• Ешқандай Нәтиже Табылған Жоқ

Approaches to Pre- and In-Service Reflective Teacher Development

Chapter 2. Literature Review

2.3 Approaches to Pre- and In-Service Reflective Teacher Development

This sub-section will discuss the approaches to the formation of reflective thinking in pre- and in-service teachers suggested by the current research literature including the various strategies tested by different research projects and tools devised to assess the levels of reflection as well as the remaining doubts as to the connection between reflection and effective teaching practice.

The term “reflective teaching” has been widely used in the recent discussion of the nature and guiding principles of teacher education and in-service professional

development. In the West, many training courses have adopted “reflective teaching” as their “basic philosophy” (Calderhead, 1989, p.43). Calderhead (1989) summarizes his analysis of this discussion claiming that “a fast-growing and varied literature asserts the importance of reflection and self-direction, both in the initial process of learning to teach and in further professional growth” (p.43). The author has also found out that “several recent textbooks for use in teacher education have a focus on the promotion of reflection, and policy on teacher education, in several countries, has begun to acknowledge the role of teachers’ reflection, professional judgement, and self-evaluation” (Calderhead, 1989, p.43).

However, Calderhead (1989), as a result of his analysis of the notion of reflective teaching, concludes that “… professional learning as it occurs in classrooms … is largely

unassessed” and “here is great difficulty in gaining any precise conceptual grasp of what reflection is … in teachers’ professional development” (p.43).

In a similar vein, Zeichner (1994, p.9), in his overview of the instructional strategies employed in pre-service teacher education, states that teacher educators “…

under the umbrella of reflective practice, tried to prepare teachers who are more thoughtful


and analytic about their work in some fashion”. However, analyzing available research on reflective practices in teacher training, the scholar emphasizes the lack of clarity on

“whether it is necessarily a good thing that should be promoted” (Zeichner, 1994, p.9).

Zeichner (1994, p.15) identified five major traditions or reflective practice in the US teaching and teacher education: academic, social efficiency, developmentalist, social reconstructionist, and generic. The academic tradition “stresses reflection about subject matter and the representation and translation of that subject-matter knowledge to promote student understanding” (Zeichner, 1994, p.15). The social-efficiency tradition emphasizes

“faith in the scientific study of teaching to provide a basis for building a teacher-education curriculum” (Zeichner, 1994, p.16). The developmentalist tradition “prioritizes reflection about students, their thinking and understandings, their interests, and their developmental growth” as it is based on “the assumption that the natural development of the learner provides the basis for determining what should be taught to students and how it should be taught” (Zeichner, 1994, p.16). The social-reconstructionist tradition views reflection “as a political act which either contributes toward or hinders the realization of a more just and humane society” (Zeichner, 1994, p.17). The generic tradition advocates “for reflective teaching in general, without much comment about what it is the reflection should be focused on, the criteria that should be used to evaluate the quality of the reflection, or the degree to which teachers’ reflections should involve the problematization of the social and institutional contexts in which they work” (Zeichner, 1994, p.17). This tradition implies that “teachers’ actions are necessarily better just because they are more deliberate or intentional” (Zeichner, 1994, p.17).

Earlier, in his 1987 paper, Zeichner classified strategies for the development of reflective teachers “according to the level at which an intervention is directed” (Is it enough to have a course in reflective teaching or should the school and the society be


changed?) (p. 566), “the degree to which an approach specifies a set of specific components for the reflective process or steps to be taken toward the goal of reflectiveness” (the approaches range from use of reflective journals to “specific

dispositions and types of thinking) (p. 567), “the degree to which an approach is explicitly justified by reference to a particular theoretical position” (e.g. learning theories, critical theory) (p. 567). As a result of this analysis, Zeichner (1987) identified six major strategies that are claimed to “enhance the reflective capabilities of prospective teachers”: (1) action research; (2) ethnography; (3) writing; (4) supervisory approaches; (5) curriculum analysis and development; and (6) the methodology of ‘reflective teaching’ (p. 568).

