Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Strategic Compliance: Silence, "Faking It," and Confession in Teacher Reflection

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Strategic Compliance: Silence, "Faking It," and Confession in Teacher Reflection

Article excerpt

FIRST ENCOUNTERED reflection in teacher education at a small private college in the southeastern region of the U.S. in the late 1990?s during my first adjunct instructor position filling in for a professor?s sabbatical leave. I had already been a student teacher supervisor for a year, visiting various classrooms and using the teacher education department?s triplicate forms to complete observations and evaluations of student teachers? lessons and final portfolios. Reflective thinking had not been identified as a performance indicator on any of the checklists or evaluation points named on the forms. But accreditation for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) was looming this particular year, and the department chair was asking the faculty to provide ?artifacts? that showed evidence that preservice students were learning to become ?reflective decision-makers.? The program faculty and I struggled to realize, locate, and concretize the students? evidence of something none of us realized we were supposed to be teaching and evaluating. Thus began my participation in the conversation about reflection in teacher education.

Years later, after many semesters of evaluating students? reflections on lesson plans, philosophies of education, and course readings, I turn to the topic again, prompted by a group of teachers whose recoil to reading other teachers? narrative reflections challenged what I thought was a prized and sought after practice that informed everyday teaching experiences. Particularly, the teachers asked why some of the teachers narrating their stories seemed to ?beat themselves up? about their failures to reflect appropriately on dilemmas they faced or unexamined assumptions they held toward certain students in their classrooms. As I began to ask similar questions about the presence of confession-like narratives of reflective practice in the reflection literature, I also noticed the presence of accounts of practitioner ambivalence towards the encouraging teachers to engage in reflection and the efforts to address that ambivalence from teacher educators. Since my research interests center on teacher knowledge and encourage listening to what teachers have to say about their experiences, this alternative and insistently voiced ambivalence towards reflection compelled further exploration of these reluctant and sometimes critical responses to teacher reflection.

I do not see this persistent thread of ambivalence and critique emerging from teachers? experiences with reflection as a problem to be overcome by better teacher preparation pedagogy, or more clearly defined understandings about reflection. Rather, I see its presence in the reflection literature as an opportunity to think more deeply about reflection as conceptualized and enacted in teacher education research, practice, and curriculum. I agree with Francis and Ingram-Starrs? (2005) observation that ?those [voices] we ignore have more to teach us? (p. 551). Of particular interest to me are accounts in the literature that express teachers? engagement with written reflection experience as strategic compliance to discursive expectations and programmatic values that, even though well intentioned, aim at controlling teachers and how they think about their work (Akbari, 2007; Baszile, 2008; Fendler, 2003; Francis & Ingram-Starrs, 2005; Hobbs, 2007; Moore & Ash, 2002). In a 2008 keynote address to the Encontrol Nacional de Diatica e Pratica de Ensino (ENDIPE) in Brazil, Zeichner (2008) voiced a similar observation, questioning whether the work on teacher reflection promotes ?compliant implementation of external directives? that make it ?easy for teacher reflection to merely become a tool to more subtlety controlling teachers? (Conclusion section, para. 3).

For example, Hobbs (2007) shared her own experience with writing reflections for a sociology course requirement that asked students to write reflections on ?negative patterns of behaviour in our families? …

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