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Demystifying Reflection: A Study of Pedagogical Strategies that Encourage Reflective Journal Writing


by Elizabeth Spalding & Angene Wilson - 2002

Reflection is a mysterious concept to many of the students who enter our graduate-level, secondary teacher education program at a large, Southeastern university. Although all already hold degrees in their subject areas and many have extensive life and work experience, few have written—or perhaps even thought—reflectively during their academic careers. The purpose of this study was to identify pedagogical strategies that helped preservice secondary teachers improve their reflective thinking via journal writing during the 1st semester of a yearlong professional program. A secondary purpose was to study the effectiveness of our own practices as teacher educators. We present brief case studies of four preservice teachers who met our criteria for growth in reflection and report their views of how and why they became more reflective over the course of the semester. We found that no single pedagogical strategy was best and that students responded differently to different strategies. These preservice teachers benefited from spending class time on defining, discussing, and viewing models of reflection. Overall, personalized feedback on their journals and their relationships with their instructors were most important in helping them grow. We must actively teach and model reflective skills in a variety of ways if we are to demystify reflection.

Reflection is a mysterious concept to many of the students who enter our graduate-level, secondary teacher education program at a large, Southeastern university. Although all already hold degrees in their subject areas and many have extensive life and work experience, few have written—or perhaps even thought—reflectively during their academic careers (King & Kitchener, 1994). The purpose of this study was to identify pedagogical strategies that helped preservice secondary teachers improve their reflective thinking via journal writing during the 1st semester of a yearlong professional program. A secondary purpose was to study the effectiveness of our own practices as teacher educators. We present brief case studies of four preservice teachers who met our criteria for growth in reflection and report their views of how and why they became more reflective over the course of the semester. We found that no single pedagogical strategy was best and that students responded differently to different strategies. These preservice teachers benefited from spending class time on defining, discussing, and viewing models of reflection. Overall, personalized feedback on their journals and their relationships with their instructors were most important in helping them grow. We must actively teach and model reflective skills in a variety of ways if we are to demystify reflection.


Reflection is a mysterious concept to many students who enter our graduate-level, secondary teacher education program at a large, Southeastern university. Even though all have already earned degrees in their subject areas and many have extensive life and work experience, few have written—or perhaps even thought—reflectively during their academic careers (King & Kitchener, 1994). If they previously kept journals, those journals were usually personal recordings of significant events. When the requirement of weekly reflective journal writing is introduced in the first weeks of the yearlong program, many students express puzzlement and dismay. When they hand in their first journals after a week of immersion in a high school, some remark ruefully, “I hope this is what you want.” As the primary instructors of a 9-hour block of integrated educational course work and field experience in the fall semester, we realized that we must demystify reflection if students are to take ownership of their journals and use reflection as a vehicle for personal and professional development in the preservice year and beyond.


Reflective thinking is essential to identifying, analyzing, and solving the complex problems that characterize classroom teaching. Program features, such as collaboration with schools, and general instructional strategies, such as action research and ethnography, that promote reflection have been widely described (McIntyre, Byrd, & Foxx, 1996: Ross, 1990; Zeichner, 1987). Yet despite widespread emphasis on reflection in teacher education, studies of reflective thinking in preservice teachers often yield disappointing results. For example, studies report that preservice teachers have difficulty achieving higher levels of reflection (Galvez-Martin, Bowman, & Morrison, 1998), distinguishing between telling and reflecting (Bolin, 1990; Krol, 1996), or moving beyond immediate concerns of classroom management and control (McLaughlin & Hanifin, 1994). Given these findings, we wanted to discover which specific pedagogical strategies we could use to foster the reflective thinking of the preservice secondary teachers with whom we work. In addition, as reflective teacher educators ourselves, we are committed to modeling inquiry into our own practices; thus, we undertook this research in the spirit of action research (Loughran, 1997; Tom, 1997; Wideen, Mayer-Smith, & Moon, 1998).


We begin by defining reflection and its role in our program. Following contextual information on the teacher-education program, the faculty, and students, we report brief case studies of four preservice teachers—Ella Brown, Maurice French, Grant Everly, and Kate Bell—whose growth in reflection over the course of one semester was observable, and we describe the strategies we used that worked for them. Finally, we discuss implications for teacher educators and teacher-education programs and raise questions for further research.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK


Reflection is the “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” (Dewey, 1933, p. 9). Reflective thinking begins with a state of doubt, hesitation, or perplexity and moves through the act of searching to find material that will resolve, clarify, or otherwise address the doubt. This material may consist of past experience or a fund of relevant knowledge—neither of which necessarily leads to reflective thought: “To be genuinely thoughtful, we must be willing to sustain and protract that state of doubt which is the stimulus to thorough inquiry” (p. 16). Dewey believed that thinking was natural but that reflective habits of mind needed to be taught. Attitudes play an important role in acquiring the reflective habit. Attitudes that should be cultivated include (1) open-mindedness, “freedom from prejudice, partisanship, and such other habits as close the mind” (p. 30); (2) whole-heartedness, “genuine enthusiasm” (p. 32); and (3) responsibility, “to consider the consequences of a projected step . . . [and] to be willing to adopt these consequences when they follow reasonably from any position already taken” (p. 32). The teacher’s role is to be knowledgeable about the traits and habits of individual students and of the entire environment that affects students to select educative experiences that nurture and sustain reflective thought. Dewey claimed that reflection benefits individuals by giving them more control over experience and thereby increasing the value of experience. Our assumption is that “more reflective teacher actions will lead to greater benefits for the teacher and for all of his or her pupils” (Zeichner & Liston, 1987, p. 25).

A TYPOLOGY FOR TEACHING REFLECTION


Just as Dewey has been fundamental to understanding the nature of reflective thought, Donald Schon (1987) has been fundamental to understanding the nature of reflective practice. Schon identified technical rationality as the schools’ prevailing epistemology. He deemed technical rationality inadequate for solving the complex problems of educational practice and proposed that “professional education should be redesigned to combine the teaching of applied science with coaching in the artistry of reflection-in-action” (xii, 1987).


Valli (1997) has synthesized Schon’s work with that of others to create a hierarchy of five different levels of reflection. The lowest, technical reflection, requires “directing one’s actions through a straightforward application of research on teaching” (Valli, 1997, p. 75). Valli (1990) identified technical reflection as a form of technical rationality rather than reflective practice. Reflection in/on action focuses on pedagogical activity in context. This type of reflection occurs in connection with one’s own teaching performance. For preservice teachers, who spend much time observing teaching, it may occur in connection with another’s teaching performance. Deliberative reflection involves “weighing competing claims or viewpoints,” and its content may be “a range of teaching concerns” (Valli, 1990, p. 221). Personalistic reflection is identified with a narrative or developmental approach to teaching: “Teacher’s voice, personal growth, and professional relations are of primary concern” (Valli, 1990, p. 219). Critical reflection, the highest according to Valli, requires considering the social and political implications of teaching and schooling, including the “possibility that schools are implicated in perpetuating an unjust social order” (Valli, 1990, p. 219).


