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Being and Becoming Reflexive in Teacher Education

Abstract
Initial teacher education is constantly in the spotlight regarding its quality and its effectiveness. The literature contains many claims from those who believe that it is ineffectual. The notion of the reflective practitioner was introduced and embraced as an antidote to these claims, and as an approach to break the influence of technocratic beliefs and expectations which pre-service teachers bring with them to their initial teacher education. Typically reflection targets the practicum experience. However, this study focuses specifically on the contribution of course work to the development of a reflective beginning teacher. This qualitative study invited pre-service teachers to provide insight into their initial teacher education experience: initially within a Teaching of Science methods paper, and then some 18 months later at the conclusion of their three year Bachelor of Education (Teaching) professional preparation. A critical reflexive interpretive methodology which sought authenticity within its meaning-making process developed from an initial consideration of self-study research methodology. Of particular importance was that the enquiry was authentic, participants' voices were valued and recognition was given to the implications embedded within the context within which the study occurred. Methods of data collection included in phase one were: a pre-course questionnaire, a Gestalt-like activity, and pre-service teachers' email reflections based on Hoban's (2000a) categories of learning influences, and meta-reflections from the Teaching of Science paper. The journal I kept during this phase was also drawn upon as data. Phase two data collection included a vignette, and a three part final questionnaire to which 40 pre-service teachers and nine teacher educators responded. The findings suggest that pre-service teachers' understanding of the nature of education is critical to the way in which they experience the course work within initial teacher education. This understanding shapes their perception and consideration lens through which course work is experienced. On entrance to initial teacher education this lens is described, for many pre-service teachers, as technocratic. Education is seen as a commodity, something to acquire, teaching is telling and initial teacher education is dependent on the teacher educator providing the necessary tools and techniques so the beginning teacher can do the right thing. This study suggests that such a stance toward educational experiences is a hindrance mechanism when teacher educators seek transformative teaching, learning, and reflexivity. However, when that view of education is as a process of growth and transformation toward a valued 'way of being', the perspective and consideration lens is described as professional. Rather than focusing on what a teacher does, the focus is on whom the teacher is and how this influences the teaching and learning process. Teacher educators and the institution which is the context within which course work occurs also demonstrate a mixture of technocratic and professional lenses. Important factors within initial teacher education which contribute to transformation from technocratic to professional lens include relational and pedagogical connectedness. These factors lead to valuing, ownership and justification of learning where assessment tasks are tools for personal development and where critical consideration of multiple perspectives has an important role. Relational connectedness (to self, peers, and teacher educators) is important for developing a safe, but challenging, dialogical space in which paradoxes, challenges and pre-service teachers' vulnerable sense of disorientation may be engaged. Pedagogical connectedness relates to the fit between what the teacher educator says and does. For example, a powerful approach to learning is where the pre-service teachers learn to be reflexive, by being reflexive. The study indicates the importance of institutional congruency so that what is espoused is experienced through language, assessment, teaching approaches and contextual culture. However, pre-service teachers' perception and consideration lens determines the degree to which course work is transformational. Where a technocratic lens is dominant, reflection becomes a task to be completed. Where a professional lens is dominant, reflection becomes an iterative process for improving practice by becoming professionally self aware through identifying assumptions in decisions and responses within the learning/teaching relationship, and judging those assumptions for their appropriateness in the light of a developing and critiqued personally owned educational vision.
Type
Thesis
Type of thesis
Series
Citation
Norsworthy, B. E. (2008). Being and Becoming Reflexive in Teacher Education (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2658
Date
2008
Publisher
The University of Waikato
Supervisors
Rights
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