Teaching Ms. Kerbin: A Unique Approach to Student Teacher Reflections and Their Use With Preservice Candidates

Fall, 2010

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 32 no. 3 (Fall 2010), p. 25-39
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes a unique approach to encouraging student teacher reflection over time. Three students teachers in the elementary education master of arts in teaching program at Wheaton College met with a professor over a semester's time to reflect and write about their student-teaching experiences. The group chose to examine common concerns of student teachers not often addressed in classes, with the idea that these reflections could be useful for teacher candidates just entering student teaching. However, rather than focus simply on writing about their experiences, all the participants approached the task of writing from the perspective of 10-year-olds.

The collection of vignettes titled Teaching Ms. Kerbin was the result.
Seven major points of concern were addressed:
(1) the first day,
(2) working as a team with the cooperating teacher,
(3) classroom behavior management,
(4) sensitivity to the needs of children with challenging home circumstances,
(5) observations by the college supervisor,
(6) inclusion practices,
and (7) breaking through with a difficult student.

These vignettes were presented to 35 pre-student teaching candidates in the semester just before their student-teaching experience. After the presentation, the candidates' comments were collected. The following semester, the candidates were asked once again to share their perceptions regarding the vignettes in light of their student-teaching experiences.
The candidates indicated that several vignettes helped to instill confidence and better prepare them for some challenges that occurred during the student-teaching experience.

Comments from the Authors

About 8 months after the vignettes were presented, the authors who prepared the vignettes stated the value in grooming student teachers toward the habit of reflection to help them gain insights to their identities as teachers and to make the shift from self-absorbed novices to student-centered teachers.

Suggestions for Teacher Preparation Programs

The authors have two primary suggestions for teacher educators regarding the use of the vignettes.
The first suggestion is to use the stories as starting points for class discussions regarding the issues raised. The real situations common to student teachers should elicit a number of comments and discussions that could help candidates become more at ease as they prepare to enter their classrooms.

A second suggestion is to expand the concept of journaling from the candidates' points of view to include journaling from the students' points of view. Asking candidates to write their reflections from another's point of view might make the reflections even more helpful.

Updated: Jan. 18, 2012