What Are the Reflective Practices of Teachers?

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Teachers’ play a significant role in shaping the quality and effectiveness of the teaching and learning practices. Research on effective teaching has shown that effective practice is linked to inquiry, reflection, and continuous professional growth (Harris, 1998). The professional development of teachers takes many forms ranging from activities set by school administration to personal reflective practices about classroom experiences. Schon (1996) defined reflective practice as thoughtfully considering one’s own experiences in applying knowledge to practice while being coached by professionals in the discipline. For teaching, reflective practice refers to the process of the teacher studying his or her own teaching methods and determining what works best for the students. Thus, teachers’ reflective practices are necessary to teach ‘effectively’ and they address an important issue in providing meaningful lessons to students. Elementary teachers as well as the teachers of other grades can be supported to be involved in reflective practices on their own experiences.

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1.1 Rationale

The classroom realization of curriculum reform comes about through the actions of individual teachers (Christou et all, 2004). Teachers’ beliefs, practices, and working environment shape and direct their implementation. Teachers should be able to understand and appreciate the changes that the curriculum is attempting to implement and not otherwise. (Zanzali, 2003)

There is a literature which presents the processes and barriers involved in the implementation of curricular change (e.g. Fullan, 1991; Macnab, 2003). Romberg (1997) showed that the use of a new curriculum in the classroom could create disjunctions between the teacher’s former knowledge and practice, which require resolution. The development and implementation of any curriculum will affect teachers in significant ways and if teachers are not helped in coping with demands brought about by changes in the content, pedagogical and psychological considerations, the implementation process will not be effective.

Experience around the world in developing, industrialized, and information-based countries has shown that professional development is the key determining factor for improved classroom performance. Effective professional development experiences are designed to help teachers build new understanding of teaching and learning (Hea-Jin Lee, 2001). According to Baird and Rowsy (1989), high quality in-service program should be designed if teachers were to benefit from it.

Regardless of particular circumstances, an effective curriculum development process usually entails a structured professional development program in order to guide the curriculum development process. The aim of this study is to investigate elementary teachers’ reflective practices on their mathematics teaching as they are involved in a continuing mathematics teaching professional development program as a consequence of a two mathematics education program integration process at a private elementary school in Ankara.

In this study, two elementary teachers will participate in the study and they will be interviewed in order to get information about their reflective practices on their teaching. In addition to this, those teachers’ lessons will be observed in their classes through the professional development program in order to see their implementation. The participants will also keep reflective journal on their mathematics teaching practices. The findings will contribute to the future in-service training programs in Turkey.

1.2 My motivation for the study

As a mathematics teacher teaching grades from 6 to 8, I realized that students have some problems related to mathematics learning and some of these problems are related to their previous learning experiences in early grades. These problems are brought to the upper grades if they were not solved in the earlier grades. It can be said that, students do not learn well and as we desire and I believe that some of these problems are related to the teaching, in other words, it is directly related to the way we teach the mathematics topics.

In our country, elementary school teachers are responsible for teaching mathematics as well as teaching other subjects. As far as I am concerned, teaching mathematics especially to 4th and 5th grades is difficult for many elementary school teachers. In this respect, teachers, who are teaching in these levels should be supported by means of continuous program that involves several different components such as seminars, lesson observations, interviews, and reflective practices.

By seeing the potential sources of the problem and having some solution ideas, as a mathematics teacher I can provide support for elementary school teachers in my school. That’s why, from my point of view, this study will serve a valuable information in order to understand elementary school teachers’ way of thinking in teaching mathematics by means of their reflective practices.

1.3 Research Question

The research question related to this study is as follows:

What are the elementary teachers’ reflective practices on their mathematics teaching as they are involved in a continuing mathematics teaching professional development program which is developed as a consequence of a two mathematics education program integration process at a private school in Ankara?

CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

The goal of this study is to investigate elementary teachers’ reflective practices on their mathematics teaching as they are involved in a continuing mathematics teaching professional development program as a consequence of a two mathematics education program integration process. This chapter is devoted to the review of literature related to this study. The issues that will be covered in this chapter are the term reflection, reflective practices, and studies on reflection and reflective practice.

What you need is a theory which underlines the reflection. Not for this assignment, but for your TIK and dissertation.