We used Valli’s framework as a typology rather than a hierarchy when introducing, discussing, and teaching reflection. We omitted technical reflection from our discussions with students because we do not, for example, count seconds of wait time when observing preservice teachers. We presented the other categories—reflection in/on action, personalistic, deliberative, and critical—as equally important and as more valuable and appropriate for some purposes than others (Hatton & Smith, 1995). We encouraged students to generate reflections of all four types over the course of the semester in their journals and other reflective writings.

REFLECTIVE WRITING


We share the assumption of many teacher educators that reflective writing can promote reflective thinking (King & Kitchener, 1994; Ross, 1990). Although Ducharme and Ducharme (1996) question the value of reflective journals to prospective teachers, we believe that at least the following benefits accrue to our students: (1) journals serve as a permanent record of thoughts and experiences; (2) journals provide a means of establishing and maintaining relationship with instructors; (3) journals serve as a safe outlet for personal concerns and frustrations; and (4) journals are an aid to internal dialogue (Colton & Sparks-Langer, 1993). Furthermore, as instructors we benefit because (1) journals serve as windows into our students’ thinking and learning; (2) journals provide a means of establishing and maintaining relationship with students; and (3) journals serve as dialogical teaching tools. At the same time, we acknowledge that not all students benefit from reflective journal writing (e.g., Bolin, 1990).


Studies of reflection in preservice teachers’ journals have been mainly of two types: those that focus on the content of reflective thinking in the journals and those that focus on the processes that affect the content. Examples of the first type include McMahon (1997), who analyzed documents, including journals, created by two student teachers to identify how each addressed equity issues. Dieker and Monda-Amaya (1995) analyzed the journals of six special education graduate students to define operational categories of reflective thought. Gipe and Richards (1992) analyzed journals and observed teaching to determine the link between reflection and growth in teaching.


Studies that examined the effects of specific interventions on the quality of reflective thinking in journals include Stalhut and Hawkes (1997), who compared the effects of different mediums (written journals, telecommunications, personal conferences) on reflection. They found that preservice teachers tended to reflect on issues of personal self-worth and professional performance and that they used each medium for different purposes (e.g., they used telecommunications for urgent issues). Loughran (1997) investigated how his own modeling of reflection through think alouds and journal sharing affected student teachers’ reflection. He found that these strategies helped preservice teachers better understand the process. Building on Loughran’s work, Freese (1999) used a three-part framework, journals, and videotape analyses to help prospective teachers reflect on their lessons. She found that “an organizing framework can assist preservice teachers in evaluating their experiences and making sense of their teaching” (p. 907). Galvez-Martin and Bowman (1998) used experimental and control groups to determine the impact of training on reflection. They found that preservice teachers who received training in reflection were more reflective, but they did not achieve what the researchers defined as the highest level of reflection. Korthagen (1993) explored the role of nonrational processes (e.g., metaphors, artistic expression, guided fantasy) in reflection as part of helping preservice teachers develop more elaborated Gestalts for teaching (see also Korthagen & Kessels, 1999).


This study focused on strategies that helped students write—and presumably think—more reflectively. We implemented multiple strategies rather than a single strategy because we wanted to know the extent to which the array of strategies we regularly use as teachers help, hinder, or make no difference to our students.

METHODOLOGY


Throughout the fall 1999 semester, we collected data from 34 students enrolled in our two cohorts. Data sources were journals, notes on observations of teaching, postobservation conference notes, and other course-related projects. Eventually, we selected four students for portrayal in abbreviated case studies. To understand the cases, however, it is important to understand something about the teacher-education program and the students’ relationship to the authors.

PROGRAM CONTEXT


The MIC Program is an intensive 1-year graduate program for all candidates in secondary education. In 1993, it was adopted as our college’s only route to secondary certification. The program’s conceptual framework is based on the model of teachers as reflective practitioners, and program development has been informed by the work of teacher-education programs that encourage reflective practice (e.g., Ross, 1990; Valli, 1990).


Since 1996, the program has been field based. Students are organized into four interdisciplinary cohorts for the fall semester. Each cohort is placed at a partner high school. Students are in school 4 mornings a week and twice weekly attend 2-hour Common Core seminars, taught on site by faculty who are cohort leaders. The Common Core encompasses 10 themes: adolescent psychology; classroom management and discipline; educational reform; general pedagogy; legal and administrative perspectives; multicultural education; field experiences; social foundations; special education; and technology. Topics are distributed across the academic year. Some are addressed in the on-site seminars; specialists address others in Monday night sessions that continue through the fall and spring semesters. Subject-area methods courses are also taught during the fall semester. The spring semester is primarily devoted to student teaching, either in a partner high school or another site.


Among the assignments students complete during the fall semester are revisiting high school for a day as a student, a community research project, a department or school service project, a tutoring project, and an interdisciplinary teaching project. Written reflections on each project are required. Throughout the semester, students write weekly journal entries and submit them to cohort leaders for feedback and evaluation.

STUDENT AND FACULTY CONTEXT


In the 1999–2000 school year, 69 students—divided among four cohorts—were pursuing a master’s degree and certification in business, English, foreign languages, math, science, or social studies. Students spanned the spectrum from recent graduates to nontraditional students, including individuals with advanced degrees, midlife career changers, and retirees embarking on new careers. MIC students understand that they are participants in a program that emphasizes both teaching and research. When the program begins each year, they are informed that we have permission from our institutional review board to conduct research in the context of our work. Additionally, the four students described here individually consented to participate.


The authors led two of the four cohorts in 1999–2000. We are also respectively the English and social studies educators in the program, and teach special methods courses in the fall. In the spring, we supervise student teachers and lead the English and social studies student teaching seminars. Thus, we had close contact with the four preservice teachers portrayed here and the opportunity to observe and interact with them in a variety of settings.

REFLECTIVE JOURNALS IN THE COMMON CORE


In the fall semester, all students write and submit to instructors weekly reflective journals. Each journal entry receives a grade, and the journal is a major component of the course grade. In the past, we simply presented the journal assignment as a course requirement and stated our expectations for quality on the course syllabus. We devoted little or no time to teaching students how to write reflectively. We realized that we could do a better job at this, and so, at the beginning of the fall semester of 1999, we identified specific strategies we would use in an attempt to elicit more reflective writing from our students.


