Reflection || The Role of Reflection in Student Teachers' Perceptions of Their Professional Development

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  • National Art Education Association

    The Role of Reflection in Student Teachers' Perceptions of Their Professional DevelopmentAuthor(s): Carole HenrySource: Art Education, Vol. 52, No. 2, Reflection (Mar., 1999), pp. 14-20Published by: National Art Education AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 14:02

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  • The Role of

    'tStudent Teache of Their

    he last two decades have shown an increasing commitment on the part of

    _"~~~~~~~~~'~~~ ~preservice educators toward teaching _*'i7~~~~~~~~~~~~:~~ T critical reflection. Critical reflection in

    teaching, that is, thinking about educational mat- ters that involves the ability to make rational choices

    and to assume responsibility for those choices (Ross, 1989) requires the ability to engage in introspection, to be

    open-minded, and to accept responsibility for one's deci- sions and actions. Dewey, writing in 'The Relationship of

    Theory to Practice in Education" (1904), suggested that the ways in which we prepare prospective teachers to think about their

    teaching "may be of more importance than the specific tech- niques of teaching and classroom management that we get

    them to master" (Bolin, 1988, p. 49). Currently, national focus on strengthening art teacher preparation at colleges and universities is gaining increasing recognition (Day, 1997). This article will review ideas about reflection relevant

    to the student teaching experience and art teacher prepara- tion. The results of an exploratory study concerning the role of

    reflection in student teachers' perceptions of their professional development will also be discussed.

    THE NEED FOR REFLECTION Preservice teachers enter teacher education programs with what

    Bolin (1988) calls "a latent philosophy of education" (p. 53).They, in fact, often hold preconceived beliefs about the nature of teaching.

    They have been "participant observers" of the process throughout their lifelong encounter with schooling from their early preschool experiences through their senior

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  • rs' Perceptions BY CAROLEHENRY Professional Development

    A student teacher listens carefully as a young boy talks about his drawing. Reflecting on this conservation can

    help the student teacher learn from this experience and apply that knowledge to other situations.


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  • Observers can watch a student teacher evolving into a teacher. The process of rereading

    reflective essays allows the student teacher to also observe this transformation.

    years of high school. Eisner (1972) pointed out that preservice teachers are often influenced more by their experiences as students than by a formal study of teaching methodolo- gy. These beliefs about teaching are often deeply rooted and remain intact despite what we try to teach in education classes. Field experi- ences provide the crucial opportuni- ty for students to examine personal beliefs in the actual classroom con- text and to evaluate those beliefs, eventually reinforcing, adapting, or rejecting them.

    The student teaching experience is, of course, the culminating field experience. It is the point in the stu- dents' career development where they have the opportunity to prac- tice teaching and to apply what they have learned in their coursework. Armaline and Hoover (1989) pro- pose that reflection on this practice should be a crucial component of the student teaching experience.

    David Berliner (1992), whose research has focused on character- istics of expert teachers, has found that novice teachers cannot always make sense of what they encounter in the classroom. Berliner states, "New teachers ...are less likely to be adequate teachers than those who have some reflected-on experi- ences under their belt"(p. 51). It is clear that if we as teacher educators want our students to engage in reflection before and after they actu- ally become teachers, we must pro- vide them with the opportunities and skills necessary to do so.

    Richard Paul, Director of The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, has addressed the lack of time spent focusing on student thinking. He explains that


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  • many teachers unfortunately perceive the need to present the content of the course as prohibiting them from devot- ing class time to teaching students how to think. According to Paul, these teachers "fail to see that thinking is the only way by which the mind can digest content" (Richard Paul, personal com- munication, June, 1991). Additionally, Paul emphasized the importance of meaningful response to student think- ing explaining that students have diffi- culty thinking critically about their actions "unless they are writing or speaking out these thoughts in settings in which others respond" (Richard Paul, personal communication, June, 1991).


    Writing as a way of processing infor- mation and creating new knowledge has been well established in the litera- ture. Vygotsky, the Soviet psychologist known for his work linking language and cognition, believed that "purpose- ful writing is thought written down, which, in turn, is internalized into one's ongoing thinking" (Roland, 1995, p. 122). Ymger and Clark (1981) proposed that the act of writing provides "a model of sorts for immediate matching and comparison. By posing the question, 'Is that what I really think and feel?', writ- ers are learning about themselves" (p. 6). Teaching students to examine their interactions in the classroom through written assignments can help students more clearly formulate their own philosophies of teaching.

    Journal keeping is increasingly prac- ticed in education programs through- out the country. Zeichner and Liston (1987) described the journal assign- ments for student teachers at the University of Minnesota as a means of informing college supervisors "about the ways in which their students think

    about their well as to pro- vide student teachers with a vehicle for systematic reflection on their develop- ment as teachers" (p. 33). The supervi- sors are kept abreast of the progress of the students but, more importantly, the students are given practice in reflective techniques that can foster self-aware- ness and professional competence.


