Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Critical Reflection in the Professional Development of Teachers: Challenges and Possibilities

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Critical Reflection in the Professional Development of Teachers: Challenges and Possibilities

Article excerpt

Introduction

John Dewey's book How We Think (1910) is recognised as the origin of the notion of reflective thinking as a key element in learning. In his later work, Dewey emphasised the importance of reflective thinking in teachers, discriminating between routine and reflective action (Dewey, 1933 in Liu, 2015). When examining teachers' learning, we cannot overlook the ground-breaking work by Donald A. Schön Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (1983), in which the author emphasises the ability of teachers to reflect on their teaching as crucial to their professional development. It has had a significant impact on several teacher education programmes in the United States and throughout the world, which set themselves the goal of developing reflective teachers (Boud, 2010; Cvetek, 2003; Handal & Lauvås, 1987; Korthagen, Kessels, Koster, Lagerwerf, & Wubbels, 2001; Liu, 2015; Zeichner & Liston, 1987). In Slovenia, Barica Marentič Požarnik (1987, 1993, 2000) started writing about the teacher as a reflective practitioner as early as the 1980s and 1990s, when she was inquiring into how teachers should be educated and trained for well-thought-out, autonomous, and responsible action, which calls for - especially in conflicts - ethical considerations.

If teachers wish to foster active, meaning-directed, application-directed, self-regulated, and cooperative student learning, their roles become ever more demanding and complex (Vermunt, 2014). It no longer suffices to be able to explain the subject-matter well, to regulate their students' learning, and to motivate them to learn; rather, teachers must take on the new roles of diagnostician, challenger, model, activator, monitor, evaluator, and reflector of students' learning processes (Vermunt, 2014). Based on her literature overview, Liu (2015) emphasises that one of teachers' key competencies is being able to analyse and adapt their teaching to students in specific social, cultural and political contexts, which is especially challenging when teaching those students who are culturally, ethnically, and racially different from the majority of society, an issue that increasingly requires attention in current society. All these demanding and complex roles faced by the teacher require the ability to reflect critically.

Considering the numerous contributions to the topic of teachers' reflection, it is fair to say that it has established itself as a relevant issue in teachers' professional development and that authors seem to be unanimous in perceiving it as vital to the process of teachers' education and further professional development (Boud & Walker, 1998; Cvetek, 2003, 2015; Handal & Lauvås, 1987; Hatton & Smith, 1995; Korthagen et al., 2001; Korthagen & Vasalos, 2005; Loughran, 2002; Polak, 2010; Marentič Požarnik & Lavrič, 2015; Rodgers, 2002; Rupnik Vec, 2006a; Valenčič Zuljan, 2008; Valenčič Zuljan & Bizjak, 2007).

It is, however, questionable whether teachers are adequately trained to follow up on this during their process of education or are provided with adequate conditions in their everyday pedagogical practice (school management's support, enough supervisors, time, etc.) and given support when reflecting on their teaching practice. Expecting that teachers will take time at their own initiative to integrate the process of reflection in their work deliberately is unrealistic. Undoubtedly, there are differences among teachers regarding both their readiness to engage in such reflection, as well as the quality and effectiveness of using reflection in professional learning (Moon, 2004; Van Eekelen, Vermunt, & Boshuizen, 2006). When thinking about the factors of effectively introducing reflection to the professional learning of teachers, the following questions arise: how do teachers and teacher educators understand the process of reflection; why do they embark on the process; how and at what level is reflection done? …

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