2.1 The term reflection:

Although the term reflection became popular after the studies of Schon, the roots of the term extend to John Dewey. Dewey (1933) claimed the importance of active and deliberate engagement with problematic situations in providing development. He defined reflection as an “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 constitutes reflective thought” (p. 9). According to Dewey (1933), reflection does not consist of a series of steps or procedures to be used by teachers. Rather, it is a holistic way of meeting and responding to problems, a way of being as a teacher. As he stated, reflection involves intuition, emotion, and passion and is not something that can be neatly packaged as a set of techniques for teachers to use (p.9 you give the page number what where is the quote?). Dewey (1933) believed that an individual should to have three profiles in order to reflect; being open-minded, responsible and whole-hearted. These imply openness to new ideas and thoughts, being aware of the meaning and consequences of one’s actions and the capacity to fully engage with new ideas and actively seek them out respectively. He further stated the four-part experiential-reflective cycle showing the relationship between experience, description, interpretation, and action. Rodgers (2002, p. 845 as cited in Lee, 2005) characterized Dewey’s four criteria for reflection as follows: Did you take this directly from your second reference? Or did you paraphrase them?

  1. 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.
  2. Is a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking, with its roots in scientific inquiry.
  3. Needs to happen in community, in interaction with others.
  4. Requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others.

Dewey’s ideas and the idea of professional reflection were developed in the 1980s with the Schon’s (1983) new concepts of ‘reflection-in-action’ and reflection on action. Schon stressed the relationship between reflection and experience and distinguished between `reflection-on- action’ and `reflection-in-action’. While reflection in action can be described as the reflection done during the action, reflection on action is done after the action. Griffiths (2000) stated that, reflection both in and after action is important in order to evaluate and moderate intuitive practice.

Another distinction about the types of reflection is done by Van Manen (1995). He stated that the simplest forms of reflection that regularly occur in teacher education take place before, during, and after teaching, and Van Manen defines them as anticipatory, contemporaneous, and retrospective types of reflection.

2.2 Reflective Practice

Jaworski (1998) defined reflective practice as “a rather thoughtful way of teaching, evaluating what occurs and feeding into future planning without a demand for overt, critical, knowledgeable action” (p.7). Similarly, Schon (1983) defined reflective practice as thoughtfully considering one’s own experiences in applying knowledge to practice while being coached by professionals in the discipline. According to Pollard (2005), “reflective teaching implies an active concern with aims and consequences as well as means and technical competence” (p15). He stated the seven main characteristics of reflective practices as follows: I think instead of listing them in this way, you should combine these in a paragraph. You may use most of your expressions below, but put them through a flow in the paragraph.

  1. Reflective teaching implies an active concern with aims and consequences, as well as means and technical efficiency.
  2. Reflective teaching is applied in a cyclical or spiraling process, in which teachers monitor, evaluate and revise their own practice continuously.
  3. Reflective teaching requires competence in methods of evidence-based classroom enquiry, to support the progressive development of higher standards of teaching.
  4. Reflective teaching requires attitudes of open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness.
  5. Reflective teaching is based on teacher judgment, informed by evidence- based enquiry and insights from other research.
  6. Reflective teaching, professional learning and personal fulfillment are enhanced by dialogue with colleagues.
  7. Reflective teaching enables teachers to creatively mediate externally developed frameworks for teaching and learning.

McKenna (1999 as cited in Jay and Johnson, 2002) listed the characteristics of practitioner who is ‘reflective’ by saying he;

  1. focuses on some dimension of their pedagogy;
  2. sees that dimension from a variety of perspectives using techniques of reframing and reflective listening; and
  3. engages in dialogue with their peers in order to illuminate the boundaries and frames of thought which limited their current perspective, with the goal being to take action based on a thorough and reflective understanding of events, alternatives, and ethics (p. 13). Again, you have page number but where the quote begins and ends (quotation marks) is missing. Instead, you should write these in your own words in a paragraph.

2.3 Studies on reflection and reflective practice

Try to avoid talking about the article. Instead, talk about the study or the ideas presented. Griffiths (2000), discussed the term reflection as it relates to teachers and teacher education. She drew particularly on Schon’s (YEAR) definitions of two types of reflection, which are reflection-in-action and refection-on-action. In the article, differing definitions of reflection and their inter-relationship are explored, and how these relate to courses of initial teacher education in a variety of countries and cultural contexts is discussed. In addition to this, questions about the value and purpose of reflection were also raised, especially in the context of its practical relevance to teacher education.

Another study is done by Jay and Johnson (2002) who explored the facets of reflection. They provided a typology designed to guide teacher educators in teaching reflection to pre-service teachers. After a short review on reflection, they defined the term reflection, reflection process and its content, and the typology of reflection is presented. The profile of typology consisted of three dimensions of reflective thought which are descriptive, comparative, and critical.

