Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Fostering Preservice Reflection through Response Journals

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Fostering Preservice Reflection through Response Journals

Article excerpt

Introduction

Research on teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts has shown that teacher candidates approach teaching with a plethora of initial beliefs and ideas about teaching. Their knowledge, however, tends to be based on simplistic views of teaching and learning in the classroom, and hence may not be "well adapted to teaching" (Calderhead, 1991, p.532). It is only when they reflect upon their knowledge critically that they can transfer what they have learned in initial teacher preparation programs as students to the real classroom situations as teachers. Reflection enables teacher candidates to construct knowledge through asking questions, critiquing, evaluating, etc., helping them bridge the gap between imagined views and the realities of teaching. It is important, therefore, to prepare teacher candidates for teaching by fostering professional learning that focuses on critical thinking and reflection, so that their knowledge and beliefs interact with the teacher education program, including field experiences, to facilitate development of more sophisticated conceptions of the teaching and learning process.

A number of approaches have been used in teacher education to promote reflectivity, one of which is journal writing. Journals can activate teacher candidates' thinking and facilitate meaning making during the learning process (Cole, Raffier, Rogan, & Schleicher, 1998), help them identify variables that are important to them, serve as a means of generating questions and hypotheses about teaching and learning (Richards & Ho, 1998), and increase their awareness about the way a teacher teaches and the way a student learns (Burton & Carroll, 2001). In writing reflections, learners actively construct knowledge, while personalizing the learning process. Through questioning their own assumptions, teacher candidates raise their awareness of teaching issues and develop a sense of ownership of their future work (Daloglu, 2001). Journals can also provide opportunities for teacher candidates to analyze their own learning and seek strategies to improve their learning (Vickers & Morgan, 2003). Summed up by Farris and Fuhler (1996), journals are "a birthplace for creative and critical thinking" (p.26). As teacher candidates engage in journal writing, they are able to develop a habit of reflection (Yost, Sentner, & Forlenza-Bailey, 2000).

In second language teacher education, journal writing has begun to receive more attention in recent years. However, much of the research has focused on the use of journals among practicing teachers and teacher candidates to reflect on classroom teaching (see e.g., Brinton, Holten, & Goodwin, 1993; Daloglu, 2001; Richards & Ho, 1998; Todd, Mills, Palard, & Khamcharoen, 2001; Tsang & Wong, 1996; Woodfield & Lazarus, 1998). Little has been done to find out how journals can be exploited as part of the coursework of initial teacher preparation programs to foster reflection among teacher candidates. In Hong Kong, journals are underused in initial teacher preparation (see Lee, 2004). Hong Kong learners, including advanced learners in teacher preparation programs, are used to a passive mode of learning. In recent years, however, English language education reform in Hong Kong has put a high premium on constructivist learning (CDC, 2004).

Journal writing is a kind of reflective writing that requires prospective teachers to construct knowledge through questioning their own assumptions about teaching and learning, and hence in line with the general direction of education reform in Hong Kong. This article describes a study that uses response journals as a tool for fostering reflection in an initial teacher preparation program in Hong Kong. The subjects are 13 prospective English teachers who received training to teach English (as a second language) in secondary schools in Hong Kong. The researcher seeks to investigate the use of journals with these prospective English teachers to find out what they write about, whether their journals display signs of reflectivity, and how they react to the journal writing experience. …

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