Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Candidates Use a New Teacher Development Process, Transformative Reflection, to Identify and Address Teaching and Learning Problems in Their Work with Children

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Candidates Use a New Teacher Development Process, Transformative Reflection, to Identify and Address Teaching and Learning Problems in Their Work with Children

Article excerpt

Addressing teaching and learning problems in K-12 classrooms typically requires changes in practice initiated through reflection and learning. For example, changes in a teacher's beliefs (Turner, Warzon, & Christensen, 2011) and practices (Caudle & Moran, 2012) are often necessary before particular solutions can even be recognized as viable by that teacher. Reflection is one of teacher education's most important actions yet it has been criticized as ineffective in advancing teachers' roles in schools (Zeichner & Liston, 1996), merely a description of teaching episodes without questioning the nature of the issues in the classrooms (Ward & McCotter, 2004), ineffective in challenging assumptions, yet effective in reinforcing existing beliefs (Mcintosh, 2010) and excluding issues of social justice for a focus on curriculum and instruction (Valli, 1992). In an effort to resolve some of these problems, especially those raised by Ward and McCotter (2004) and Mcintosh (2010), we developed and piloted a new teacher development process called Transformative Reflection (TR).

In the following sections, we introduce the concept of TR and highlight the supporting literature for the three main components of this process. We provide evidence for and discuss how TR actually stimulated change in candidates' teaching practices from deficit views of children and themselves to views and practices more consistent with developmental instruction. Finally, we explain how TR could contribute to education, support the development of prospective educators, and address some of the criticisms of reflection in teacher education.

Transformative Reflection

We define reflection as a form of active learning in which individuals work collectively to pose problems that emerge in their experience from acting in the world. In the process of developing and enacting solutions to address a problem, the critical participant (a) recognizes his or her own assumptions, beliefs, and theories in the company of others who assist in that recognition and (b) is willing to challenge and change these assumptions, beliefs, theories, as needed during the process and in the company of others such that, in the future, they perceive the problem and possible solutions quite differently than they did prior to the reflective problem-solving actions. This definition reflects four concepts one each from Dewey, Freire, Smyth and Vygotsky. First, we adopted Dewey's (1910/1997) empirical approach, whereby people learn by problem posing and problem solving. Dewey, however, does not discuss the notion of mediation or criticality. For the latter, we looked to Freire (1970/1993) and drew on the dialectic of action/reflection. At the heart of his conceptualization of praxis, Freire argued that it is not enough for people to gather and talk; they must also act on their environment--only then can they critically reflect on their realty and transform it through action and further critical reflection. For the problem of mediation (the use of an object or symbol to represent a specific behavior or another object in the environment (Bodrova & Leong, 2007)) we looked to Vygotsky and CHAT. Finally, for the notion of challenging candidates' assumptions, we drew from Smyth (1989).

TR was conceived of and practiced within a comprehensive model of human development. We derived the following design principles for TR from CHAT: (a) any teaching and learning activity is multi-perspectival and polyphonic (Bahktin, 1981) because it is a community of multiple points of views, experiences, and traditions; (b) the problems and potentials of any system can only be understood in their broad historical context (Leont'ev, 1978); (c) mediation is integral to any teaching and learning activity as teachers and students construct meaning on a social plane (Vygotsky, 1978); (d) the object of learning should be related to the everyday knowledge and interests of candidates (e. …

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