In her article Frid (2000) discussed that although it has framed many mathematics teacher education practices in the last decade, it has ultimately not had substantial impact on classroom practices yet. Therefore she examined some reasons for this lack of impact. In the article, the stages and foci of teacher development are underlined from the stage of beginning student teacher to an autonomous teacher. In this paper the importance of broadening and embracing constructivist pedagogy more fully were mentioned in order to provide ways for the development of student teachers as professionals who have technical knowledge and skills as well as capacities for life long learning, flexibility and autonomy.

Jaworski (2006) defined teaching as learning practice and she addressed the challenge of developing theory in relation to the practices of mathematics teaching and its development. She specially dealt with inquiry in mathematics learning, mathematics teaching and the development of practices of teaching in communities involving teachers and educators. Jaworski handle the inquiry as a tool which can lead to developing inquiry as a way of being when practiced as part of a community, in which members collaborate, as learners to develop their practice. The paper offered some ways for mathematics teaching development.

In his writing, Farell (2008) described the foundations and components of reflective practice to facilitate the use of this approach among educators who work with adult English language learners. He firstly defined the reflective practice by giving briefly the related research and then he mentioned about practice, by discussing some techniques and tools such as action research, teaching journals, teaching development groups. He further discussed the continuum of reflection and how can teachers engage in the reflective practices in order to make continuous development in their career.

As Frid (2000) and Jaworski (2006) mentioned, it is easy to set relationship between constructivism, inquiry method and reflective practices. The importance of reflective teaching is a central component for designing teaching and learning experiences for teachers. (Lowery, 2003, p.23). According to Van Manen (1995) “in everyday life, the practice of pedagogy can only be reflective in a qualified and circumscribed sense” (p.35). Reflective practice occurs when teachers consciously take on the role of reflective practitioner, subject their own beliefs about teaching and learning to critical analysis, take full responsibility for their actions in the classroom, and continue to improve their teaching practice (Farrell, 2008; Jay & Johnson, 2002). Teachers can engage in these reflective practices in a constructivist manner in any time they need to develop themselves.

2.4. Developing a reflective practice-empirical research studies

It is evident that there is an emphasis on the literature that reflection is strongly related with experience, in other words practice. Van Manen (1995) raised some questions about the meaning and place of practical reflection in teaching and about the relation between knowledge and action in teaching. He underlined the importance of reflective thinking which has a complex array of cognitively and philosophically distinct methods and attitudes. He defined different reflection profiles namely retrospective reflection on (past) experiences, anticipatory reflection on (future) experiences, and contemporaneous reflection. He raised the questions considering different cases, such as for novice teachers, experienced teachers, and explains the different findings in different occasions.

In her article Lowery (2003) mentioned the importance of reflective teaching in providing development in teacher knowledge and research results that defines the reflective thinking as distinguishing strategy between experienced and novice teachers. She discussed the importance of teacher reflection; she describes the three-level plan to promote reflective teaching, which are understanding the importance of reflective thinking, implementing reflective strategies – the reflective cycle and developing a reflective venue.

Another study was performed by Loughran. Loughran (2002) examined the nature of reflection and to suggest how it might become effective reflective practice that can be developed and enhanced through teacher preparation programs, He underlined the inefficiency of experience alone is mentioned and importance of reflection for learning. The main message he gave in the article that, “if learning through practice matters, then reflection on practice is crucial, and teacher preparation is the obvious place for it to be initiated and nurtured” (p.42).

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2.4.1. Reflective Practice among Preservice Teachers

In their article, Harford and MacRuairc (2008) reported on the study they performed among twenty preservice teachers with the aim of examining the use of peer-videoing in the classroom as a tool to promote reflective practice among student teachers. The pre-service teachers who were participated in the study were from a variety of subject disciplines participating in a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education program in an Irish university. They defined the purpose of this paper as “to contribute to the international debate over best practice in supporting, encouraging and scaffolding reflective practice”. The findings of the study indicated that the use of peer videoing in the classroom has a powerful function as a catalyst for reflection and critical dialogue among teachers.

In another study, Kullman (1998) focused on what transpired during a mentor training course in Hungary. This mentor training course involved prospective mentors and student English Language teachers. In the course, role plays proved to be the stimulus for an exploration of how far the model of mentoring commonly promoted takes sufficient account of contextual factors. He discussed the mentor’s roles, the ways in helping student teachers reflect on their classroom experience and how to promote reflection in relation with the contextual factors.