Sparks-Langer and Berstein Colton (1991), in their attempt to synthesize research on the reflective thinking of teachers, found professional knowledge to be “coming both from sources outside the teacher and from the teachers’ own interpretations of their everyday experiences” (p. 37). They identified the cognitive, critical, and narrative

elements of reflection and undertook an analysis of research on the development of each of these elements. As for the cognitive element, the authors conclude that “novices should be taught the schemata of experts” but emphasize that “expert teachers probably draw on their own contextually developed knowledge and prior case experience” (Sparks-Langer &

Berstein Colton, 1991, pp. 38-39). Sparks-Langer and Berstein Colton (1991) infer that there are quite successful methods promoting technical reflection about methods, principles, outcomes, and contexts for pupil learning (structured journal writing, critical dialogue, examination of multiple perspectives, field experiences, and action research), but they are limited in developing critical reflection (about political, ethical, and moral values, beliefs, and attitudes) (p. 41). The research on narrative reflection provides “insights into what motivates a teacher’s actions and an appreciation for the complexity of teachers’


everyday lives”, these insights being valuable for the teachers themselves (Sparks-Langer

& Berstein Colton, 1991, pp. 42-43).

Yost, Sentner, and Forlenza-Bailey (2000) question the assumption that reflective practice can be taught at all but highlight two elements that are necessary for it to occur:

“supervised practical experiences” and “personally meaningful knowledge base” (pp. 40- 41). They believe that “teacher education programs must designate critical reflection as a primary mission and interweave reflection throughout the teacher education curriculum”

and warn against focus on the lower levels of reflection (Yost, Sentner, & Forlenza-Bailey, 2000, pp. 41-42). Among promising practices, the researchers list the constructivist ones of dialogue, action research, and writing experiences (Yost, Sentner, & Forlenza-Bailey, 2000).

Several scholars have attempted to identify effective strategies that help develop reflective skills. Thus, Hatton and Smith (1994, p.36) analyzed a considerable body of literature to identify strategies that promote reflection in student teachers:

1) action research projects;

2) case studies and ethnographic studies of students, teachers, classrooms, and schools;

3) microteaching and other supervised practicum experiences;

4) structured curriculum tasks.

However, according to the authors, reflection in pre-service teachers may be hindered by the following barriers:

- the persistence and strength of participants' own conceptualisation of teaching;

- lack of time and opportunity for development;

- lack of a suitable knowledge base;

- negative reactions to demands for reflection, including feelings of vulnerability;


- lack of coherence in the structure and ideology of total programs (Hatton and Smith, 1994, pp.36-37).

Another example of research into effective teaching of reflective skills is the study by Finlay (2008), who believes that effective reflective practice can be nurtured if the following guidelines are used:

- present reflective practice(s) with care;

- provide adequate support, time, resources, opportunities and methods for reflection;

- develop skills of critical analysis;

- take proper account of the context of reflection (pp. 15-20).

The same issue was investigated by Kabilan (2007), who reports on the study of

“reflecting on reflections” by future English language teachers in the Malaysian context to have proved that “observing the strengths and weaknesses of others and reflecting on them via writing and reading allow the students to be aware of their own practices, avoid

possible mistakes, and, thus, develop a set of strategies to implant positive classroom changes or practice” (p. 697). The author emphasizes that “for reflective practice to have any meaningful impact on the students, it must occur in a learning community and not be carried out as an individual endeavor” (Kabilan, 2007, p. 698).

To assess the effectiveness of the formation of reflective skills, there is a need for an instrument to measure the level of reflection. B. Larrivee undertook to develop and validate a tool to assess the level of teachers’ reflective thinking and (2008) also concludes that “pre-service and novice teachers can be helped to reflect at higher levels with

multifaceted and strategically constructed interventions” and suggests that “journaling with specific structures, such as providing deliberate prompts and strategically posing non- judgmental questions”, as well as “helping prospective teachers acknowledge, articulate, and challenge their beliefs” will promote higher order reflection “by creating authentic


dialogue” (Larrivee, 2008, p. 345). Based on the idea that “reflection is an abstract construct with its existence being assumed on the basis of observed performance and expressed beliefs” the researcher suggests an assessment tool providing “benchmark indicators of key behaviors of reflective practitioners” (Larrivee, 2008, p. 345).

Lee (2005) also suggests criteria to assess the depth of reflective thinking:

1. Recall level where “one describes what they experienced, interprets the situation based on recalling their experiences without looking for alternative explanations, and

attempts to imitate ways that they have observed or were taught”.

2. Rationalization level where “one looks for relationships between pieces of their experiences, interprets the situation with rationale, searches for ‘‘why it was,’’ and generalizes their experiences or comes up with guiding principles”.