Because many students initially simply relate or narrate events in their journals, our first step was to help them distinguish between narrative and reflective writing. We both used as a model a portion of an essay, “In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again,” by Barbara Kingsolver (1995), in which the author reflects on her high school experience in a small town. We asked students to highlight the passages they considered reflective and then to share their reasoning with a partner. The use of a real-life, literary model stimulated students’ thinking about what is or is not reflection.


In a subsequent class, we introduced Valli’s typology to show that there are different varieties of reflection. We explained that we wanted to see examples of all the varieties over the course of the semester, with the understanding that the typology was simply meant to serve as a guide—that the boundaries between categories were permeable and open to interpretation. The typology served as a reference point throughout the semester.


Figure 1 shows the pedagogical strategies we used in common and individually over the course of the semester.


The weekly journals were the basic strategy, with revision always an option. Both of us used some peer sharing of journals and allowed students some choice in topic while assigning a required midsemester reflection. Instructor One asked students to turn in hard-copy journals and wrote marginal comments on them. Instructor Two received journals via e-mail and responded holistically to each journal by return e-mail. We used several varieties of feedback: (1) positive comments (e.g., “You’ve done a good job of description)”); (2) questions to stimulate elaboration or further reflection (e.g., “WHY is there a give and take to classroom management? If it is so important for students and teachers to understand one another’s backgrounds, why don’t we spend more time on this in schools?”); and (3) making personal connections to the content of the journal entry (e.g., “I myself have many doubts and questions about special education policy and practice.”).


Instructor One regularly wrote the letters R (reflection in/on action), P (personalistic), D (deliberative), or C (critical) beside journal passages that illustrated that type of reflection. On several occasions, she asked students to do the same to their journal entries before handing them in. This allowed her to see whether she and the students shared a common interpretation of the types of reflection.


Instructor Two modeled and encouraged creativity in response genres. For example, she shared her published poem “Metaphors for Teacher” and encouraged several students who wanted to write poetry for one weekly journal. She accepted and praised a satirical piece as well as a classroom management plan written in the form of a newspaper feature article.


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Figure 2 displays illustrative excerpts from the journals of Grant, Kate, Ella, and Maurice. These excerpts illustrate how we interpreted each type of reflection—reflection in/on action, deliberative, personalistic, critical.

PARTICIPANTS


Although we collected data from all 34 students enrolled in our two cohorts, we planned to select only a few for representation in this study. As practitioners in the field of education, we “are concerned with individuals, not aggregates”; for us, “questions about meaning and perspective are central and ongoing” (Donmoyer, 1990, p. 197). Thus, we independently reviewed all the evidence we had collected, then applied our criteria for selection for brief case studies.


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We used the criterion of typicality to guide our selections. Schofield (1990) has suggested that studying the typical is a worthwhile goal of case study research. Grant, Kate, Ella, and Maurice are typical in several ways. Each represents an academic type of student that enters our program: (1) undergraduates from our own institution who enter the program immediately after graduation (Ella); (2) undergraduates from other private and public institutions who enter the program soon after graduation (Grant); (3) individuals with advanced degrees in their subject areas who decide to enter high school rather than college teaching (Kate); and (4) individuals who have been in the workforce for a number of years and who decide to change careers (Maurice). They are also typical demographically: Grant, a single White male, and Ella, a single White female, typify preservice teachers in age, gender, ethnicity, and marital status (Gomez, 1994). Typical of many nontraditional students, Kate is a married White female and Maurice is a divorced White single parent (Eifler & Potthoff, 1998).


Ella, Maurice, Grant, and Kate also typified the patterns of growth in reflection that we have observed in our students over the years. We define growth in reflection as (1) the increasing ability to distinguish between narration and reflection; (2) the increasing ability to write all four types of reflection; and (3) the increasing ability to link course reading and discussion to observation and experience. Many students enter the program with little prior knowledge of or experience with reflection but make steady progress over the course of the semester (Ella). Some make steady but much slower progress (Maurice). Some have difficulty writing reflectively and show inconsistent growth (Grant). A few enter the program with strong reflective skills and hone them (Kate).

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS


We read and responded to the students’ journals throughout one semester. We evaluated and gave feedback on other artifacts they created for our classes. For example, Grant, Ella, and Kate submitted end-of-course portfolios in their English methods course. We observed their teaching in their field experience placements. We interacted with them in class several times per week. Finally, we interviewed Grant, Kate, Ella, and Maurice individually at the beginning of the second semester. We used a common set of semistructured questions to explore their views on reflection and our teaching of reflection (see Appendix A). Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. We reviewed the transcripts independently noting themes, consistencies, and inconsistencies within and across cases. We constructed visual displays of the interview data to help us see patterns in their responses. We then collaborated in constructing cases based on the descriptive framework we had agreed on. Constructing abbreviated cases of four students rather than an extended study of a single student gave us more insight into the range of individuals we teach (Bassey, 1999; Huberman & Miles, 1998). Although formal data collection and analysis ended in early January 2000, we informally continued to look for evidence of reflection during the student teaching semester and beyond.

RESULTS

ELLA BROWN: FROM DISAPPROVING TO CRITIQUING


Ella Brown obtained her degree in English education from this university in May, 1999, and entered the MIC Program in August. For the last 2 years of her undergraduate study, she volunteered in a collaborative project with a rural school district striving to improve writing instruction. In her last semester as an undergraduate, she worked as a long-term substitute teacher at a high school in her hometown.


An excellent student, a fluent writer, and a veteran journal keeper, Ella had no trouble producing weekly reflections. Without prompting, she consistently selected topics for reflection and focused each entry with a title (e.g., A Lesson Revisited, A Day in the Life of B. J., Help!!!!). Nevertheless, initially Ella’s reflections tended to be personalistic. Her writing conveyed a tone of complaint. For example, after a day spent “revisiting” high school as a student, she wrote:


On Wednesday, September 1, 1999, I was a high school freshman again. Well, not in reality, but in spirit. . . . However, it was much too difficult for me to breeze through the day without passing judgement on school life, teaching styles, and disciplinary procedure. Overall, I guess my experience was very similar to my own experience with high school, and that frightens me all too much. I guess I had expected to see some remarkable changes in the education system, but that didn’t happen. Teachers and faculty were the same. The same old corny school rules still applied. And, yes, the students still formed their precious little cliques and supplied one another with horrid labels. (Reflective Journal, 90801999)


By the beginning of October, when Ella disapproved of what she observed, she had learned to suggest how things might be done differently. After observing a freshman English class studying the short story “Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird,” Ella reflected on another teacher’s actions:


The teacher did not give any background information about the story or the author, and that was a huge mistake. Bambara’s story is written in dialect, and the students had difficulty understanding the language and reading the words. Very few of the students were participating in the process of reading aloud, and their problems with language made it difficult for them to create images in their minds, which is exactly what they were supposed to do. After reading the story, the class was formed into groups and each group was supposed to create a story board in which they told the story through illustrations. The problem was the students couldn’t remember any of the images. They were stumped. Many of the groups had to go back and review the story in order to create the images. (Reflective Journal, 9/27/99)


Ella then went on to design a revised lesson plan for this class that addressed what she saw as the weaknesses of the lesson, and she carefully sequenced it to make the most of the 90-minute block.