The study of Lee (2005) has the purpose of investigating how the process of reflective thinking develops in preservice teachers and reviewing the criteria for assessing reflective thinking. Lee performed the study with the participants who enrolled as juniors in a secondary mathematics program in Korea. The data were collected by interviews, observations and written documents such as survey questionnaires and journal entries. Reflections of preservice teachers are assessed from two perspectives, one of them is content and the other one is depth. In the study, it is found that reflective thinking depends on personal background, field experience contexts, and the mode of communication. The criteria for depth of reflection are defined as recall, rationalization and reflective levels.

In her article McDuffie (2004) reported on the study which has the aim of investigating the pre-service teachers’ thinking with regard to reflective processes and how they use their pedagogical content knowledge in their practices. The case study was done with two elementary preservice teachers during their student teaching internship program. She found that the pre-service teachers use their pedagogical content knowledge in anticipating problematic events and in reflecting on problematic events in instruction. She further founded that the limited amount of pedagogical content knowledge and lack of confidence had effect on the pre-service teachers’ reflection while in the act of teaching; therefore they were more likely to reflect on their practices outside of the act of teaching.

2.4.2. Reflective Practice among Novice Teachers

In the literature, the amount of studies done with expert teachers and preservice teachers is greater than that of novice teachers. In one of these studies Roehrig et. al. (2008) conducted a grounded theory analysis in order to explore the potential for mentoring to support novice teachers’ use of effective teaching practices. The study was conducted with six beginning primary teachers in the US, and with their mentors. The data were collected by means of survey, interview, and observation. The results of data analysis revealed that some factors, other than type of mentoring program were related to beginning teachers’ success in improving classroom practices. It was found that more effective beginning teachers’ mentors had more experience as mentors and were more effective teachers than other mentors. In addition to this, more effective beginning teachers communicated more with mentors, more accurately self-reported use of effective teaching practices, and were more open to mentoring.

Another study with novice teachers was performed by Cavanagh and Prescott (2010). They reported on their study that was conducted with three beginning secondary mathematics teachers. The aim of the study was to interpret how beginning teachers’ reflective practices developed during a one-year university teacher education program and concurrent professional fieldwork experience or practicum. The data were collected through the interviews during the practicum and once more in their first year. A three-stage, hierarchical model of reflective practice of Lee was used to interpret the interview responses. Results of the study revealed that the participants’ showed improvement in their ability to reflect on their teaching during the practicum.

2.4.3 Reflective Practice among Expert teachers

One of the studies performed with expert teachers is done by Curtis and Szestay (2005). They reported on the learning outcomes of experienced teachers who attended a program designed to enable them to come together and engage in professional development through structured and systematic reflective practice. They used both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods. As a quantitative data collection method, they used questionnaire and as qualitative methods, they used one-to- one, face-to-face audio recorded interviews. They interviewed with seven past seminar participants, three primary school teachers, three high school teachers and one middle school teacher. Six themes emerged from the teacher responses. These are, renewed enthusiasm for teaching, looking at teaching with “fresh eyes”, shifts in understanding teaching, becoming more reflective and aware as teachers, enhancing the quality of student learning and building professional communities.

As another study, Jaworski (1998) discussed the study of teacher researchers undertaking research into their own mathematics teaching at the secondary level. The study used qualitative methods to explore the processes and practices of Mathematics Teacher Enquiry (MTE) project research. Two important considerations were the special nature of mathematics in this research, and the role of external researchers in the MTE project. In this study, the teachers were seen as reflective practitioners, who develop knowledge and awareness through enhanced metacognitive activity. Their research was characterized as evolutionary, in contrast with established patterns of action research. This study reveals the fact that, teachers’ researches have commonalities and some differences, and these results provide potential for the development of mathematics teaching.

In her article, Walshaw (2010) dealt with the ways of understanding what structures a teacher’s narrative about his practice. This study was a part of the larger project that represented the New Zealand component of the international Learner’s Perspective Study (LPS) and on one teacher’s reflections on a sequence of algebra lessons at the secondary school level, in a larger project. The data were collected through classroom video records, interviews with and classroom researcher observations. As a result of the project, Walshaw pointed out that reflections are more than instruments of change; they are also instruments of social reproduction.

Zaslavsky and Leikin (2004) performed a study with junior and senior high school mathematics teachers with the aim of analyzing the processes encountered by the teacher educators, as members of a community of practice, which contributed to their growth as teacher educators. In addition to this, thy aimed at testing their theoretical three-layer model of growth through practice in special context, which is professional development of mathematics teacher educators. The study was conducted as grounded theory approach within in-service professional development program.

