Teacher Education and Models of Teacher Reflection

Teacher Education and Models of Teacher Reflection

Teacher Education and Models of Teacher Reflection V K LaBoskey, Mills College, Oakland, CA, USA ã 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Defining R...

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Teacher Education and Models of Teacher Reflection V K LaBoskey, Mills College, Oakland, CA, USA ã 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Defining Reflection One would be hard-pressed to locate a teacher education program in the world today that does not somehow express interest in the promotion of teacher reflection. Indeed, the notion has become so deeply embedded in conceptualizations of teaching and learning to teach that many no longer see the need to make such an orientation explicit in the descriptions of their programs. On the one hand, this could be perceived as a good thing – the inherent value of reflective practice is no longer in question. On the other hand, it can mean that educators are not paying enough attention to the meaning or effectiveness of its definition, intent, implementation, or outcome. Furthermore, consistency of use can too often be assumed and significant differences overlooked; this failure to problematize teacher reflection can diminish its potential and undermine progress. The aim of this article is to draw attention to the similarities and differences in current understandings and applications of reflection in teacher education and offer a conceptual framework for refocusing and reinvigorating the work in this arena. It begins with an articulation of common definitions of teacher reflection, looking first at the roots of this notion in the scholarship of John Dewey and Donald Scho¨n. The aspects of these long-standing formulations that seem to persist, crossing temporal and contextual boundaries, are identified. The fine-tuning that has occurred over time, as well as the most widespread shifts in emphasis, are then portrayed. Employing this generalized definition as a lens, a framework for identifying and differentiating the most prevalent models of reflection now existing in teacher education is presented. The framework consists of three interrelated continua: purpose, content, and means. This discussion concludes with a consideration of the implications of these variations, along with recommendations for how the continua might be utilized to inform and enhance subsequent steps with regard to the research and practice of reflective teacher education. Historical Roots Rodgers (2002), one of the many scholars concerned with the role of reflective thinking in both teachers’ and students’ learning, worries that ‘‘reflection has suffered from a loss of meaning. In becoming everything to everybody, it has lost its ability to be seen’’ (p. 843). In order to

prevent that from happening, she revisits four of the main criteria that characterized Dewey’s original conceptualization of the term: 1. Reflection is a meaning-making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationships with and connections to other experiences and ideas. It is the thread that makes continuity of learning possible, and ensures the progress of the individual and, ultimately, society. It is a means to essentially moral ends. 2. Reflection is a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking, with its roots in scientific inquiry. 3. Reflection needs to happen in community, in interaction with others. 4. Reflection requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others. (Rodgers, 2002: 845). The result of Rodgers’ subsequent analysis is a reminder that, if engaged as Dewey intended, reflection is the means by which human beings learn from their experiences so as to improve themselves and their society. It is the only way for making meaning that is justified – empirically, theoretically, morally – and thus educators ignore its systematic articulation and development at their peril, particularly with regard to teacher education, where the learning of both the novice teachers and their future students is the essence of the endeavor. The field of teacher education would do well, in other words, to revisit Dewey’s (1938) definition of reflection: ‘‘Active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends’’ (p. 9). It needs, therefore, to be both the means of reflective teacher education and the end toward which it aims – the preparation of teachers who both embrace this process of making meaning from experience for themselves and conceptualize and facilitate their students’ learning in the same way. Certainly, these two core ideas are fairly universal in the field and seldom contested. Teacher educators agree that reflection is a means for candidates to learn from practice, which can subsequently be employed to improve that practice. But the details of the why, what, and how of this process can vary greatly. Many in the field concur that one of the main reasons reflection has become so widely embraced in recent years and so well integrated into teacher education is the work