Ella’s final journal entries support her claim that her journals “moved gradually from very personal reflections to more critical, in-depth analyses. . . . Keeping a reflective journal encouraged this critical thinking about topics I’d never addressed” (Portfolio Entry Slip, 12099). After reading portions of The Shopping Mall High School (Powell, Farrar, & Cohen, 1985), Ella linked her understanding of the reading to her work with a student diagnosed with emotional behavior disorder but receiving instruction in regular classrooms. In an entry entitled “The Unspecial Special Robert,” she combined personalistic, deliberative, and critical reflection:


By observing the actions of his teacher and the principal, I noticed that Robert, even though he is a special student and needs special attention, received only negative attention. “Robert, be quiet,” is like a favorite saying for Mrs. X . . . and it’s always Robert who’s being singled out, even when other students are being just as loud and unruly. . . . Now that I am leaving [this school], I am worried about Robert. . . . He took the news very hard. “I don’t care anymore,” he said. “You’ve helped me this far and now you’re leaving. There’s no way I’m going to pass. I can’t do my work in class when everyone else is in there.” And that’s what makes me so angry. Robert is in a class of thirty-one students. . . . [H]e has to push himself in order to [pass] . . . but Robert will not push himself. He needs someone to push him and support him and nurture him along the way. When I’m gone, no one will push Robert. NO ONE. (Reflective Journal, 12/1/99)


When interviewed in January, Ella distinguished between her previous and present definitions of reflection: “I used to think of reflection as just writing down what you did, but now I know that’s different. Now I know that you think on what you did . . . you evaluate that . . . and then you try to think of ways to change that, try to think of ways that you can better that.” On a scale of 1 to 5, she rated herself as a 3 in reflection in August and a 4 or 5 in January:


I keep a daily journal usually of my personal things . . .but I don’t always try to evaluate things like I should. So I think that’s . . . how I’ve grown. . . . [A]nd now I’m finally to this level, I think, ‘Okay, I’m not a bad person because I’ve made these mistakes, but I’m only going to be better now that I know what I’ve done right and wrong and I can revise that. So I think I’ve definitely progressed as a reflective person. But I don’t think I was all that bad to begin with.


Ella found most of the strategies I (Instructor One) used helpful, especially my “comments in general.” She was least influenced by the weekly grades: “As far as writing goes and whatever I do in this program, I try to take everything really seriously, so I never expected that I would get anything less than at least a four or five. And I think that I wrote my journals based on that standard that I hold for myself.”


In her student teaching, Ella set aside time every day to reflect on her classes. She believed that practice in reflection had made her more thoughtful in her current situation: “I think that you have to be aware of your students, and yourself, and your environment . . . for this profession you have to be.” Ella valued reflection and the journals that helped her understand that reflection is more than “just writing down what you did”: “You know, those journals, I want to keep those forever. I want to keep those in a binder of mine forever.”

MAURICE FRENCH: FROM CERTAINTY TO UNCERTAINTY


Maurice French was a nontraditional student. A lackluster student in high school, Maurice enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps after graduation. Upon leaving the military, Maurice worked full-time as an elementary school custodian for many years while attending college part-time. Eventually, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and entered the MIC Program at age 36 with the goal of becoming a high school social studies teacher, as his father had been.


Initially, Maurice interpreted reflection as “just stating what you’ve done.” For several weeks, his journal entries consisted of lengthy, detailed accounts of precisely how he had spent his days at the high school. For example, in reflecting upon his day “revisiting” high school as a student, Maurice wrote:


Third block was English. The teacher was giving a test review over the classic Beowulf. This was split up by lunch, which I found quite interrupting for a complete lesson. Lunch was as expected, as I observed groups of students dividing up into their different cliques. . . . To my surprise, Harold chose to eat with me, rather than with his friends. He didn’t like the lunch today, so he ate Cheetos and drank Gatorade; this would be his last nutrition until 7:30 at night, when he would eat at Little Caesar’s. (Reflective Journal, 9/1/99)


In my response, I (Instructor One) posed questions that I hoped would lead him to write more reflectively: “How could school better accommodate students like Harold? Or should they? Why do cliques persist among students and teachers alike? You’ve done a good job of description) Now work on the reflective part)” Toward the end of September, Maurice began to raise his own questions about his experiences. The following journal excerpt, an example of Maurice’s ability to reflect critically, was prompted by the new principal’s policy that all students and teachers must stand during the daily Pledge of Allegiance. On this day, the principal had entered the classroom in which Maurice was observing, taken the names of three students who did not stand during the Pledge, and promised to call their parents:


I am very patriotic and feel proud to stand for my flag . . . but I disagree with the principal’s action. Part of the reason we revere our flag is that it stands for freedom. What message does it send to young students learning about our liberties, when they are forced to stand for the flag? . . . Does it not defeat the purpose of pledging allegiance to our flag, if we are forced to do so against our will? (Reflective Journal, 9/24/99)


Maurice worked closely with a military history class at the high school and, a war games buff himself, came up with the idea of having students create their own games based on battles of the Civil War. The students eagerly took on this project and created some impressive simulations, which showed their understanding of battle tactics and strategy. Few, however, completed the writing assignment Maurice created to accompany the project: a reflection on their learning and an essay describing the battle they had chosen. Upset by their apparent apathy, Maurice tracked down individuals who had not completed the paper and urged them to turn it in. In his own reflection on the project, Maurice expressed a range of concerns that suggested he was beginning to accept that dilemmas are inherent in teaching:


I thought the project was successful, and I really enjoyed working with all the students over the last five weeks. I cannot understand why some students who did so well on the active part of the project would not take the time to do a very easy written assignment. . . . It could be the [learning styles] theory [that] some students learn by activity. But they just can’t go through school without writing anything. . . . It just really hurts me to give bad grades to kids I really like working with and teaching. . . . I will just have to reevaluate my techniques and personal weaknesses to come up with a way to justify to myself that I am doing what is right by my students. (Reflective Journal, 11/11/99)


When interviewed in January, Maurice defined reflection as “the ability to look at a past event and actually consider everything that happened and all the options, what could have been done differently.” He ranked his reflective abilities at a 3 when he entered the program. By the end of the semester, Maurice felt he had mastered the process: “I believe that when I started out I wasn’t really looking at it from all the different forms of critiquing. But by the end, I was able to critique myself and reflect on things that were happening.”


