Reflection as a Critical Component in the Preparation of Teacher Candidates

Article excerpt

Teacher education programs use a variety of assessment strategies to help their prospective teachers acquire the teaching skills necessary to teach physical education. Some educators have criticized teacher education for perpetuating the view that learning to teach is merely a personal challenge to acquire skills such as giving clear directions and providing accurate feedback. The purpose of this article is to describe an assessment strategy regarding reflection skills used to help physical education teacher candidates improve their teaching.

It is argued that Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) courses which focus on technical aspects of teaching fail to prepare teachers who are reflective and able to appreciate the social and political complexities of teaching and schooling (Tinning, et al. 2001 ). Gore (1990) suggested that pre-service physical education teachers differed in terms of what and how often they reflected. Tsangaridou and O'Sullivan (1994) concluded that prospective teachers place asymmetrical emphasis on the focus of reflection, since the focus of reflection was mostly dominated by technical issues of teaching. The authors argued, in their foundational and methods courses, that teacher candidates should be taught how to view and interpret teaching from a variety of perspectives.

Meanwhile, Sebren (1994) suggested that a key element in a successful reflection program is a clear definition of reflection and how it will guide the program. For example, before candidates engage in the process of reflection, it is important for them to understand the objective of reflection. The candidates must understand that reflection is their views on the application of their knowledge. It is not a description of "what happened," but rather an analysis of the events that occurred in the classroom that will help them see what is needed to maintain or improve the outcome of their teaching.

It is critical for candidates to understand the different components of a lesson and the importance of being able to reflect on each one. This ability to break down and analyze the different aspects of a teaching session could be developed if the definition of the "reflection" is clear and accurate. Tsangaridou and O'Sullivan (1994) defined the loci of reflection as technical (instructional or managerial aspects), situational (contextual issues of teaching), and sensitizing (reflection upon social, moral, ethical, or political aspects of teaching).

In this article, the description of reflection as an assessment strategy will only be applied on the instructional and managerial aspects of teaching (technical). During the first phases of the "learning to teach" process, candidates tend to focus on specific aspects of their teaching. For example, individualization of instruction is when the candidate provides feedback to individual students. It is a strategy sometimes overused by candidates during their first practicum experiences. This is an excellent strategy, but not the only one when a teacher provides general and/or specific feedback (instructional aspect). Reflecting on the provision of feedback during instruction can help a candidate see what is needed to diversify her/his way of providing feedback. Even though reflection can be applied to many different teaching areas, the scope of this article will be limited to these technical aspects.

National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

It is important to see the application of this assessment strategy within the standards of a teacher education accrediting agency. Several of the concepts within the rubric are suggested by the NCATE standards. NCATE revises its unit accreditation standards every five years to ensure that the standards reflect current research and state-of-the-art practice in the teaching profession. Specifically, the nature of this rubric is related to NCATE standard I which targets the candidate's knowledge, skills, and dispositions. …