Teacher Education – Preservice Teacher Education

of Donald Scho¨n (1983). The magnitude of his impact is in part due to the fact that he considered reflective practice to be synonymous with professional thinking. Reflection is not merely contemplation or recollection, and not only for the purpose of learning; it is problem based and action directed. It is the means by which professionals can solve their problems of practice in meaningful and ever more effective ways. The terms he used to identify the two ways of engaging the process – reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action – make that connection explicit. By suggesting that the latter is even a possibility, he helped shift attention to the enactment and outcome of reflective deliberation. Key to successful problem solving, in Scho¨n’s view, is the ability to frame – and reframe – a problem of practice appropriately, since that determines and delimits the solutions sought and generated. In general, teacher education embraced these notions and over the last several years has given particular attention to making better connections between theory and practice and to helping novices learn the skills and dispositions necessary to reflection on and in action. But ironically, this widespread acceptance may have contributed to the loss of meaning and the invisibility to which Rodgers (2002) referred. Consequently, those who encourage another resurgence of interest in teacher reflection are doing so by fine-tuning its definition and by emphasizing particular aims and expectations for both the process and its results. Recent Developments Many of the characterizations of reflective teacher education that emerged just prior to or during the Scho¨n revitalization included categorizations of various types of reflection. Van Manen (1977), for instance, identified three levels of reflectivity: practical/technical, social/ political, and moral/ethical. Though he, and many others, suggested that the practical/technical was of a lower level and thus not the ultimate aim, it was nonetheless viable as a focus or form of reflection. One of the widespread changes occurring in the field in recent years is the elimination of the practical/technical as a stand-alone category, which was actually advocated by both Dewey and Scho¨n. Donahue (2005), for instance, in discussing the meaning of reflection in the teacher education program at Mills College states: ‘‘While some policymakers, textbook publishers, parents, and perhaps even teachers think of teaching as merely a technical activity of implementing curriculum according to established criteria, most teachers appreciate that teaching is intellectual work and reflection is a vital means of nurturing the intellectual dimension of teaching’’ (p. 40). Apparent in this statement is the assumption that reflective teaching is different from technical teaching. Most teacher education programs engaged with reflective teaching at present accept that, at the very least, they

need to be attentive to the substantive learning and the transformed thinking of their student teachers. Feiman-Nemser (2001), when writing about how to strengthen and sustain teaching for the future, makes the following claim: ‘‘After decades of school reform, a consensus is building that the quality of our nation’s schools depends on the quality of our nation’s teachers. . . . This paper rests on a single premise with far-reaching consequences—if we want schools to produce more powerful learning on the part of students, we have to offer more powerful learning opportunities to teachers’’ (pp. 1013–1014). In their preservice programs, then, student teachers need to engage in cycles of reflective inquiry in order to ‘‘begin forming the habits and skills necessary for the ongoing study of teaching in the company of colleagues’’ (p. 1019). Korthagen and Vasalos (2005) articulate a comparable recommendation in greater detail. They advocate for a structured support process aimed at the promotion of core reflection, that which is focused on the deepest levels of a student teacher’s personality – mission and identity. The means for facilitating this type of reflection is through their ALACT model, which consists of five phases: action, looking back on the action, awareness of essential aspects, creating alternative methods of action, and trial. It bears much resemblance to the typical action research cycle, but gives greater emphasis to the affective dimension of the learning to teach process and to the need for surfacing and exploring contradictions between a candidate’s identity and mission and her beliefs and behaviors. Several in the field at present, while applauding this insistence on deeper learning and transformed beliefs, consider it to be a necessary but not sufficient effort. Also essential is greater specification of the ends toward which reflective teaching is directed. Those in this camp are reemphasizing the moral imperative inherent in Dewey’s original definition: ‘‘I will argue that efforts to prepare teachers who are reflective must both foster genuine teacher development and support the realization of greater equity and social justice in schooling and the larger society’’ (Zeichner, 1996, p. 201). This implies that a certain set of criteria be applied in determining whether the solutions teachers develop for their problems of practice are meaningful and effective – the aim of professional reflection, according to Scho¨n. What is more, the nature of the problems that are detected and the ways in which they are framed are challenged by this orientation, thus calling into question the terminology itself and its accompanying protocols: ‘‘This involves framing certain educational issues as dilemmas rather than problems with clear solutions and deliberating thoughtfully about decisions that involve competing claims to justice’’ (CochranSmith, 2004, p. 15). In essence, these teacher educators are stressing the fact that reflection in teaching and teacher education is a means to other ends and not an end in itself. The two,