Maurice confessed that initially he was confused about reflection. My use of the key (see Figure 1) to mark types of reflection helped him: “This is what this is!” While he worked to improve his weekly grades, he stated that my comments helped him to feel “like [he] was actually accomplishing something with [his] reflection.” Although Maurice originally viewed history teaching as the simple act of imparting information, he learned to tolerate the uncertainty of classroom life:


I think you’ve got to reflect. If you don’t reflect, you’ll never improve. A lot of times, I can reflect and I’ll be confused. I’ll be confused because I know something might not have gone right, but in my reflection I’m still kind of up in the air as far as how to change that.


During student teaching, Maurice was required to keep a reflective journal and tried to write daily. He had come a long way from teaching by “doing point-by-point talking points”: “I want my classes to be lots of interaction, lots of discussion, lots of critical thinking. . . . And that’s making a choice of whether to go with . . . an easy lesson plan, or make the difficult plan that addresses high level thinking, but it’s harder to make and harder to assess.” Maurice believed that his age helped him be more reflective: “I’m thirty-six years old, and unlike a lot of the twenty and twenty-one year olds, I think I’ve had lot more life to reflect on.” His subject area also enhanced his understanding of what it means to be a reflective practitioner: “I’m a historian, by nature. . . . You may study about [George Washington], but when he was actually doing what he did, it was present time to him. Yet, when we look back on it, we’re reflecting on decisions that he made. . . . I think you’ve got to reflect. If you don’t reflect, you’ll never improve.”

GRANT EVERLY: ZIGZAGGING TOWARD REFLECTION


Grant entered the program as a recent graduate of a small Baptist college, where he majored in English and religion, minored in philosophy, and edited the college newspaper. Through his part-time job at a local bookstore, Grant became an authority on young adult literature. He enjoyed pop culture and Shakespeare and was enthusiastic about the opportunity to teach classics of the British canon to high school students.


Grant’s early journals were primarily descriptive:


My student guide, Fernando Thomas, was a lot of fun, a very social guy. He was running for Junior Class president, but bowed out at the last minute because he didn’t want the responsibility. . . . I think my weirdest experience was in geometry. Because of the elections, the teacher took a free day and we did origami. (Reflective Journal, 9/8/99)


I (Instructor Two) responded to these entries with comments such as: “Go deeper. Why do you think that was? Did she relate it to geometry?” In his second journal, Grant did reflect deliberately:


Many English teachers use journals just for the students to have a writing experience that will not be graded strictly, but Mrs. X used her journals more effectively. Her writing assignments not only gave students a chance to write, but they also had a purpose. . . . [She] used an in-class journal in order to set up the personal narratives that students will be writing for their Senior Portfolio. They . . . will make her life much easier later on in the week when she discusses what a personal narrative is. (Reflective Journal, 9/15/99)


Nevertheless, Grant’s growth in reflection zigzagged. To the third journal, I replied, “Try to go beyond personalistic reaction, Grant. This issue would be a good one to try as deliberative—what do students, teachers, principal say are the pros and cons of Ninth Grade School?” For journal four, I e-mailed:


Your description of the project in American Studies was vivid and your point about class chemistry is a good one. How would you encourage a more positive, lively class chemistry? Try to link what you’re seeing to what you’ve been reading and we’ve been talking about [in Common Core].


To the fifth journal, I responded, “Thanks for your evaluation of Mrs. Y’s classes in terms of kinds of time. How will you use? Can you give me an example?”


In his midpoint reflection, Grant responded to the prompt, “I as a teacher . . .” by talking about his goals for his students, including that they think critically:


I as a teacher want to make my students think and get engaged. The former they must learn in life in order to be more productive members of society. They don’t have to think about literature when they leave my class—not at the end of the day or the end of the year—but they should think critically about the world in which they live. I want to make their minds question the world around them. (Reflective Journal, 10/26/99)


In November, Grant wrote about authentic assessment and I responded: “Set yourself goals of thinking about and constructing interesting lessons and assessments, even with grammar. There are more reasons than fun though. . . . What does Sizer say?”


In December, in his final journal, Grant connected theory and practice and reflected on the role of multiple intelligences:


The multiple intelligence theory has given me much of an idea of how to plan my teaching in such a way that every student can understand the lesson. I cannot go into a class and have an effective discussion on literature that every student can participate in every day. Sometimes the lesson plan will call for other types of learning than just the Socratic question and answer session. Not everyone thinks in a language arts/linguist mindset. (Reflective Journal, 12/5/99)


In the January interview, Grant gave himself a 2 in reflection at the beginning of the semester and a 4 at the end of the semester. He ranked himself low when he entered the program because “I would always know what I had done wrong but I would never stop and think about the things maybe I had done right.” He attributed this focus on what he had done wrong to a lack of self-confidence: “I don’t always trust my own reflections, but if you talk to someone, even if it’s a written response, that still jumpstarts your brain.” He defined reflection as “thinking back on something . . . and trying to find out what went right or wrong.”


Grant especially valued the opportunity to revise assignments: “That’s where I think I went from a two to a four was in redoing things [classroom management plan and reflection on interdisciplinary teaching] I did for you.” He maintained that the often average grades he had earned on his journals and low grades he earned on other reflective writing didn’t matter: “It was mainly that I hadn’t done the right best thing and that I had disappointed someone I respected.” Grant also appreciated the encouragement to be creative; for example, he wrote satire in response to an essay question on the semester’s final exam.


Although Grant said he had moved to a 4 in reflection, he struggled in student teaching in reflection-in/on action. He declaimed the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English excited him and amazed his Advanced Placement English students, but his usual mode of instruction remained “Socratic question and answer.”

KATE BELL: PARTICIPATING IN A COMMUNITY OF TEACHERS


Kate entered the MIC Program as a mature young woman with a master’s degree in English and a variety of experiences in teaching—from college composition courses to tutoring adolescents in reading. As a result of these experiences, Kate decided to leave academia and become a high school teacher.


In her first journal, after reading South of Heaven (French, 1993) and revisiting high school as a student for a day, Kate reflected personalistically and critically. She brought this journal to the class in which I (Instructor Two) was introducing Valli’s typology and different kinds of reflection:


After watching Ellen’s school experience for only a day, I wonder if her teachers ever feel the sense of accomplishment that Mike’s [a character in South of Heaven] teachers must feel when he passes a test, makes the honor roll, and graduates from high school. Unfortunately, however, where the rewards are big so are the losses: for every Mike that succeeds there are probably five that don’t. I find myself wondering whether I want to play it safe with honors classes or risk a little in hopes of big rewards in regular tracked classes. (Reflective Journal, 9/8/99)


To her second journal, which was primarily descriptive, I responded: “You describe some pretty discouraging teaching. . . . Tell me how you would do The Crucible.” And Kate e-mailed the next day: “How would I teach The Crucible? Hmmm . . . I guess I shouldn’t criticize unless I’m prepared to offer suggestions.” Then, in a paragraph, she laid out a possible lesson plan. In late November, when I asked Kate to be more specific in linking theory to practice, she again answered with substance.


