Delving into the Meaning of Productive Reflection: A Study of Future Teachers’ Reflections on Representations of Teaching

Jan. 28, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 37, (January, 2014), p. 76-90.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to determine how productive future teachers were able to engage in reflections without instructor scaffolding when presented with animations of algebra instruction.
The article addressed to the following research questions:
1.What do future teachers discuss in their posts after viewing the animations?
2. How often do the future teachers move past a reporting of the events in the animations? To what extent do future teachers consider other perspectives in their reflections?
3. Are future teachers able to develop a complex view of teaching?

The participants were 16 future teachers from 2 sections of a secondary mathematics methods course in the northeastern part of the United States.
The authors used animations in teacher education as representations of algebra instruction.
The animations were from ThEMaT (Thought Experiments in Mathematics Teaching).
The participants viewed each of the five animations.
The participants posted their reflections on an asynchronous, online discussion with no instructor scaffolding.


The findings reveal that the productivity of the reflections varied depending on whether their content, connectedness, or complexity was considered.
The participants exhibited the ability to reflect on the animations, speculating on what had occurred and how the scenario might be improved.
Many of the participants were able to consciously relate previous experiences to events in the animations.
Furthermore, while learning from experience is important for reflection, there is another aspect of connectedness that merits discussion.
While some of the 2010 group’s reflections were based on ideas from the greater community in mathematics education, it was not the case for the 2011 group.
By considering others’ experiences and research findings, future and even novice teachers might be able to more quickly develop the skills for adaptive teaching that veteran teachers often display.

The participants were able to consider a complex view of teaching, addressing more than one aspect of teaching in their reflections.
The 2011 group, in particular, was more likely to integrate multiple aspects of teaching.
In light of the results of both the second and third phases of analysis, one could argue that the participants in this study were somewhat able to engage in productive reflection.
The findings reveal that the 2010 group seems to have engaged in more connected reflection.
In contrast, the 2011 group’s reflections seem to be more complex.

The role of teacher educators was also considered.
The results demonstrate that minimal input might have improved the 2011 group’s reflections as well.
The instructor could have praised that group for recognizing the complexity and interplay between teachers, students, and subject matter, asking if assessment should play a more significant role in their reflections.
There could also have been instructor encouragement to connect reflections to the mathematics education community, incorporating theory and research highlighted in their coursework.

The authors conclude that this study provides evidence that there are at least three dimensions to reflection: content, connectedness, and complexity.
This study provides evidence that connectedness and complexity are not necessarily linked; one could be low while the other is high.

Updated: Jan. 07, 2015