A Social Reconstructionist Framework for Reflection: The "Problematizing" of Teaching

By Genor, Michele | Issues in Teacher Education, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

A Social Reconstructionist Framework for Reflection: The "Problematizing" of Teaching


Genor, Michele, Issues in Teacher Education


It is impossible to ignore that most national and state accrediting entities (i.e., NCATE, CCTC) outline "reflection" as a requirement in their professional standards for teaching. Regardless of the official certification requirements imposed upon them and/or their orientation to teaching, teacher educators would probably agree, at least publicly, that "one of the goals of teacher education is to develop each preservice teacher into a reflective educator, one who is a life-long learner who perceives every experience as an opportunity for growth, change, and development of understanding" (Hutchinson & Alien, 1997, p. 226).

There are many strategies that teacher educators employ to develop these reflective "habits of mind" in their preservice teachers (Brookfield, 1995; Vali, 1995; Zeichner & Liston, 1996). Teacher preparation programs commonly require that students keep journals and support participation in other "reflective" activities (i.e., developmental portfolios, action research, writing educational philosophy statements and metaphors for teaching, telling teaching and learning stories, etc.).

In my own experience as a teacher educator, I have found that preservice teachers are generally willing to engage in reflective practice when they feel it is worthwhile and connected to issues they face in the classroom. It seems that when preservice teachers are able to see direct connections to their practice, they are more disposed to ask questions about what they are doing and to engage in thoughtful dialogue with their peers and mentors (Brookfield, 1995; Duckworth, 1997). Still, despite the requirements that programs must provide evidence of their graduates' reflection and formalized standards that outline the importance of reflection, conceptions of reflective practice are currently difficult to articulate and teacher educators often find that preservice teachers need more direct support and guidance to pose "critical" questions and confront their unquestioned assumptions (Goodwin, 2002). Frykholm (1997) actually describes the beginning teacher as "an outsider looking through the lens in order to identify with the experiences of students from different cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds" (p. 51). Teacher education must support the development of the critical lens, not only as a sign of growth, but also as "foundational to the growth" (Meyer et. al, 1998, p. 24).

I propose that a social reconstructionist framework of reflective practice provides an important orientation for preservice teachers to more successfully negotiate the rapidly changing contexts in which they will no doubt teach. Zeichner ( 1994) explains that a social reconstructionist orientation to teaching draws attention to "teachers' own definitions of their experience and facilitates an examination of different aspects of that experience" (p. 217). This type of examination is imperative for new teachers because it adopts a "democratic and emancipatory impulse and teachers' deliberations focus upon substantive issues which will help them examine the social and political consequences of their teaching" (p. 217). The reflective framework I present in this paper offers a scaffolding tool for teacher educators who play an essential role in the reflective development process. The framework also acts as a model for preservice teachers by allowing them to more clearly envision-critical reflection.

While I have utilized many reflective strategies in my work over the years with preservice teachers and have always hoped that their teaching would ultimately represent a critically reflective approach, I had until recently never considered directly introducing my students to the definitions and various frameworks of reflective practice that exist in the field. I simply asked my students to "reflect" on their teaching without ever examining the reflective process itself, identifying what exactly preservice teachers were reflecting about, or determining to what degree their reflections involved exploring the social and institutional contexts of their teaching contexts and practices. …

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