Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Talking to Paper Doesn't Work: Factors That Facilitate Preservice Teacher Reflection

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Talking to Paper Doesn't Work: Factors That Facilitate Preservice Teacher Reflection

Article excerpt

Encouraged in large part by the work of Schon (1983), teacher education programs have spent the last two decades providing preservice teachers with experiences designed to help them examine their beliefs and develop reflective habits (Roskos et al., 2001; Tsangaridou & Siedentop, 1995; Zeichner & Liston, 1987). Prior to student teaching, preservice teachers often engage in structured writing activities based on observing their colleagues' teaching in the university classroom, in order to practice reflection (Tsangaridou & Siedentop, 1995). Preservice teachers, however, are not naturally inclined to develop reflective skills (LaBoskey, 1994; Loughran, 1997), so even after completing assignments designed to foster reflection, they still struggle to transfer these skills to their own teaching, and rarely grapple with the quality of dilemmas that inservice teachers view as catalysts for reflection (Cain, 2005).

These difficulties with reflection are further complicated by the fact that teachers, and preservice teachers in particular, have less autonomy over their curriculum due to top-down filtering of test-related pressures (Moon, Brighton, Jarvis, & Hall, 2007). Adhering to a script or pacing guide limits opportunities to engage in the reflective cycle of identifying challenges, weighing alternatives, and implementing potential solutions. This lack of teacher control over the curriculum runs contrary to literature on teacher effectiveness that purports "flexibility." "creativity," and "adaptability" contribute to student learning (Berliner & Tikunoff, 1976; Darling-Hammond, Bransford, LePage, Hammemess, & Duffy, 2005; Schalock, 1979; Walberg & Waxman, 1982). Such teaching requires autonomy and reflection, while Darling-Hammond argues that having only one way to teach makes teachers " ... less effective in meeting the needs of the students" (PBS, 2001).

Some researchers (e.g., Berliner, 1988; Dinkleman, 2000) question if preservice teachers are capable of developing critical reflective skills, and propose that this may be a more appropriate goal for experienced teachers. Nevertheless, the role of reflection in contributing to teachers' professional growth and effectiveness is well documented (Constantino & De Lorenzo, 2001; Danielson & McGreal, 2000; Glickman, 2002; Lambert, 2003). Thus, institutions of teacher education (Dewey, 1933; Hatton & Smith, 1995; LaBoskey, 1994; Schon, 1983) and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE, 2002) highly value student learning, and therefore encourage reflection by preservice and inservice teachers, even in this era of high-stakes testing and scripted curriculum. Knowing the important role reflection plays in K-12 learning and the many obstacles preservice teachers face in the process of reflecting, it seems relevant to ask, "How do preservice teachers experience reflection?"

Although teacher educators have roundly embraced reflection, there is little agreement on its definition (Bullough & Gitlin, 1989; LaBoskey, 1994). Contemporary scholars' interpretations of reflection have been influenced by Dewey (1933), van Manen (1977, 1991) and Schon (1987), among others. For the purposes of this study, the researchers adopt Bullough and Gitlin's (2001) following depiction of reflection: "being actively engaged in the study of one's practice and the intersection of belief, action, and outcome so that in the future wiser decisions can be made while teaching" (p. 14).


This study is set at a small, private, Northern California university where both researchers teach. The participants were beginning their student teaching and were placed at three area high schools, with two different cooperating teachers. Data collection took place over a 16-week semester of full-time student teaching. During data collection, the researchers referred not only to participants' student teaching but also their entire preservice experience at the university, including coursework, fieldwork, and student teaching. …

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