How Do Pre-service Teachers’ Reflective Processes Differ in relation to Different Contexts?

Feb. 01, 2012

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 35, No. 1, February 2012, 77–89.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Focus of the study

The study focuses on pre-service teachers’ reflection processes in four different contexts during their subject teaching practicum.

The contexts are:
(1) reflections on lessons,
(2) pupil observation,
(3) research reading, and
(4) autobiographical context.

The research questions are:
(1) What kind of breadth and depth do the pre-service teachers’ reflection processes reveal?
(2) How do the pre-service teachers’ reflective processes differ in relation to different contexts and biographical factors, and what kind of profiles can be found among them?

The study was carried out in connection with the second-year subject Didactic Practicum 2 (SD 2) in the training school of the University of Lapland in November and December of 2007.

During SD 2, the preservice teachers were guided by university lecturers specialising in the education of subjects and by a cooperative class teacher in the training school.

The data consist of 53 pre-service teachers’ mathematics portfolios, from which the authors purposively selected three for closer scrutiny.

Comparing the profiles

According to the results, the breadth and depth of the pre-service teachers’ reflection processes greatly varied.

The results show that a significant degree of coherence exists between the depth and breadth of teacher reflection.
This means that when reflection reaches a higher level not only the nature but also the content of reflection changes.

The depth of reflection also varied in the case of each pre-service teacher depending on the context.
Especially in the context of reflections on lessons, only one preservice teacher presented moral views in her reflection, while the others’ reflection processes were mainly pragmatic by nature.
On the other hand, all the pre-service teachers used a degree of moral reflection when describing events in their mathematical autobiographies.

All the students’ portfolios included at least one context in which their reflections reached a deep level.

Pre-service teachers’ mathematical autobiographies help the authors to better understand their reflection in the other contexts.
Firstly, students’ reflections were shown to be broad if both the past and the future were considered.
Secondly, becoming familiar with the students’ mathematical autobiographies aided the authors in understanding their reflections in other contexts.
The mathematics autobiographies revealed how the students had constructed their mathematics pasts and what they had learnt from their earlier experiences of teaching mathematics.


Based on the findings, the authors draw the following conclusions.
If the goal is to deepen and broaden pre-service teachers’ reflections, the reflection processes should focus not only on the lessons but also on wider and multiple contexts.

During teacher education, especially in practicum situations, a pre-service teacher assesses the situation based on information from past experiences, as well as from present conditions, in order to decide on an action that will influence future events.

Besides individual reflection, collective reflection can be a fruitful tool for enriching and widening one’s thinking.
Thus, collaboration and collective efforts are not customary in teachers’ workplaces, and to change this culture, collective action and reflection should be cultivated in teacher education.

To foster reflection, it is also important to understand and discover barriers to reflection. Students can create barriers to their own and peers’ reflection.

Finally, when appropriately used, a portfolio is one useful means of enhancing self-reflection.

Updated: Mar. 20, 2013


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