In another study, Farell (2001) reported on the study that he performed with one non-native speaker, a teacher of English as a foreign language in Korea, during a 16-week period with the aim of understanding what the teacher talked about in the three modes of reflection: group meetings, individual meetings and what she wrote about in her journal; and what was the level of her reflection in each activity: descriptive or critical. The results of the study revealed that the teacher shows a clear preference for group discussions as her method of reflection over the other two activities: journal writing and classroom observations.

2.4.4 Summary of literature review on teachers’ reflection and reflective practice

From the literature review, we can summarize the following statements.

To begin with, the theory and practice division is dominant in the literature related to the reflection and reflective practice. Secondly, it is learned from literature that, reflective practice is a valuable and important component in teacher development. It is promoted to be included in preservice teachers’ education program as well as in-service teacher development programs. Thirdly, when we look at the literature from the aspects of tools and methods in order to promote reflective practices, we see that reflective journal writing, use of videos, observations, peer observations, reflective dialogue are the most common preferred ways.

Another thing that attracts our attention in the literature review is that it relates constructivism and inquiry with reflective practices of teachers. As a last statement, we can mention on the literature which emphasize on the social aspect of reflections.

The literature review on reflective practices of teachers revealed some further research needs. First of all, studies are needed regarding how the incorporation of effective ways in a continuous development program be achieved so that teachers benefits from these practices. In addition to this, some research would be beneficial on collaborative reflective practices of teachers on their teaching area as well as on teaching in general. Further, the role of scaffolding in developing teachers’ reflective practices can also be a study area. Some research on assessing the effectiveness of reflective practices would be beneficial. From the literature review it is seen that that reflection is a hallmark for development of teachers and for providing quality in teaching; it should be given importance to provide development of teachers both in undergraduate programs and continuous education programs.

CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY

3.1 The research site

The present research is a qualitative study using elementary teachers’ reflective practices. The study will be conducted with two elementary teachers in one private elementary school in Ankara. Two mathematics programs, namely Primary Years Math Program (PYP-math) and mathematics program designed by Ministry of National Education (MoNE) have been integrated in this school in 2010.

There are approximately 100 staff including coordinator, principle and vice principals, teachers, counselors, program development expert, and measurement and evaluation expert in this school. The school has approximately 700 students from kindergarten to 8th grade. There are four sections at each grade level. The school starts at 8.30 in the morning and finishes at 15.35 and teachers are to be at school during whole week between these hours except for one half day in a week. In addition to these, for Tuesdays and Thursdays the working time extends to 17.00 and all the meetings and workshops are planned in this period.

The school is implementing a new program for two years for K5 grades. This program is called Primary Years Program (PYP), which is a part of International Baccalaureate Program (IB) developed by International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) was established in 1968 and is a non-profit, international educational foundation registered in Switzerland. The PYP is based on the inquiry and thematic in nature. Teachers teaching the same grade level come together and develop six transdisciplinary thematic units to be covered during whole year.

3.2 The Overall Research Design of the Study

The data will be collected by means of reflective journals, in-depth interviews and lesson observations. When we look at the literature from the aspects of methods in order to be used for data collection for teachers’ reflective practices, we see that observations and interviews are very commonly preferred (Cavanagh and Prescott, 2010; Curtis and Szestay, 2005; Lee, 2005, Roehrig et. al., 2008). In addition to this, journal writing is found a valuable tool in the literature to promote teachers’ reflective practices. (Farell, 2001, 2008; Lee, 2005)

3.3 The Participants

Two elementary teachers will participate in the study. In the school, one group of elementary teachers teaches to the grades 1-3 and the other group teaches to the grades 4 and 5. The participants of the study will be selected from those who generally teach to 4th and 5th grades since in these grade levels, mathematics content is more intensive when compared to lower grade levels. The participants will be selected according to number of years in teaching in school and teaching experience overall. Teachers having five to fifteen years of experience will be preferred as participants.

Classroom teachers are all female in this school; therefore the participants will be female.

3.4 Data Collection Procedure

The participants will be interviewed in the beginning of the process in order to gather general information about them as teachers. After that, their lessons will be observed within at least five whole observation cycles, including five pre-interview sessions, five lesson observations and five post-interview sessions. The lessons will be video-taped and participants will be provided a copy of each observed lesson video in order to make reflection on it before coming to the post-interview session. Each of the observation cycles will be completed in two weeks, therefore the observation cycle process will last about ten weeks. In addition to this, the participants will keep reflective journal during these ten weeks and the journal entries will be checked at the end of each observation period. The general design of the data collection procedure is in the Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Data collection procedure

Week 1 Initial General Interview

Week 2 & 3 Observation Cycle 1 Reflective Journal Entries

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