Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Use of Web-Based Portfolios as Tools for Reflection in Preservice Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Use of Web-Based Portfolios as Tools for Reflection in Preservice Teacher Education

Article excerpt

The reason I chose this class for my first teaching practice was because students in this class were quiet . . . I was overwhelmed with the ninth graders that I had observed [before] because they were loud and disruptive. Even my mentor teacher was having classroom management problems with them. On the other hand, they [ninth graders] were usually curious about the topics they learn so their participation was quite high. Thus, the lesson flows in this class. The class that I taught [10th grade], however, is not interested in learning. So it is the teacher's responsibility to make sure everyone participates. Class management used to be my top issue. However, my first teaching experience has made me realize that having students' participation was much more important [rather than having a quiet class]. (Student 9, Reflection Task 1)

This quote is from a preservice teacher who responded to a reflection task in her web-based portfolio in our study. The quote exemplifies a form of reflective thinking that we expected our participants to demonstrate throughout the last semester of their program of study.

Various commissions, boards, foundations, states, and local school districts identify developing reflective skills as a standard toward which all teachers and students must strive (Rodgers, 2002). Although the concept is difficult to operationalize, there exists a general agreement that reflection is an important goal of teacher education (Freese, 1999; Grimmett, Mackinnon, Erickson, & Riecken, 1990; Loughran, 2002; Wedman & Martin, 1986; Willard-Holt & Bottomley, 2000). Reflection is valued not only because it represents a frame of mind that serves as a powerful tool for problem solving but also for its outcome--meaningful professional knowledge (Loughran, 2002).

Teaching portfolios are described as tools that can be used to promote reflection (Borko, Michalec, Timmons, & Siddle, 1997; Evans, Daniel, Mikovch, Metze, & Norman, 2006). In this study, we employed web-based portfolios in which preservice teachers performed reflection tasks that were integrated into a teaching practicum course. Web-based portfolios offer several advantages over paper: They can be accessed anytime and from anywhere, and their products can be revised easily. One rationale for examining web-based portfolios was that there exists little research focusing on the use of web-based portfolios as tools for reflection (Avraamidou & Zembal-Saul, 2002; Zeichner & Wray, 2000). Another derived from the model that we adopted from Fuller and Bown (1975) to construct reflection tasks. We were interested in examining web-based portfolios because they provide affordances to implement the model. The web platform enabled us to add the observations by others easily into preservice teachers' reflective activities. Along with goals and experiences, observations are considered to be one of the anchor points of a teacher's life space (Fuller & Bown, 1975).

In this study, we aimed to examine the use of web-based portfolios for developing preservice science teachers' reflective skills. Building on the work of Fuller and Bown (1975), we proposed a set of reflection-based tasks to enrich preservice science teachers' internship experiences. More specifically, our purpose was to identify (a) whether preservice teachers demonstrated evidence of reflective thinking throughout a semester, and, if so, the types of reflective thinking indicators; (b) whether there was an increase in the number of high-level reflective indicators over time; and (c) the role of the web-based portfolio construction, as perceived by the participants, in developing reflective skills.

In what follows, we start by discussing the role of reflection in teacher education and that inseparable pair: reflection and teaching portfolios. We point out that what makes a teaching portfolio a powerful learning experience is reflection. We next examine the web-based portfolios and their unique advantages for use as reflection tools over traditional paper-based portfolios. …

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