Teacher Education and Models of Teacher Reflection

however, are necessarily linked; learning to teach for social justice requires taking what Cochran-Smith refers to as an inquiry stance toward practice. The candidates must, therefore, reflect on their ideas and actions in critical inquiry communities where issues of equity are raised and fundamental assumptions, prejudices, and even values are interrogated. Others who stress similar types of political and ethical outcomes employ the idea of reflection in a comparable way. Kumashiro (2002), who engages with what he calls antioppressive teacher education, argues that typical forms of self-reflection are not enough unless they include the exposure and interruption of the harmful repetitions embedded in both intentional and unintentional teaching activity. What is noticeable in these representative descriptions of the purpose and facilitation of reflection in contemporary teacher education programs is the frequency with which terms like inquiry and teacher research are utilized. In many instances, they are considered to be synonymous with reflective teaching – the expressions are used interchangeably. For many teacher educators, taking an inquiry orientation to practice is the same as reflective teaching. Thus, various forms of teacher inquiry are considered to be the means by which student teachers engage in and learn about reflection on and in practice. In surveying 12 European preservice and in-service programs about their conceptions of reflective practice, Clarke and Chambers (1999) found that many equated it with action research. In fact, several who favored such approaches never used the term reflection with regard to their programs at all, which tends to validate Rodgers’ previously mentioned concerns. Others consider inquiry and reflection to be somewhat different endeavors; in this volume, for instance, there are separate articles on models of reflection in teacher education and inquiry-oriented preparation programs. In either case, more explicit exploration of the relationship between the two is needed. The following section presents a framework for differentiating models of teacher reflection that might be useful in that regard.

Models of Reflective Teacher Education The literature on reflection in teacher education can be categorized according to the foci suggested by Donahue (2005): ‘‘In defining reflection, theorists have wrestled with questions of why teachers reflect, what they reflect about, and how they reflect’’ (p. 39). In part, this selectivity is an artifact of the research and reporting process – the circumscription necessary to a meaningful and manageable investigation or essay. But in many instances, these delimitations also represent a differentiation in the philosophies and priorities guiding the design and implementation of particular reflective teacher education programs. Consequently, these categories should be useful for


making distinctions among the programs. In addition, there is considerable within-category variation that might best be characterized by three nondevelopmental continua – purpose, content, and means. These continua are interrelated, meaning that where a model of teacher reflection placed on one continuum tends to suggest where it would or should be placed on the others. These three continua, therefore, have the potential to be utilized as a framework for identifying, differentiating, and ultimately constructing and evaluating models of reflection in teacher education. In the next section, each continuum is described in more detail, drawing upon examples from the literature and the generalized definitions previously summarized for illustration and explanation. Then the ways in which the three seem to interrelate in theory and practice are discussed, thereby demonstrating the conceptual integrity of the conglomerate and its potential as an analytical framework for the design, critique, and transformation of reflective teacher education. Purpose This continuum is concerned with the aim of the reflective process – why student teachers engage in reflection and what should be gained from that endeavor On one end of the continuum (let us say the left end to facilitate comparison with the other continua) is a focus on the development of the lifelong learning and problem-solving capacities of individual candidates. On the other end (let us say the right end) the focus is on the transformation of social institutions and systems in ways more consistent with democracy, equity, and social justice. What is important to clarify here, especially in this first discussion, is that this is not a developmental continuum. It is not meant to imply that attention to student teacher learning is at a lower level or a less important area of concern than attention to social transformation. Nor should it suggest that the intention is to move a student teacher or a teacher education program through a series of stages that culminate in an exclusive focus on changing society. What the continuum does convey is a viable range of options. Any purpose not inclusive of at least one end of the continuum would not be consistent with the current and long-standing definitions of reflection described above. For instance, a technical orientation intended simply to aid novices in applying preexisting curricular packages would not be considered reflective teacher education because it is outside the range; it could not be placed anywhere on this continuum. Furthermore, programs and interventions that do not attend at all to an articulation of its ultimate goals would not qualify as a model of teacher reflection. What the continuum also embodies are the multiple possibilities for combining both aims. Anywhere on the continuum, aside from the extreme ends, represents some combination of the two.


