Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 4, 377–390, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article reports on a programme which applied the conceptual framework of critical transformative dialogue, developed as a part of the health profession to the context of teacher education. The programme applied the processes of critical transformative dialogue in the development of a series of core skills of teaching with first-year pre-service teachers in the initial stages of their degree and prior to their first placement in schools. A cumulative model of transformative practice, engaging participants in a cyclical process of rehearsal, enactment and shared critical reflection, is proposed.
A group of 65 first-year undergraduate pre-service teachers at the authors’ university were involved in a 12-week extra-curricular programme to rehearse and develop core practices of teaching, or pedagogies of enactment. In particular, the programme explored the skill of reading to children for educational purposes.
The participants were asked to provide feedback on aspects of the programme and their progress at a number of data points. This included the completion of questionnaires, participation in focus groups and individual interviews. Participation in the research element was voluntary.
Participant feedback following professional placement indicated their acknowledgement of the value of engaging in critical transformative dialogues as a tool for professional learning. The pre-service teachers’ comments revealed that their experiences had contributed to their understanding of teaching, learning and children’s development; the value of critical transformative dialogue in supporting professional reflection; their readiness for engagement in the professional context of schools; and an increasing confidence as beginning teachers.
Developing understanding of teaching, learning and children’s development
The participants reported that their engagement in the processes of critical transformative dialogue contributed to their developing understanding of children’s development and learning. These skills helped the participants in their first engagement with children.
Participants were also able to apply learning from their concurrent curriculum and child development subjects.
The benefits of the participants having engaged in the programme alongside their academic subjects were evident in their reflections following their placement in schools. The pre-service teachers identified they had developed a greater capacity in the selection of stage-appropriate texts and the differentiation of the modalities in which these could be employed as part of the educational programme.
The participants responses indicated an appreciation of the opportunities provided to rehearse and engage in dialogue and reflection to support the development of core practices )reading, questioning and writing). These rehearsed skills were described as making the participants feel more able to contribute to the overall educational experience of the children in the pre-service teachers’ placement classes.
A cumulative model of transformative practice
One of the key findings emerging from this research was that the development of core practices occurred in the weekly cycle of interactions. This can be represented in a four-stage instructional model (see Figure 1) that enables the gradual introduction and rehearsal of the constituent skills of the complex pedagogy being rehearsed. The cumulative model of transformative practice proposes an incremental approach, where participants are actively involved in the e co-construction of practice with classroom practitioners, academic mentors and peers.
The model provides for a progressive delivery of each of the constituent skills, in a manner such that mastery of the complex skill is achievable. In this way, participants are engaged in critical transformative dialogue, and critical transformative practice from the earliest stages of their professional learning. This critical transformative practice involves the pre-service teacher in moving progressively toward a complex and professional mastery of the professional practice of teaching.
The findings of this research have implications for programmes preparing pre-service teachers for practice within classrooms. One of the challenges experienced by early pre-service teachers is their first engagement with students and professionals in schools. Programmes which develop the skills to engage with both the core practices of teaching, and the reflective skills necessary for collaborative learning in the profession, offer support to pre-service teachers as they enter the field.
As educational practice becomes more closely scrutinised and regulated, engagement in critical transformative dialogue enables the preparation of pre-service teachers for the implementation of core practices (pedagogies of enactment) in the classroom. The creation of spaces in which pre-service teachers are engaged in learning the pedagogies of enactment and the processes of the community of practice, from the earliest stages of their course of study, enables them to develop an early sense of the shared repertoire of the field.
The participants’ emerging appreciation of the value of critical transformative dialogue in supporting and improving professional practice offers a challenge to the discourses of isolation and niceness currently limiting the establishment of teaching as a community of practice.