The Role of Reflection in Student Teachers' Perceptions of Their Professional Development

By Henry, Carole | Art Education, March 1999 | Go to article overview

The Role of Reflection in Student Teachers' Perceptions of Their Professional Development


Henry, Carole, Art Education


The last two decades have shown an increasing commitment on the part of preservice educators toward teaching critical reflection. Critical reflection in teaching, that is, thinking about educational matters that involves the ability to make rational choices and to assume responsibility for those choices (Ross, 1989) requires the ability to engage in introspection, to be open-minded, and to accept responsibility for one's decisions and actions. Dewey, writing in "The Relationship of Theory to Practice in Education" (1904), suggested that the ways in which we prepare prospective teachers to think about their teaching "may be of more importance than the specific techniques of teaching and classroom management that we get them to master" (Bolin, 1988, p. 49). Currently, national focus on strengthening art teacher preparation at colleges and universities is gaining increasing recognition (Day, 1997) . This article will review ideas about reflection relevant to the student teaching experience and art teacher preparation. The results of an exploratory study concerning the role of reflection in student teachers' perceptions of their professional development will also be discussed.

THE NEED FOR REFLECTION

Preservice teachers enter teacher education programs with what Bolin (1988) calls "a latent philosophy of education" (p. 53). They, in fact, often hold preconceived beliefs about the nature of teaching.

They have been "participant observers" of the process throughout their lifelong encounter with schooling from their early preschool experiences through their senior years of high school. Eisner (1972) pointed out that preservice teachers are often influenced more by their experiences as students than by a formal study of teaching methodology. These beliefs about teaching are often deeply rooted and remain intact despite what we try to teach in education classes. Field experiences provide the crucial opportunity for students to examine personal beliefs in the actual classroom context and to evaluate those beliefs, eventually reinforcing, adapting, or rejecting them.

The student teaching experience is, of course, the culminating field experience. It is the point in the students' career development where they have the opportunity to practice teaching and to apply what they have learned in their coursework. Armaline and Hoover (1989) propose that reflection on this practice should be a crucial component of the student teaching experience.

David Berliner (1992), whose research has focused on characteristics of expert teachers, has found that novice teachers cannot always make sense of what they encounter in the classroom. Berliner states, "New teachers.... are less likely to be adequate teachers than those who have some reflected-on experiences under their belt" (p. 51). It is clear that if we as teacher educators want our students to engage in reflection before and after they actually become teachers, we must provide them with the opportunities and skills necessary to do so.

Richard Paul, Director of The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, has addressed the lack of time spent focusing on student thinking. He explains that many teachers unfortunately perceive the need to present the content of the course as prohibiting them from devoting class time to teaching students how to think. According to Paul, these teachers "fail to see that thinking is the only way by which the mind can digest content" (Richard Paul, personal communication, June, 1991). Additionally, Paul emphasized the importance of meaningful response to student thinking explaining that students have difficulty thinking critically about their actions "unless they are writing or speaking out these thoughts in settings in which others respond"(Richard Paul, personal communication, June, 1991) .

WRITING AS A MEANS OF REFLECTION

Writing as a way of processing information and creating new knowledge has been well established in the literature. …

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