Teacher Education – Preservice Teacher Education

The middle point, therefore, signifies a full and balanced integration of both aims. In applying this analytical tool to the literature review, several programs and projects that could be located near the left end of the continuum were discovered. They were concerned with the meaningful learning of individual student teachers and with the development of the attitudes and skills of reflection on and in action that would ensure lifelong growth and ever-improving practice. Feiman-Nemser (2001), for instance, argued for the need to place ‘‘serious and sustained teacher learning at the center of school reform’’ (p. 1014). Though this perspective may be closer to the middle of the continuum, she characterizes improvement primarily in terms of more powerful student learning. Though this is a critical component of institutional and social transformation, it does not include the interrogation and undoing of embedded inequitable and oppressive structures so fundamental to the social-justice end of this continuum. In contrast, programs or practices near the right end of the continuum were difficult to locate. To be sure, the number of reflective teacher education programs that consider more equitable institutions and just societies to be their ultimate aim is increasing. But these also embrace the goal of individual growth, which would situate them closer to the center of the continuum. In fact, most would consider one to be impossible without the other. On the one hand, social transformation is not achievable without individual teacher transformation and, on the other, improvement in teaching is meaningless in the absence of excellent and equitable outcomes for all learners both within school and beyond. Such a finding might suggest a need to refine the continuum in the future, but at any rate, it does not seem to interfere with its analytical potential, or that of the other continua.

responding to problem situations in teaching and learning’’ (Loughran, 1996, p. 14). Like Loughran, most teacher education programs that direct reflection toward problems of practice insist on attention to the relationship between teaching and learning. A teacher’s beliefs, knowledge, or behavior cannot be understood, evaluated, or improved irrespective of an assessment of student learning. But again, only a few raise questions about whether or not those student outcomes represent greater equity or improved social justice. Those who do refer to social justice seldom incorporate explicit deliberations about the larger context or include challenges to the ways in which typical modes of educational problem solving may reify those structures. Also as above, few programs seemed to situate themselves at the far right end of the content continuum. Those who insist that student teachers reflect about systemic inequities, also emphasize the need for individuals to interrogate their own beliefs and practices in that regard, which would be at the center of the continuum. Gitlin (2005), for instance, proposes the following: ‘‘what needs to occur at a fundamental level to confront oppression and move toward any form of social justice is to make everyday politics the object of inquiry’’ (p. 15). This requires reflection on oneself and one’s cultural community as well as that of the other, and to determine what traditions of interaction between the two protect the repressive status quo so that those conventions can be disrupted. Noteworthy here is that such models of teacher reflection do not simply represent a straightforward combination of the two ends of the continuum. In these exemplars, the nature of self-reflection is different; it reframes the problems of practice using the equity lens. The means for promoting such reflection, though similarly variable, seem to be somewhat less transfigurative.