3. Reflectivity level where “one approaches their experiences with the intention of changing/improving in the future, analyzes their experiences from various

perspectives, and is able to see the influence of their cooperating teachers on their students’ values/behavior/achievement” (p.703).

The researcher conducted several case studies among the participants of a Korean mathematics education program to identify the following factors affecting development and changes in student teachers’ reflective thinking: personal background, mode of communication, content of the reflection, protocol of dialogue and questions, placement context (Lee, 2005, p. 712). Lee (2005) found that reflective thinking is enhanced by the use of “various systematic aids”, such as journal writing, clinical interviews, dialogues, narrative inquiry, observational learning, and reflective teaching; creation of “various opportunities and climates where reflective thinking/practice can flourish” rather than

“limiting students/teachers to a particular approach”; valuing student teachers’ “prior knowledge of what their personal backgrounds are” because “through awareness and


understanding of themselves, pre-service teachers can challenge and reinforce themselves and their teaching performance”; providing appropriate field experiences (Lee, 2005, p.


There are just a few studies investigating the reflective practices of experienced teachers. For example, Osterman and Kottkamp (1993), relying on the experiential learning theory, contrast traditional and reflective approaches to the professional development of teachers and come to the conclusion that “reflective practice is a professional development process that … is highly effective in achieving behavioral change” (p. 9). They suggest that

“before we can adopt new behaviors, before we can begin to introduce reflective practice as a professional development strategy whether in a university classroom, a school, or a school district, it is necessary (a) that we develop an awareness of our habitual actions and the assumptions that shape those actions and (b) that we consider the effectiveness of actions relative to intentions” (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993, p.9).

As a result of a study conducted among teachers of adult English language learners based on the action research approach, Farrell (2008) claims that “the use of reflective practice in teacher professional development is based on the belief that teachers can improve their own teaching by consciously and systematically reflecting on their teaching experiences” (p. 1). He also emphasizes that there is only limited body of research on “how experienced language teachers have reflected critically on their beliefs, on critical incidents in the classroom, and on classroom practices” (Farrell, 2008, p.1). In addition, the author assumes that “teachers can choose a number of approaches to facilitating reflection over the course of their professional careers” (Farrell, 2008, p.2). Among such approaches, the author examines action research, teaching journal, teacher development groups. Farrell (2008) concludes that “teachers who engage in reflective practice can develop a deeper understanding of their teaching, assess their professional growth, develop informed


decision-making skills, and become proactive and confident in their teaching” (p.4).

“Professional development through reflective practice can be seen as an opportunity to enter a process of “mental growth spurred from within” (Feiman‑Namser & Floden, 1986, p. 523), where teachers are supported in seeking their own growth” (Farrell, 2008, p.4). In Farrels’s view, “reflective practice takes place along a continuum” of phases occurring at different stages of teaching careers (Farrell, 2008, p.4).

Similarly, Stanley (1998) represents development of a reflective teaching practice as a series of phases: (a) engaging with reflection, (b) thinking reflectively, (c) using reflection, (d) sustaining reflection, and (e) practicing reflection (p. 585). However, many researchers raise doubt whether “increased reflection will translate into action and result in improvements in teaching and learning” (Cornford, 2006, p. 220). Cornford (2006)

analyzed a considerable number of studies into the effectiveness of reflective teaching as measured by empirical research to conclude that “there is a strong tendency for studies assessing the efficacy of reflective teaching to reveal equivalence between reflective treatment and control groups on a range of measures” (p. 224).

Drawing on Cornford’s work, Fat’hi and Behzadpour (2011) also assert that “while it is self-evident that reflective approaches are theoretically rich, the hitch lies in their inability to translate into practice” (p.243). They emphasize that there isn’t any empirical evidence that reflective teaching approaches lead to better teaching or learning (Fat’hi &

Behzadpour, 2011, p.243). Quoting Akbari (2007), Fat’hi and Behzadpour (2011) indicate that “teacher educators are instrumental in enhancing reflective teaching practices in the classroom” (p.243). According to Akbari (2007), “though research indicates that reflection can bring about an increase in teacher job satisfaction, an improvement in interpersonal relationship with colleagues and students, and an improvement in teachers’ sense of self-


efficacy, there is very little evidence that reflection will necessarily lead to higher students’

achievements and better teacher performance” (in Fat’hi & Behzadpour, 2011, p.243).

To conclude, it is important to note that it has been proved by research that reflection can be taught or developed through various means but there is still doubt whether there is any correlation of reflection and more effective practice.