    In the field of art education, Craig Roland (1995) has incorporated journal writing into art education methods classes. Roland states, 'Writing is not only a medium for thought, it is a poten- tially powerful vehicle for developing it"

    It is clear that if we

    as teacher

    educators want our

    students to engage

    in reflection before

    and after they

    actually become

    teachers, we must

    provide them with

    the opportunities

    and skills necessary to do so.

    (p. 122). Candace Stout (1993), an advo- cate of dialogue jouraling in which the student first makes field notes and then responds to those notes, believes that writing progresses as an act of discov- ery. She writes, "No other thinking process helps us so completely develop a line of inquiry or a mode of thought" (p. 36). Reflective writing then becomes a type of "written speech" (Stout, 1993, p. 37). Arguing that the act of writing is inherently slower than speech, Stout says that "writing places our thoughts before us" (p. 37). She agrees that students are not being asked to think about their thinking and need to be provided with examples of exemplary reflection just as they are typically shown examples of exemplary artwork.

    Frank Susi (1995) explains that "reflection involves looking back on experiences in such a way as to recon- sider and better understand what hap- pened" (p. 110). He compares this process to replaying a particular sport- ing event on a VCR Truly reflective art teachers, according to Susi, examine the same event through different per- spectives. The end result of reflection is knowing something better "that is already known in some sense but knowing it in a deeper and more thor- ough way" (Susi, p. 110).


    For many years, all student teachers at the University of Georgia have been required to submit weekly reports about their teaching experiences. Typically these reports have been brief and limited to descriptions of success- ful or unsuccessful educational activi-


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  • ties with little analysis or interpretation. The art education faculty sought

    ways to make the process more mean- ingful to everyone involved. Changing the name of the assignment from a weekly report to a weekly reflection has taken the assignment out of the realm of an educational requirement into a deeper form of analyzing the student teaching experience. Each member of the faculty has a slightly different approach to this process; the following is an account of how I utilize reflection to encourage student teachers I super- vise to think about their professional development.

    In an initial seminar, reflection as a learning process is introduced. The dis- cussion focuses on how writing about what happens in the classroom can be an effective way to learn from those experiences. The reflective essays are not assigned by topic and can be about any subject that is of importance or con- cern to the student. Students can choose to reflect on discipline prob- lems, human relations situations, or successful/unsuccessful lessons or activities among numerous other possi- bililities. Students are asked not only to describe these events but also to look at them carefully and to focus on what they have learned about themselves or their teaching in the process. The reflections are submitted on a weekly basis, read carefully, and returned with detailed written comments. The stu- dents are asked to keep their reflec- tions throughout the quarter. During the final week of student teaching, they are asked to read their reflective essays once again and to write an essay focus- ing on their development as teachers based on the content of their reflective essays.

    I collected these final reflections throughout the academic year 1995-96

    and analyzed them using methods of qualitative analysis primarily that of constant comparison (Glasner & Straus, 1967). In all, there were 19 final essays collected representing every stu- dent teacher I supervised over the course of three academic quarters. Each essay was read carefully and basic ideas conveyed were identified. A sum- mary was compiled for each student, and the content of these summaries was analyzed. Common themes discussed in each essay became evident and were documented. Quotes that could provide additional insight were maintained and grouped under the appropriate theme.

    SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS Certain common observations

    emerged in this process illustrating that there were concerns and insights shared by the student teachers. These observations are reported and can be viewed as a general indication of the reflective thought engaged in by these particular student teachers. No attempt is made to assess one concern or insight as more important than anoth- er. Instead, the emphasis is upon how the process of reflection can provide greater insight into the professional development of student teachers as a whole.

    Interestingly, very few comments focused on art processes or techniques. In fact, one student wrote that she knew that she "had a clear understand- ing of many artistic processes" and felt that she had some good ideas for con- veying this knowledge to students. She added, "Since I have been in college, my contact with students had been vir- tually nonexistent. I was unsure whether or not I would be able to relate to the students well enough to be able

    to convey these ideas." In other words, this student teacher felt competent with her knowledge of the content of art education, but was concerned with her ability to relate this content effectively to her students. The absence of com- ments focusing on art content in the reflective essays as a whole indicates that other student teachers were more concerned with other issues as well.

    Many of the student teachers expressed surprise at what had con- cerned them in the beginning of their student teaching experience. One wrote, "After rereading my reflections, slight details that I worried over and made out to be a bigger deal than they really were do not have the same impact." Another wrote, "From the first reflections I seemed frightened and timid. I was concerned about every detail and could not enjoy the students or the experience." These student teachers saw that initially they were worried about things that actually were less important in effective teaching than they had first assumed.

    Several student teachers recognized that they had been overwhelmed by the extent of effort and planning required to be successful. For example, one wrote that when the supervising teacher first gave her the responsibility for a class she was "horrified." She explained, "I remember students not responding to me at all, and I wanted to hide somewhere.... Just having that one class was almost overwhelming. I even- tually had all the classes phased in and never phased out. For about two days, I wasn't sure I liked all the responsibili- ty." Another student teacher explained that initially sh...


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