Developing The Understanding And Competence Of Teachers And Teacher Trainees

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It is noteworthy therefore, that many writers in the field of teacher education such as, (Loughram: 1996; Richards: 1995; Cruickshan and Applegate: 1981; Dewy: 1910) have sought to define this word. A according to Richards (1995:1) the concept of reflection or critical reflection indicates to " an activity or process in which an experience is recalled, considered and evaluated, usually in relation to broader purpose. It is a response to past experience and involves conscious recall and examination of the experience as a basis for evaluation and decision-making and as a source for planning and action."

It is defined also by Cruickshan and Applegate (1981:553) as "helping teacher to think about what happened, why it happened and what else they could have done to reach their goal." Furthermore, reflection is considered "the deliberate and purposeful act of thinking which centres on ways of responding to problem situations" (Loughram: 1996).

Accordingly, it is noted that they agree that reflective teachers employ cognitive processes in order to solve the problems which might face them in their daily professional practice. On the other hand, the notion of reflective thinking traced back to Dewey (1910) which refers to "problem framing, identifying alternative solutions and choosing from options according to the outcome we want and the situation at hand" (Dewey: 1910 cited in Roberts: 1998).

The main reasons for the adoption of reflective approach and reflective thinking:

There are many reasons for the adoption of reflective approach and reflective thinking in teacher development programs which I think they are considered positive aspects. One of these aspects is that reflective approach provides a solution for teachers to shift from the routinised and automatic acts in their classroom situations and enables them to possess awareness about the kinds of decisions which they might make in their teaching and choosing the consequences of their instructional decisions. This can be achieved through reflecting on one's teaching as a step towards change in their teaching way (Richards: 1995).Because, according to (ibid: 1995) teachers who utilised reflective analysis in their own teaching admitted that it is a valuable element for professional growth and self - evaluation.

Another positive aspect is that the adoption of reflective thinking in teacher education can be considered a beneficial factor because, as Posner (1989) points out, when students teachers have the reflective thinking they will have new teaching ways instead of being tradition and have the possibility to interpret new experiences derived from their fresh ideas as a result of reflective thinking. Further more, reflective thinking will enable teachers to possess a philosophical approach to teach coherently, because by developing this kind of thinking they have the ability to integrate various types of knowledge which could be received during their teacher development program.

On the other hand, it is important to note that reflection which is the basic component in reflection approach and reflective thinking has many advantages which can not be ignored. One of these advantages is that we can achieve the personal growth through reflection, because it makes us free from single views of situations which might hinder our thinking in defining problems and finding solutions. Moreover, problems which might face teachers can be reframed in different ways by reflection. Thus, providing a wide range of possible ideas then, helping teachers to have a wide range of possible solutions (Dewey: 1910 cited in Roberts: 1998). Additionally, when teachers use reflection they will have the ability to think about educational aspects of their work and raise awareness of important ethical and moral questions (Van Manen: 1977). However, it is worth noted to mention the importance of critical reflection as Richards (1998) indicates it enables teacher to have comprehension knowledge about themselves as teachers as a result, they can be prepared well to have a decision about their own teaching. This view can be supported by Dewey in 1904 when he pointed out that "preparing teachers to be critically reflective about their practice may be more important in long term than focussing on mastery of the techniques and skills" (Dewey: 1904 cited in Richards: 1998:152).

On the other hand, reflective teachers characterise by positive features according to the finding of a longitudinal study conducted by Korthagen and Wubbels (1995) regarded to teacher education program in Utrecht. These features include: First, reflective teacher have the ability to structure situations and problems. Second, they can evaluate their experience by using questioning approach for example, asking questions such as, why and how this happened in their own teaching. Third, they possess strong feeling of personal security and self - efficacy and able to analyze and describe experience and interaction perfectly. Fourth, they are independent learners because they have clear understanding about what they need to learn.

Hence, from what discussed above, we can see that reflective approach and reflective thinking play an important role which can not be ignored in teacher development programs.