Kate wrote a poem for the midpoint reflection, which I had suggested could be entitled “I as a Teacher.” Her title was “I as a Teacher . . . a Student” and she drew on her experience presenting a found poem she had written to begin a poetry unit for her students. I responded: “What a model you are for your students, willing to ‘sneeze away the dust, to find again a forgotten joy.’ ” Earlier in the semester, I had shared my own poem “Metaphors for Teacher” with the whole class. Could I have written a poem in response to Kate’s poem?


Kate sought out a variety of experiences at the high school. She observed classes of various levels (e.g., collaborative) and subjects (e.g., agriculture). She wrote about these classes and the teaching methods she observed in them. She tackled issues such as assessment, technology, and parents. Her final journal was a model, incorporating all four types of reflection; it focused on motivation and connected her subject area, ideas from The Shopping Mall High School (Powell et al., 1985), and adolescent psychology. She wrote in part:


I really need to do some soul searching about my subject area and its importance, relevance, and value in my life and how this transfers into students’ lives. In essence, I need to be prepared to answer the question posed two weeks ago by a parent (Why study Romeo and Juliet?) along with some other tricky questions that I have asked myself before (Why write poetry?) I really think that almost everything we have discussed so far this semester comes down to motivation. When my group was discussing ways to promote push, personalization, and purpose, I couldn’t help thinking in terms of motivation. We need to push students to value intrinsic learning in the content area and the way to do this is to have a clearly defined purpose with real-world applications and to know the students on a personal level so that you understand their interests and concerns as a student of your subject. The symbiotic relationship of the 3 P’s and motivation psychology is clear. (Reflective Journal, 12/5/99)


In the January interview, Kate stated that she believed she had entered the program with strong reflective skills—a 4.5—because reflective teaching had been emphasized for composition instructors in her previously completed master’s program in English. She felt she had moved to a 5. Defining reflection as “looking back on experience in terms of what you know now,” she thought that MIC faculty emphasized reflection because “You’re trying to really show us that you can grow as a teacher.” At first, she was dubious about journaling via e-mail but came to see this medium as “more of a conversation and more comfortable probably. . . . Sometimes you would ask me questions which would make me feel like [a member of] a community of teachers.”


Kate completed both her field and student teaching placements in the same school, working particularly with two teachers offering interdisciplinary American studies for juniors as well as with a teacher who was in charge of writing portfolios for the high school. By midterm in student teaching, the assistant principal was looking at her as a job candidate for the following year.

DISCUSSION


Before looking at the specific pedagogical strategies that helped Ella, Maurice, Grant, and Kate, it is important to examine their definitions of reflections and to return to Dewey, Schon, and Valli for insight into where they began, where they are now, and how they got there. First, the consistency across their definitions of reflection at the end of their first semester is striking:


Ella: You think on what you did . . . you evaluate that . . . and then you try to think of ways to change that, try to think of ways you can better that.


Maurice: the ability to look at a past event and actually consider everything that happened and all the options, what could have been done differently.


Grant: thinking back on something . . . and trying to find out what went right or wrong.


Kate: looking back on experience in terms of what you know now.


All clearly distinguished reflection from “stating what you did,” one of our criteria for growth in reflection. All focused on the type of reflection Valli, drawing from Schon, called reflection in/on action. When encouraged to produce a variety of types of reflection in their journals during their field experience placements, the students obliged. But once immersed in their student teaching, as they were at the time they gave the above definitions, they naturally became absorbed in their classroom performance.


Grant, whose growth in reflection was the most problematic and who experienced the most difficulties in student teaching, had the least precise definition. Unlike Kate, Ella, and Maurice, who volunteered to us statements about the value of the reflective journal and who continued to journal in their student teaching, Grant stopped keeping a journal when it was no longer a course requirement. He responded perfunctorily or not at all to the dialogical journal his cooperating teacher attempted to maintain with him. Throughout his time in the program, Grant claimed that his lack of self-confidence held him back. In fact, his journals, the interview, and subsequent conversations were peppered with references to “right” and “wrong,” as if there were some absolute knowledge of how best to teach. Grant’s case suggests that (1) willingness to sustain and protract a state of doubt, though uncomfortable, may be critical to growth in reflection; and (2) Grant might have been more comfortable with technical reflection, a form of reflection we did not emphasize or even present to our students. That is, Grant may have preferred to have his actions directed by someone else. Grant caused us to reflect on the extent to which we are meeting the needs of students like him.

STRATEGIES FOR TEACHING REFLECTION


Dewey reminded us that reflective habits of mind must be taught. We actively taught reflection by using a typology and a common language in our feedback to students and our discussions with them. As a result, we will no longer assume that students already know how to reflect: Only Kate entered the program with a sound idea of what constitutes reflective writing. Devoting teaching time to definitions, discussion, and models can improve the quality of preservice teachers’ reflection.


Valli’s typology was particularly helpful to Ella and Maurice, whose cohort leader (Instructor One) used it weekly to respond to journals and occasionally required students to use the typology to identify their own types of reflection. For example, Ella said:


You said, ‘I want you to try to reach each of these at some time in your journals.’ And so I strived. I really wanted to do each of those areas . . . because otherwise I would have done the more personalistic or reflection-in-action. . . . So I think that definitely helped me.


Although we constantly reminded our students and ourselves that Valli’s typology is not hierarchical, it was tempting to value some forms of reflection more than others. Students in both cohorts took easily to the personalistic. In fact, our feedback to them was often an attempt to push them out of this mode. By using the typology, we were able to give them examples of other ways to think and write about experience and ideas. The typology helped both instructors and students focus on what exactly constituted reflection in its multiple manifestations.


The cases of Grant, Kate, Ella, and Maurice illustrate the diverse learning preferences of preservice teachers. Their familiarity with reflective thinking and writing, their responsiveness to the strategies we used, and their patterns of growth in reflection were as individual as they are. When we asked them which pedagogical strategies worked best for them, we did not get unanimity. For example, Kate liked assigned topics: “When you directed a little more, it freed you up in a weird way. It gave you a starting point.” Grant did too “because it gets you thinking.” Ella, on the other hand, said, “for me that wouldn’t be a good thing.” Maurice used his journal to “hit on what affected me the most that particular week.” He did, however, appreciate the opportunity to review his own progress at midterm, calling the weekly reflections tactical” and the midterm reflection “strategic.” It is important to provide both structured and unstructured opportunities for reflection.