This continuum is concerned with the content of reflection – what it is that student teachers are reflecting on and about. It constitutes the target and the source for the issues and dilemmas addressed by the reflective process. At the left end of the continuum, attention is directed toward the student teacher – his/her internal processing and external actions, and often, the relationship between the two. At the right end, novices interrogate the inequities embedded in educational institutions and systems and the societal structures, norms, and discourses they represent and validate. As in the previous instance, more examples could be found for the left side of the continuum. Many teacher education programs consider the primary impetus for teacher reflection to be the problems of practice that they encounter: ‘‘I define reflection as the deliberate and purposeful act of thinking which centers on ways of

This continuum is concerned with how student teachers engage in the reflective process and how they learn to do so. At the left end of this continuum are means for facilitating and encouraging the interrogation and improvement of personal assumptions, knowledge, and pedagogy. At the right end are means for fostering the capacities and propensities necessary for political activism. The vast majority of current research into reflective teacher education seems to be concerned with this continuum – figuring out how to teach and support student teacher reflection, as well as ensure that candidates incorporate it into their practice for the long term. In these instances, the purpose and content, though not the direct objects of attention, are often mentioned in the course of process description or implied by the evaluative structures used to interpret the effects. Thus, an approximate placement on all three continua is usually possible.

Teacher Education and Models of Teacher Reflection

As with the others, most programmatic efforts for fostering reflection would be placed on the left half of the continuum. They are directed toward helping individual student teachers learn the skills and dispositions necessary for engaging in reflection on and in practice both during the program and throughout their careers. They represent efforts to help student teachers take an inquiry orientation to practice – to frame and reframe their practical problems, design and implement powerful pedagogies, and analyze and evaluate student learning outcomes – so that they can learn from their actions, develop their professional knowledge base, and engage in more effective teaching. These studies explore the potential benefits of a whole range of very specific strategies, for example, journals, seminars, mentoring, coaching, metaphor production, action research, reading groups, autobiography, mural-making, dramatic enactment, and so on. Other investigations consider more holistic interventions, such as Korthagen’s ALACT model for reflection (Korthagen and Vasalos, 2005). There is a growing body of literature, referred to as self-study, where the teacher educator researchers are equally concerned with their own learning and development through various forms of investigative research that include similar varieties of reflective deliberation (Loughran et al., 2004). Some of these studies that address the hows of reflection also examine means for helping student teachers, and often their teacher educators, to interrogate and transform their deeply held beliefs, assumptions, and understandings using the lens of equity and social justice. They endeavor to undo existing prejudices and help develop a critical stance toward the processes of teaching and learning, again through particular interventions or through a more pervasive structure, such as the principled-practice approach utilized at Mills College (Kroll et al., 2005). These models would be located nearer to the center of the continuum, especially if, as in the latter case, they also advocate for instruction that will prepare novice teachers and their students for civic engagement and encourage them to ‘‘join with others in larger movements for educational and social equity’’ (Cochran-Smith, 2004, p. 159). Again, it means that there are no models on the far right end of this continuum. Instead, those who attempt to include strategies for nurturing political activism also engage means for the development of the social-reconstructionist dimension of teaching. The center position is, in that sense, more additive than transformative; it adds large-scale involvement to the already-reframed critical pedagogies.

Implications As noted above, most of the readings in this domain were targeted at just one of the continua, especially individual articles or chapters, in part due to the limitations of time


and space. But even in those instances, placements on the other dimensions could often be inferred. If a study was investigating the impact of a strategy for promoting critical reflection, for instance, the goal of greater social justice was either stated or implied and the content for reflection tended to incorporate systemic traditions. But, the framework was also useful in detecting potential contradictions. If a model claimed to have the aim of promoting social justice, but did not include structural inequities in their investigatory content, that purpose might be called into question. At any rate, it was clear that the three continua are and should be consistent with one another in a coherent model of reflection in teacher education and thus together can serve as a framework for future analysis and development. Purpose, content, and means are, therefore, three foci to which all teacher education programs concerned with the promotion of teacher reflection need to give serious attention in both their deliberations and enactments. Even though all research studies cannot focus on all three at once and there can be great benefit from isolated attention to programmatic details, the other dimensions must always be considered in both the framing and interpretation of those investigations. To be considered a viable model for teacher reflection in teacher education, the purpose, content, and means of these models must be articulated and there needs to be consistency among them with regard to placement on the continua. If the fundamental purpose of education is considered to be greater democracy, equity, and social justice for children and for the world, reflective teacher education programs must be designed and enacted so that they could be situated at the center of all three continua. See also: Inquiry-Oriented Teacher Education; Self-Study by Teacher Educators.