The underlying principles of reflective approach:

Since reflection is considered an important element in reflective approach, writers such as (Dewey: 1910, 1933; Schön: 1983; Wallace: 1991) gave a great deal of discussion based on it. I am going to analyse the principles of reflective approach based on their discussions as follows:

The principles based on Dewey's account:

According to Dewey (1910:1933) reflective thinking is the basis of deliberative thought. In his perspective, disciplined deliberative thinking is seen as a basis for personal progress and citizenship (Roberts: 1998). Moreover, in order to reflect effectively, teachers should develop particular skills, for instance, observation and reasoning and should possess some sort of qualities such as, responsibility, open - minded and wholeheartedness (Dewey: 1933 cited in Griffiths: 2000). However, there are three types of action according to him comprised: first, reflective action which is based on "the active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it" (Dewey: 1933:9 cited in Griffiths: 2000). This action can be motivated through the need to solve a particular problem and it is important to take into account educational purposes and moral and ethical nature (ibid).Second, impulsive action which is relied on "trial and error". Third, routine action which is based on tradition and control and in this kind of action, Dewey believes that teachers' actions are depend on preconception and prejudice and it is important in teaching. Both impulsive action and routine action come under unthinking ways of behaving (ibid).

But, it is noted that there is a shortcoming with this account in that his idea of teaching as routine action is unjustified, because some writers such as, Furlong and Maynard (1995:45) considered routine action "does not capture the multi-facetedness, unpredictability and sheer complexity of teaching."

The principles based on Schön's account:

It could be seen that the principles of reflective approach seem to be different from the perspective of Schön (1983) because he possesses different ideas about reflection. To illustrate, the concept of teaching according to him is considered a complicated process in which teaching situations can be interpreted, shaped and changed by teachers who actively engage in this process (Griffiths: 2000). Moreover, the principle of reflection-in-action is identified by him as the central element to professional practice, because reflection-in-action appears when professionals tackle a situation which is considered unique or containing an element of surprise rather than attempt to apply past experience or theory directly, then their repertoire of examples is used in order to build new understanding of the situation and finding new solutions. This step itself produces new reflection-in-action (ibid).

On the other hand, the process of reflection characterises by three key features: First, it is not necessarily to be articulated, because it is a conscious process. Second, it is a critical process because asking questions and restructing can be used. Third, it is immediate which leads to immediate action (Schön: 1987). Hence, it is noteworthy that Schön agrees with the description of reflection provided by Dewey mentioned above in section(2.1), yet they are different in that Schön believes that reflection-in-action is the significant goal of professional education because it is considered the essence of expertise and this element in expertise is a type of real time reframing (Robert:1991).

However, it is noted that there are some limitations with this view because, first, it is restricted, it can be applied solely to one aspect of professional expertise not to expertise in general. Second, there is no empirical evidence which can prove that it exists. Third, it is vague, because there is no clarification of how reflection-in-action is different from the general concept of reflection-on-action (ibid).On the other hand, Eraut (1995) points out that the evidence in clarifying Schön's view was relied on critical cases where teachers had to engage in problem-solving instead of the analysis of normal daily practice.

Wallace's reflective model:

The principles of reflective approach in Wallace's reflective model emphasis that there are two important types of knowledge which should be included in teacher education courses comprised: First, received knowledge and second, experiential knowledge. The first refers to all concepts, skills and theories that trainees received through their academic study or from other sources such as, reading books. The second refers to the knowledge based on trainees' past experience in their teaching practice (Wallace: 1991). Wallace's model, however, is separated into three stages as follows:

The pr- training stage.

The professional education/development stage.

The professional competence stage.

It is demonstrated in figure (4.1) below.

To put it more simple, in the first stage there is believe that teachers trainees who engaged in professional education do not come with blank minds. In other words, they have already the idea of good and bad teacher that is to say, what Wallace refers to "trainee's existing conceptual schemata or mental constructs" (Wallace: 49:1991). In the second stage, the professional development is achieved by theory and practice that is what he refers to as a cyclical process. In other words, the received knowledge and the experiential knowledge are integrated together. To illustrate, once students teachers engaged into classroom environment, they have the ability to discover a real framework of teaching and have awareness of the differences of classroom situations. Accordingly, their performance will be recalled during their teaching practice. For example, they will ask questions such as, how could some experienced teachers tackle with those situations and how they themselves can deal with them. Thus, they can evaluate their professional performance by reflecting upon their classroom activities. As a result, the positive and negative sides of their teaching strategy will be discovered. Hence, they will be professional educators and have the professional competence which is the aim of the third stage (ibid).

Although, Wallace's reflective model can be applied in both pre-service and in-service education, yet from the principles drew above. It is noted that there are some limitations, because there is an important question should be asked here, is the experience shared among teachers because it seems to be private. Another limitation lies in participant's school culture might not encourage reflection.