Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

The Possible Barriers Behind Reflective Thinking and Practice: Experiences of School Principals from Turkey and Denmark*

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

The Possible Barriers Behind Reflective Thinking and Practice: Experiences of School Principals from Turkey and Denmark*

Article excerpt

Abstract

The possible barriers behind reflective thinking and practices of school principals were aimed to be determined with this study. The study is a qualitative study based on phenomenology. Data was collected from 37 school principals (24 from Istanbul, 13 from Copenhagen) who were serving in a variety of secondary schools (gymnasium) in Istanbul and Copenhagen during 2009-2010. The study shows the qualities of international education research. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, and content analysis was used in data analysis. Restricted by the experiences of participants of the study, the possible barriers behind school principals' reflection were determined as internal (staticity, inclination of authority establishment, not having a command of a foreign language, teaching/not teaching as a teacher) and external barriers (conciliation culture, isolation and lack of networking, constant changes in the system and workload, centralism, parental indifference, teacher burnout). In the light of the study findings, recommendations were devised for candidates of educational administration, principals, policy makers and researchers to aid the development of reflective thinking skills and practices.

Key Words

School Principal, Reflective Thinking, Reflective Practice, Barriers.

The rapidly changing needs of modern society are reflected in education, and school administrators are expected to implement policies in response to those rapidly changing needs. Therefore, in their role as leaders, in order to take the lead in implementing constant improvements, providing effective learning environments and facilitating the adaptation of new conditions, principals feel the need for reflective practice much more than at any other time (Argyris, 1994; Fullan, 1997; Fullan & Hargreaves, 1996; Hacifazlioglu, 2010). The crucial need for principals to develop reflective thinking skills is the starting point of this study. Research shows that the only way an administrator learns from experience is when he attributes meaning to his experiences (Beaty, 1997; Raelin & Coghlan, 2006). Therefore the concept of administrative inquiry appeared and questions have become much more important than the answers for administrators (Pellicer, 2008). Administrator inquiry is systematically and intentional self-questioning of a school administrator's administrative practices and changing his practices in the process of questioning based on his learning (Dana, 2009). Reflective practice in this study can be defined as all kinds of practices that school principals engage in for a better understanding of their actions, experiences, observations and perceptions; analyzing them, and improving and giving meaning to their present and future actions (Dalgiç, 2011). Reflective practice of an individual involves the learner and learner's experiences in the construction of knowledge, providing opportunities for exploration and articulation of own ideas, personal beliefs, knowledge, and experience (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004). Reflective practice was also conceptualized as a professional development and problem-solving strategy (Osterman & Kottkamp), therefore reflection is very critical in the teaching, leadership and learning processes of educators (Day, 1993; Schön, 1983; York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, & Monthie, 2006). Most of the research conducted on reflective practice focuses on teachers or pre-service teacher training (Ng & Tan, 2009; Wildman & Niles, 1987), and has revealed that the most important factor affecting the development of a teacher's reflective practice skills is the school administration (Fullan & Hargreaves 1996; Wildman & Niles, 1987). Furthermore, the explanation of school administrators' failure or success in managing intentional changes in their schools depends on their way of thinking. Therefore the first thing to do in a school in order to change the attitudes and behaviors of administrators and other educators is to change their way of thinking (Leithwood & Hallinger, 1993). …

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