Bibliography Clarke, B. L. and Chambers, P. A. (1999). The promotion of reflective practice in European teacher education: Conceptions, purposes and actions. Pedagogy, Culture and Society 7, 291–303. Cochran-Smith, M. (2004). Walking the Road: Race, Diversity, and Social Justice in Teacher Education. New York: Teachers College Press. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Collier BooksMacmillan. Donahue, D. M. (2005). Preparing and supporting the reflective practitioner. In Kroll, L. R., Cossey, R., Donahue, D. M., et al. (eds.) Teaching as Principled Practice: Managing Complexity for Social Justice, pp 35–56. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record 103, 1013–1055. Gitlin, A. (2005). Inquiry, imagination, and the search for a deep politic. Educational Researcher 34, 15–24. Korthagen, F. and Vasalos, A. (2005). Levels in reflection: Core reflection as a means to enhance professional growth. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice 11, 47–71.


Teacher Education – Preservice Teacher Education

Kroll, L. R., Cossey, R., Donahue, D. M., et al. (eds.) (2005). Teaching as Principled Practice: Managing Complexity for Social Justice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Kumashiro, K. K. (2002). Against repetition: Addressing resistance to anti-oppressive change in the practices of learning, teaching, supervising, and researching. Harvard Educational Review 72, 67–92. Loughran, J. J. (1996). Developing Reflective Practice: Learning about Teaching and Learning through Modeling. London: Falmer Press. Loughran, J. J., Hamilton, M. L., LaBoskey, V. K., and Russell, T. (2004). International Handbook of Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Rodgers, C. (2002). Defining reflection: Another look at John Dewey and reflective thinking. Teachers College Record 104, 842–866. Scho¨n, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books. Van Manen, M. (1977). Linking ways of knowing with ways of being practical. Curriculum Inquiry 6, 205–228. Zeichner, K. (1996). Teachers as reflective practitioners and the democratization of school reform. In Zeichner, K., Melnick, S., and Gomez, M. L. (eds.) Currents of Reform in Preservice Teacher Education, pp 199–214. New York: Teachers College Press.

Further Reading Bruner, J. (1996). The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dewey, J. (1910). How We Think. New York: Heath. Ghaye, T. (2000). Into the reflective mode: Bridging the stagnant moat. Reflective Practice 1, 5–9. Hamilton, M. L. (ed.) (1998). Reconceptualizing Teaching Practice: SelfStudy in Teacher Education. London: Falmer Press. Kraft, N. P. (2002). Teacher research as a way to engage in critical reflection: A case study. Reflective Practice 3, 175–189. LaBoskey, V. K. (1994). Development of Reflective Practice. New York: Teachers College Press. LaBoskey, V. K. (1997). Teaching to teach with purpose and passion: Pedagogy for reflective practice. In Loughran, J. and Russell, T. (eds.) Teaching about Teaching: Purpose, Passion and Pedagogy in Teacher Education, pp 150–163. London: Falmer Press. Loughran, J. J. (2002). Effective reflective practice: In search of meaning in learning about teaching. Journal of Teacher Education 53, 33–43. Lyons, N. and LaBoskey, V. K. (eds.) (2002). Narrative Inquiry in Practice: Advancing the Knowledge of Teaching. New York: Teachers College Press. McEntee, G. H., Appleby, J., Dowd, J., et al. (eds.) (2003). At the Heart of Teaching: A Guide to Reflective Practice. New York: Teachers College Press. Richert, A. E. (ed.) (1993). Special Edition: Reflective Teaching and Teacher Education. Teacher Education Quarterly 20, 5–100. Scho¨n, D. A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

Relevant Website http://www.reflectivepractices.co.uk – Reflective Learning, UK.