Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Study of the Use of a Private Chat Room to Increase Reflective Thinking in Pre-Service Teachers

Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Study of the Use of a Private Chat Room to Increase Reflective Thinking in Pre-Service Teachers

Article excerpt

This study asks: will the use of electronic chat rooms increase pre-service teachers' reflective thinking? Pre-service teachers from three education classes discoursed through class-specific electronic chat rooms. A quantitative analysis of the number of their reflective thinking phrases over time, a systematic search for patterns in selected students' responses, and an analysis of focus groups feedback were conducted. While patterns based on level of interest in the topic emerged, no common patterns across time could be identified. What did become evident was that when students are highly engaged, the number of reflective phrases increased significantly. An unexpected benefit was that a strong class culture developed through the use of chat rooms in all three classes studied. Suggestions for college coursework and for future study are included in this paper.

Problem Statement

Are our future teachers actually reflective thinkers? The School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has adopted a paradigm which stresses reflective thinking. Our university undergraduate and graduate catalogues, as well as the School of Education's formal Taxonomy of Professional Knowledge address the importance of reflective thinking in teachers. Yet, we have not systematically assessed reflective thinking in our students.

We need to insure that our students' experiences in our classes help them to grow in ability to do higher order analysis, deep thinking, introspection and self evaluation. Professors in the School of Education have tried various ways to encourage reflective thinking in our courses. Traditional papers, critiques of research articles, class discussions, and journaling are common methods used in our curriculum. As we infuse technology more and more into our instruction, we need to explore how this mode can encourage reflective thinking. Specifically, this study asked: is an electronic environment conducive to the development of reflective thinking in pre-service teachers?

Review of The Literature

John Dewey (1933) started educators on the path of encouraging reflective thinking. He stated that the more teacher reflectivity that occurs, the better the quality of teaching.

Siens and Ebmeier (1996) and Wenzlaff (1994) echo Dewey when they stress the idea that teaching is a process of problem solving, and that reflective, teaching lies at the heart of the problem solving process.

Norton (1994) asked practicing teachers what qualities they thought the ideal teacher possessed. A strong commitment to reflective and creative thinking was a constant response. The teachers interviewed felt these skills were becoming more and more necessary as the students they were teaching became more diverse and were presenting more challenges, both in complexity and number of issues affecting learning. Norton stresses the need to augment pedagogical expertise with personal insights.

The literature overwhelmingly supports the value of reflective thinking in teachers. The research efforts of Adler (1993), Andrews and Huffman-Joley (1991), Korthagen (1993), Reagan (1993), and Russell (1993) agree on the importance of reflective thinking. This is not just an American phenomenon. Chen and Seng (1992), in discussing teacher education in Singapore, reach the same conclusion. However, none of these researchers tells us how to develop reflective thinking in our future and current teachers.

Siens and Ebmeier (1996) and Wenzlaff (1994) tell us that, since the 1980s, supervision of student teachers has focused more and more on encouraging teachers to become more reflective about their teaching; they need to be trained to think about what they are teaching, how they are teaching, and why they are doing so. The novice needs to become a reflective practitioner in order to make the connection between theory and practice. Ross (1989) notes a number of universities which have identified the development of reflective thinking as a major goal of their teacher education programs. …

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