselves as Muslims which doesn't mean that the form of Islam they embrace would have the same meaning to them all, but rather that Turkish Islam was interpreted in six unique ways. The same principle applies to Finnish participants: they all identified themselves as Agnostics or Atheists even though there can be a huge variation in the interpretations of what it means to be a non-religious person in Finland, where Lutheran Christianity has been a part of their personal upbringing and culture. However, at general level, this email dialogue can be contextualized and described as a conversation between secular Finnish and Islamic Turkish worldviews.
As a result of the preliminary analysis, three key categories surfaced. They are 1) Worldview Formation involves Personal, Communal, Societal and Cultural Dimensions, 2) Finding Myself Through Facing the Other, and 3) Understanding Worldview as a Changeable Concept. Students used a personal worldview reflection to identify wider cultural, national and even global phenomena but they also mirrored societal issues to make sense of their personal beliefs and thoughts. Students recognized that personal worldviews are not that fixed and coherent but they are internally diverse, mixed and continuously changing. Finnish students admit that they did not attach to similar collective religious worldview as their Turkish peers but instead used other collective frames of reference such as Finnishness and liberalism to explain who they are and what they believe in. Most of the students reported that the email interaction boosted questioning and learning not only about the other, but mostly about one’s own thinking and values. As the interaction helped them to formulate and reflect their own worldview, this was not the case for all. At the end of the process, a couple of students were left with a slightly confusing learning experience of them knowing better now that they did not really know their own worldview. The students also discussed the element of reflexivity towards one’s worldview as a future teacher and educator. They argued that the personal awareness about the worldview dimension both helps and complicates the educational ideals they have. Students consider it vital that teachers retain their sensitive towards the impact of worldviews in education but there is also anxiety about how that should be done in a proper manner. This especially relates to the students with a non-religious worldview who considered the complexity of religion to be a huge challenge.
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