Did grades matter? Ella and Kate expected to get top grades, and they did. They didn’t see grades as an issue. Maurice, on the other hand, worked to raise his grades on the weekly journal: “During my first reflections . . . I wasn’t getting full points. . . . And I didn’t understand really why, but it was the type of reflection I was doing . . . there’s a difference between reflecting and just stating what you’ve done.” Although Grant’s journal grades fluctuated, he believed he profited most from the opportunity to raise his other grades through revising the reflective components of major projects, such as a classroom management plan.


The students were ambivalent about the value of peer sharing in improving their reflective writing. They appreciated hearing the views of others on issues of concern because hearing others’ views sometimes stimulated them to further reflection. On the other hand, they were sometimes reluctant to share their reflections because of their personal nature. Peer sharing might have been more successful if we had announced the sharing sessions in advance.


Initially, we wondered whether the medium (e-mail/hard copy) of journaling or mode (e-mail holistic/hard copy marginal) of response mattered to the students. Kate was one of only a few students in Instructor Two’s cohort who realized the dialogical potential of e-mail by immediately responding to questions on the e-mailed journal. In fact, since the time of this study Instructor Two has stopped using e-mail for reflective journals. Because the students in this study did not strongly endorse the value of electronic journals to their learning, Instructor Two found that the medium was too intrusive—arriving on her home computer at all hours of the day and night—unreliable, and demanded too much of her personal time for response.


In the end, we found that what mattered most to the students was the response itself:


Ella: I always go back and read when my professors or teachers write things on the margin. And that helped me because it allowed me to say, ‘Okay, this is what I think.’ And then you would ask questions about that. And that made me think even more about [it].


Grant: Any feedback you get from teachers or from those that you respect is extremely valued. You take those to heart and you remember those more than your own reflections sometimes.


Kate: I guess the stigma of going through school for so many years with stuff in the margins, it’s almost like criticism even though it may not be . . . but on e-mail . . . it was more of a conversation, and more comfortable probably.


All four students were unanimous that instructor feedback helped them become more reflective. They looked forward to reading it and responding to it.


Teachers make a difference not just because they give feedback but in how they relate to students as they give it. The following quotes suggest that the students were receptive to our feedback because they were comfortable with us as instructors:


Maurice: It really got me because I’m a student teacher and you’re a very experienced teacher and yet in a lot of your comments you wrote: ‘I relate to what you’re writing. I faced the exact same thing. . . .’ And I felt like not only was I telling you what was going on and reflecting to you, but you were reflecting back to me. And when you would do that it made me feel better because I figure if an experienced person can have these doubts . . . it’s okay for me to have them, too.


Grant: Whenever you see students as individuals that’s when they’ll respect you as a person. I think you did a wonderful job in doing that from day one. That is so important.


Kate (on taking the risk of writing a poem as a midterm reflection): It was fun to do. I think, too, like I’m very comfortable with you and I’m not really afraid to share things with you.


Ella, Maurice, Grant, and Kate reminded us that “Know your students” is not just a maxim for classroom teachers but for teacher educators as well.

LIMITATIONS


Several limitations should be noted. First, the four preservice teachers described here represented only two subject areas—English and social studies. Preservice teachers in business, foreign languages, mathematics, and science were not represented. Ella, Grant, Kate, and Maurice may have been predisposed toward reflection by personality and perhaps by academic preparation (Zeichner, 1987). Second, because this study took place during students’ first semester in a teacher-education program, it was not so much about reflective actions as about laying the groundwork for subsequent reflective action. Despite these limitations, we believe the cases have given us insight on pedagogical processes and strategies that are useful with the spectrum of preservice secondary teachers with whom we work.

META-REFLECTIONS: IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHER EDUCATION


We teacher educators must teach—not simply assign—reflection, if we want preservice teachers to become more reflective. In our zeal to cover the content of teacher education, we are tempted to assume that our students possess the skills they need to be able to do what we ask them to do. As English and social studies educators, we emphasize to preservice teachers the importance of depth over breadth, yet this study made clear to us that we may not have been practicing what we have been preaching.


This study confirmed for us the value of journals in stimulating various types of reflection. But as we look ahead to future groups of prospective teachers, we ponder which strategies to use. We will continue using Valli’s typology as a teaching tool and using models of reflective writing from published authors. As Ella suggested, we plan to provide student models of reflective journals as well. We plan to leave the journals open ended but to create a list of suggested topics for people who, like Grant, occasionally need a jumpstart. We are still debating how to address the issue of grading: Is it necessary or helpful to the students to give weekly grades at all? Are grades actually counterproductive to our goal of having students feel ownership of their journals? As Ella said, “It seems that when you have it as this five points per journal, it’s something you have to do for a grade.” The students in this study were not required to read Dewey’s Experience and Education (another casualty of covering content); we have since reintroduced this work. Although Dewey wrote out of his own time and place, we find students usually see relevance in his words.


Time is of the essence in our 1-year, fast-paced program. Yet if we truly value reflective decision making, then we must take the time required to teach it well. Decisions about time and content coverage are even more complicated in an integrated program like ours because students do not take separate courses in, for example, foundations of education or administrative perspectives. Our program design depends on collaboration among cohort leaders and faculty from various departments in the college. Increasing the instructional time devoted to reflection will decrease instructional time devoted to some other topic.


Time is also a personal issue. Our feedback helped the students to grow in reflection and to create and sustain relationships with them. We were happy to make this discovery because we each spent several hours per week reading and responding to journals—and each of us had fewer than 20 students in our cohort) Because of the intensity of the fall semester—teaching a 9-hour block of coursework and supervising field experience 4 days a week in a field-based program—we are both wistful and relieved when December comes. We are wistful because we too value the close relationships we develop with students through shared experiences, discussions, and journals. We are relieved because the workload has diminished.


This study reaffirmed our commitment to a field-based program. The variety and quality of experiences students acquire in the partner high schools provide fodder for reflection of the various types. Maurice’s critical reflection on a principal’s actions, Ella’s distress over the “unspecial special” student, and Kate’s concern about a parent’s question, for example, suggest a sincere struggle with the realities of school and classroom life that cannot be prompted only through reading and discussion in a campus classroom. Furthermore, because we were present in the schools as well, we often experienced or observed the same events that stimulated our students’ reflections.


This study raised questions for further research. What will happen to these students’ reflective abilities over time? Will they sustain the growth they appear to have made or succumb to the immediacy of life in the classroom? Is there a relationship between reflection and subject area? Ella, Grant, and Kate were English majors; Maurice was a history major. How do students who majored in math, science, foreign language, and business perceive and experience reflection? Finally, this study focused on four students who showed growth in reflection. A next step is to focus on students who struggle with reflection: What are the sources of their difficulties? What, if any, pedagogical strategies “work” for them?

