Academic journal article Education

Locus of Control and Reflective Thinking in Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article Education

Locus of Control and Reflective Thinking in Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

During the past two decades demographic changes have altered the profiles of countless families, the educational needs of their children, and the school and community environments (Ogle, 1991). Equipped with repertoires of specific teaching skills, many teachers have been unprepared to adapt their instructional behaviors and materials to meet the challenges of today's diverse student populations (Hyun & Marshall, 1996). Low student achievement and pervasive teacher frustration are logical consequences of this incongruity between teacher and context.

Teacher education programs simply cannot address every student and every situation a prospective teacher will encounter. Rather, they must provide preservice teachers with a general knowledge base of pedagogical principles and practices and a strategy for adapting these principles and practices. For many teacher educators John Dewey's model of reflective practice is that strategy of adaptation (Hillkirk & Dupuis, 1989; Smith, 1994).

Reflective practice is a disciplined inquiry into the motives, methods, materials, and consequences of educational practice. It enables practitioners to thoughtfully examine conditions and attitudes which impede or enhance student achievement. Reflective teachers

(1) are responsive to the unique educational and emotional needs of individual students;

(2) question personal aims and actions; and

(3) constantly review instructional goals, methods, and materials (Pollard & Tann, 1987).

The paradigm of reflective practice is hardly a new one. In his seminal work, How We Think, published in 1909, John Dewey explained the concepts of reflective thinking and teaching. Reflective thinking, Dewey wrote, emphasizes the consequences of ideas and implies future physical action; it is not merely an exercise in theoretical manipulation or intellectual entertainment (Dewey, 1909/1933). Using methods of rational, systematic inquiry, the reflective person is able to confront and solve a variety of personal and professional obstacles; to be a proactive force in his/her environment.

In nurturing and sustaining habits of reflective thought, Dewey advocated the cultivation of three attitudes: Openmindedness, whole-heartedness, and intellectual responsibility. "Openmindedness" (Dewey, 1909/1933, p. 30), the first of these desired attitudes, implies an intellectual respectiveness, a willingness to dispassionately consider multiple and novel ideas. Such openmindedness is accompanied by a sense of convergent attention or "whole-heartedness" (Dewey, 1909/1933, p. 31). All of the individual's mental, emotional, and physical resources are committed to the resolution of the problem. Ultimately, though, these admirable qualities of openmindedness and whole-heartedness are dangerous if not tempered by notions of "intellectual responsibility" (Dewey, 1909/1933, p. 32). Intellectual responsibility insists the reflective thinker consider the consequences of any proposed plan, the short-term and long-term effects of suggested behaviors.

Donald Schon, among others, has corroborated and expanded Dewey's philosophies and observations on reflective thinking in his books, The Reflective Practitioner and Educating the Reflective Practitioner (Schon, 1983, 1987). The truly effective, reflective practitioner, Schon argues, must augment technical expertise with personal insights and artistry (Schon, 1983, 1987). Situations, despite seeming similarities, are unique problems which the practitioner must face. Solutions to these problems often lie outside the realm of existing professional knowledge; thus, the necessity for problem solving artistry or reflective practice.

The importance of this study lies in its attempt to promote reflective thinking and teaching strategies in programs of teacher education. Specifically, this study examined reflective thinking in preservice teachers as it related to locus of control. …

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