Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Looking Again at "Surface-Level" Reflections: Framing a Competence View of Early Teacher Thinking

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Looking Again at "Surface-Level" Reflections: Framing a Competence View of Early Teacher Thinking

Article excerpt

Developmental Frameworks and Reflective Practice

Thirty years ago, Schon (1983) described practitioner reflection as a process of framing and reframing problems, creating reflective conversations with oneself and with others, taking actions to change one's practice, and evaluating the consequences of those changes. Like many teacher educators, we teach and model reflection on teaching practices, and we observe a range of ways that our teacher candidates engage in the reflection process. Yet a consistent finding in the research on teacher reflection is that higher levels of reflection are rarely observed among teacher candidates (Klein, 2008; Larrivee, 2006; Lee, 2005; Mena-Marcos, GarciaRodriquez, & Tillema, 2013; Pedro, 2005; Shoffner, 2008; Ward & McCotter, 2004) or practicing teachers (Belvis, Pineda, Armengol, & Moreno, 2013). For example, teacher candidates may remain focused on themselves, pondering the demands of the profession and of taking on new responsibilities:

How much am I going to put into this job/student teaching? The job/student teaching extends outside the classroom and the regular hours, and the question is where I'm going to draw the line. How far outside of regular hours? (J. S., January 31, 2012)

Other candidates may react with frustration to issues that have multiple layers, such as how assessment practices interact with perceptions of student ability: "I feel like it is so unfair to have a test with six long story problems when many students can't read very well" (A. H., March 5, 2013).

Preservice teachers face a dizzying array of questions, practical issues, and new responsibilities as they learn to acclimate to the intensity of a complex profession. How can we validate candidate efforts to reflect on practice and support candidates to grow in their capacities to reflect? How can we understand a wide range of teacher reflection practices, especially those that do not appear to exhibit much depth?

As we examine and engage the literature on teacher reflection, we note a focus on naming different kinds of reflection, often in a sequence or continuum. For example, Larrivee (2006) described a continuum of reflection, noting that teachers can reflect at different levels simultaneously. At a nonreflective level, the teacher focuses on one explanation or solution. Surface reflection involves posing questions about strategies that maintain an efficient classroom, for example, "how can I limit transition time?" Pedagogical reflection focuses on questioning assumptions and biases and posing questions about theory, beliefs, and actions in the classroom, for example, "should I use reading groups?" In critical reflection, the teacher poses questions about the ethical and social equality implications of classroom practices, for example, "is my classroom promoting a sense of agency and freedom in all of my students?"

Although Larrivee suggested that teachers can reflect at different levels continuously, throughout the literature, we see models that describe "low levels" and "high levels" of reflection. In Figure 1, we contrast four theories that describe levels of reflective thinking and then note patterns among these models for reflection.

As we consider these models for reflection, we note several consistencies: All the models describe low and high levels of reflection and equate low levels of reflection with narrative or descriptive accounts, lack of questioning, and a focus on the self; alternatively, the highest levels of reflection are associated with abstraction, a critical stance, and engaging multiple perspectives. One concern we bring to these patterns is that framing reflection as low level or high level, while describing a trajectory of growth, can also contribute to deficit perspectives about the developing capacities of teacher candidates. Likewise, Clara (2015) warned about conceptualizing reflection prescriptively as a series of steps, highlighting that reflection is a "descriptive notion" that refers to "spontaneous, common, real thinking" (p. …

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