EPILOGUE


The road from research to publication can be long. We have kept in touch with Ella, Maurice, Grant, and Kate and conclude by noting where they are now. We recently contacted each of them to ask whether their experiences with reflection in the MIC Program had influenced their teaching.


Ella, now married, is in her 2nd year of teaching at a large rural, suburban high school. She immediately responded to my (Instructor One) inquiry:


Reflecting on my teaching experiences while I was in the MIC Program definitely influenced my teaching. Taking specific experiences and reflecting on them critically—analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating what I had experienced—helped me to improve my lessons and my teaching style. If my day is running on schedule, I spend the first ten minutes of my planning reflecting on the day’s experiences. This not only helps me review/revise my lessons, but it allows me to de-stress and re-evaluate. Last year for KTIP [a state-mandated internship program for first-year teachers], I was REQUIRED to reflect, and I honestly didn’t think I would continue to reflect this year. However, now that I have even more time to reflect (because I have a year’s worth of experience) it seems even more important. (Personal Communication, 11/06/01)


Maurice had a difficult first year in a rural high school. Instructor Two served on his internship committee and observed his teaching three times. In addition to teaching social studies, he oversaw in-school suspension. He experienced problems in his personal life as well. Now in his 2nd year, with a new principal, Maurice is much happier. He e-mailed Instructor Two:


My reflection as a second year teacher is still as present as it was during my MIC Program. I am constantly taking mental notes in regards to how my lesson plans are being taken by my students. The times they are really asking questions and obviously into the lesson, I ask myself, “What am I doing right?” And of course when things don’t go well, I also question why. . . . I believe that reflection is something that I will always do, whether it be my second or my twentieth year. (Personal Communication, 11/07/01)


Grant also had a challenging first year at one of this city’s largest and most prestigious high schools. The school uses block scheduling, a configuration he had not experienced during student teaching. Like many first-year teachers, Grant “traveled.” Instructor One served on his internship committee and observed his teaching three times throughout the year. He had good rapport with his students, but he was clearly struggling with planning. Grant needed and received strong support from his assigned mentor teacher. He responded:


Truth to tell, reflecting has not been an important part of my teaching career until this year. I was so bogged down with planning what was going next that I was unable most of last year to do much reflection at all. This year is a different animal, however. I am able this year to have a frame of reference in order to back up my reflection. Last year, and especially in my student teaching, I knew what good teaching was when I SAW it, but never really learned what it was when I did it. This year I know. And I have been able to do a lot of reflection, even in my new creative writing class (I already know how I am going to structure the class next year to make it better—much better). . . . The MIC Program gave me the skills I needed for teaching, but I was so busy planning and wondering what the heck is coming next that I was too bogged down to use these skills—including reflection–until now. (Personal Communication 11/06/01)


Kate was hired by the high school in which she completed her student teaching. She had a successful first year and now team teaches American studies exclusively and enjoys collaborating with her experienced teaching partner, also a graduate of the MIC Program. She and I (Instructor One) are in a book club together and I see her monthly. She e-mailed:


Reflection . . . Well, I use it all the time. After a lesson has flopped, I sit down and think about the organization, my expectations, my presentation of the task outlines. Usually, I can pinpoint where I went wrong and am able to make the lesson more successful with my next classes. . . . In addition, I use it in terms of classroom management. I remember how I dealt with distant and/or hostile students in the past and what worked and what didn’t. I don’t know . . . I use it all the time. Every day. Without even being aware of it. (Personal Communication 11/06/01)


The original purpose of this study was to identify pedagogical strategies that helped preservice secondary teachers improve their reflective thinking via journal writing during the first semester of a yearlong professional program. We were most gratified to discover that reflection has become a vital and integral part of these novice teachers’ daily lives. For these former students, at least, we succeeded in demystifying reflection.

APPENDIX A: SEMISTRUCTURED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS


1. What is your definition of reflection?


2. Why do you think our program is based on the model of reflective decision-making?


3. On a scale of 1 to 5 in reflection, where would you place yourself at the beginning of fall semester? Where would you place yourself now?


4. Here are some strategies we used to encourage reflective thinking and writing. Talk about which ones worked or didn’t work for you and why. What might have helped you that we didn’t do?


● Reading the Kingsolver model


● Using the Valli typology


● Having teacher mark type of reflection on journal


● Marking type of reflection on journal myself


● Reflecting on common incidents at school


● Writing journals on e-mail; hard copy


● Instructor comments holistic on e-mail; marginal on hard copy


● Peer sharing of journals


● Grades


● Teacher’s feedback to you as an individual


● Encouragement to be creative

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ELIZABETH SPALDING is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Her research interests include reflection in teacher education, interdisciplinary teaching, and portfolio assessment. She is coauthor of Contexts of Teaching: Methods for Middle and High School Instruction (Merrill, 2000). Articles on interdisciplinary teaching recently appeared in Teaching and Teacher Education and Educational Forum.


ANGENE WILSON is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She has written many articles and a book, The Meaning of International Experience for Schools (Praeger, 1993), in her major area of research, the impact of international experience on students, teachers, and schools. Her most recent articles are “Growing Toward Teaching from a Global Perspective: An Analysis of Secondary Social Studies Preservice Teachers” in The International Social Studies Forum (2001) and “A Cross-National Conversation about Teaching from a Global Perspective: Issues of Culture and Power” in Theory Into Practice (2001).




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 7, 2002, p. 1393-1421
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10987, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 3:11:30 PM

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About the Author
  • Elizabeth Spalding
    University of Nevada
    E-mail Author
    ELIZABETH SPALDING is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her research interests include performance and portfolio assessment, learning communities in teacher education, and secondary English teaching and teachers. Recent publications include: E. Spalding, T. A. Savage, & J. Garcia, “The March of Remembrance and Hope: The Effects of a Holocaust Education Experience on Preservice Teachers’ Thinking About Diversity,” Multicultural Education (2003); and E. Spalding & A. Wilson, “Demystifying Reflection: A Study of Pedagogical Strategies That Encourage Reflective Journal Writing,” Teachers College Record (2002).
  • Angene Wilson
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    ANGENE WILSON is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She has written many articles and a book, The Meaning of International Experience for Schools (Praeger, 1993), in her major area of research, the impact of international experience on students, teachers, and schools. Her most recent articles are “Growing Toward Teaching from a Global Perspective: An Analysis of Secondary Social Studies Preservice Teachers” in The International Social Studies Forum (2001) and “A Cross-National Conversation about Teaching from a Global Perspective: Issues of Culture and Power” in Theory Into Practice (2001).
 
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