Analysis of interaction patterns and tutor assistance in processes of joint reflection in pre-service teacher education

September, 2019

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 45:4, 389-401

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This research is intended by the researchers to contribute to the description and understanding of the interactive dynamics between teaching students and of educational assistance from tutors by studying the nature of interaction in these processes of joint reflection and by identifying the different types of assistance offered by the tutor within the collective scaffolding and the ‘forms’ or interactivity patterns that are constructed in joint activity.

Participants - Two cases were analysed by the researchers, each corresponding to a group of trainee teachers, currently on placement, and their tutors.
Case 1 included 10 students and two tutors (all females), and Case 2 included 13 students and two tutors (all females).
The study was carried out in the context of the fourth-year Practicum subject in the Faculty of Education, which is part of the curriculum in primary and preschool education.
The tutors were university lecturers with experience in this role. The discussion and analysis of the situations the student teachers had experienced while on placement took place during five tutorial sessions, each of which lasted for about an hour and half.
Procedures - The authors report that the situations reflected upon were real events experienced by the participants in their practicum.
Each student selected one situation from her practicum (Kilgour, Northcote, and Herman 2015) that she wanted to discuss in the collaborative reflection.
The time during the scheduled seminar session that was dedicated to discussion of these situations began with the student responsible for the account of a particular situation reading her account precisely and aloud.
This was followed by a conversation among all the participants, who, guided by the tutor, reacted to what they had just heard about the situation and about the different aspects of teaching practice evoked by that situation.
The five seminars in which the joint reflection activity took place were filmed and recorded for subsequent analysis.
More specifically, two analyses were performed: an analysis of interactivity to analyse the activity of joint reflection, and content analysis to identify tutor assistance.

Results and discussion
In this study, the authors found that the phases through which reflective thought passed in these cases (Exploration, Focalisation, Interpretation, and Synthesis) and their structures of interaction did not follow a prescriptive model throughout the five sessions.
The data seem to support contributions that referenced the phases as attempts at description of the processes of reflection (Dewey [1933] 2006; Tessema 2008) more than as a prescriptive process (Korthagen 2010).

In both cases, the activity of joint reflection on practical situations focused reflection on a retrospective analysis of knowing in the action although the authors’ results suggest that both tutors showed differences in relation to the focus of the reflection. In Case 1, data such as
(i) the high percentage of assistance related to discussion in all phases;
(ii) the greater number of instances of assistance that encouraged students to identify factors and frameworks of interpretation, and to relate to experiential knowledge and theory and practice;
(iii) the greater amount of time occupied by student participation in the Interpretation phase;
(iv) the importance that the segment ‘questions to propose possible educational procedures’ acquired in the presented case; and
(v) the relationship with academic knowledge upheld by these procedures, suggest that the purpose of the activity of joint reflection was to co-construct defended responses for the improvement of the situation presented. In Case 2, the focus of the joint reflection was intended to reveal a possible dilemma within the situation in order to be able to identify the factors that influenced it, and Interpretation was thus the phase that acquired the most relevance in puzzling out knowing in the action without involving a decision or action.
In this case, a referential framework was established by the tutor, who guided the analysis and the joint explanation of the situation by offering the students a new framework in which to re-interpret their practice.
The authors note that the identified instances of assistance reveal differences in the two cases related to type, degree, distribution, and scaffolding.
In both cases and in all phases of reflection, facilitation of assistance of all three types (assistance related to discussion, related to interpretation, and related to the theoretical–practical relationship) was found, but these instances of facilitation differed in the specific weight that each took on in each phase in each case.
In this sense, support of the dialogical nature of joint reflection was provided by the tutors in both cases, but instances of assistance aiming at the interpretative nature of reflection and the connection between theory and practice appeared to a lesser degree and, when such instances did appear, they were directed more at connecting the events with previous experiences.
Experience and the knowledge of the group became fundamental in the realisation of inferences (Dewey [1933] 2006), and in collective scaffolding.
In both cases, the distribution of instances of assistance related to the relationship between theory and practice seemed to indicate that academic knowledge informed reflection by helping to re-frame practice.
Tutor assistance was found by the authors to be essential in collective scaffolding for the establishment of relationships between situational and academic representations in both cases.
The conduct of the tutor in the conversation was oriented toward promoting situational representations, providing support, and guiding the analysis and the reflection on professional practice through inquiry.
The present results found by the authors suggest a progressive increase in control of the task by the students, demonstrated as an increase in their participation throughout the case and facilitated by the evolution and adaptation of the assistance offered during each of the described phases, which was aimed at constructing shared meanings that were more and more complex in each of the sessions of joint reflection (Mercer 2000).
The authors conclude that the present study confirms the importance of certain elements in encouraging reflection in initial training, specifically:
(i) the importance of clarification on the part of the instructors of their views on education and on professional training, given that those views determine both the object and the reflection process that arise in the group;
(ii) the importance of tutor assistance in the tutor’s role as a facilitator of opportunities for students to learn independently, express ideas, and develop points of view through dialogue and collaboration;
(iii) the importance of reinforcing the idea of the collective aspect of the joint construction of knowledge among equals by developing strategies of dialectical inquiry and scaffolding that allow entry into phases of reflection that are both more interpretative and related to the dialectical relationship between theory and practice.

Dewey, J. [1933] 2006. How We Think. Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery Davis
Kilgour, P., M. Northcote, and W. Herman. 2015. “Pre-service Teachers’ Reflections on Critical Incidents in Their Professional Teaching Experiences.” In Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World, Vol. 38, Paper presented at the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) International Conference, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), Melbourne, 6–9 July, edited by T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser, and R. Hadgraft, 383–393. Milperra, Australia: HERDSA.
Korthagen, F. 2010. “How Teacher Education Can Make a Difference.” Journal of Education for Teaching 36 (4): 407–423.
Mercer, N. 2000. La construcción guiada del conocimiento. El habla de profesores y alumnos [The Guided Construction of Knowledge. The Speech of Teachers and Students]. Barcelona: Paidós
Tessema, k. a. 2008. “an exploration for a critical practicum pedagogy: dialogical relationships and reflections among a group of student teachers.” educational action research 16 (3): 345–360.

Updated: Jan. 16, 2020