Guided reflection procedure as a method to facilitate student teachers’ perception of their teaching to support the construction of practical knowledge

August, 2020

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 26:2, 166-192

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study analyses: what aspects of practice student teachers identify as empowering or challenging based on video recordings of their teaching practice; what characterises the most empowering and challenging aspects of student teachers’ practice; what types of practical knowledge do student teachers express when reflecting on the empowering and challenging events of their teaching practice.
This study introduces the potential for the use of video recordings and reflection to support the development of teachers’ knowledge.
The aim of this study is to investigate how the developed guided reflection procedure (Allas et al., 2017; adapted from; Husu et al., 2008; Toom et al., 2015) supports student teachers in selecting meaningful events from the video recordings of their teaching practice for further reflection.

The specific research questions were the following:
1) What aspects of practice do student teachers identify as empowering or challenging using video recordings of their teaching practice?
2) What characterises the events student teachers identify as the most empowering and challenging aspects of their practice?
3) What types of practical knowledge do student teachers express when reflecting on empowering and challenging events from their teaching practice?

Participants - Participants in the study included 21 student teachers from one institute at an Estonian university (all female; aged 21–49; average age 25).
They followed three different teacher education curricula (six student teachers followed the class teacher curriculum, eight followed the subject teacher curriculum, and seven following the kindergarten teacher curriculum).
The criterion for sampling was student teacher participation in teaching practice during the time of the study in one institute at an Estonian university.
The guided reflection procedure used in this study aimed to support student teachers in connecting their theoretical studies with practical experiences in the school or kindergarten.

Data collection - Data about the meaningful events of student teacher practice were collected during 2013 in spring semester using the guided reflection procedure (Allas et al., 2017; adapted from; Husu et al., 2008; Toom et al., 2015).
This study focuses on the events that student teachers chose as meaningful as well as on the types of practical knowledge student teachers expressed when reflecting on the empowering and challenging events of their teaching practice.
Student teachers’ oral and written reflections were previously described and studied in detail by Allas et al. (2017) and student teachers’ experiences and feedback on the guided reflection procedure by Leijen et al. (2014).

Findings and discussion
The results showed that while student teachers selected differing events that were meaningful for them, the majority focused on aspects related to pedagogical and didactical relations.
A similar tendency was also found when examining the events regarded as empowering and challenging.
These findings are remarkable because previous research (e.g. Beijaard et al., 2004; Fuller, 1969) has shown that beginning teachers tend to focus more on themselves and the subject they are teaching.
Focusing on pedagogical and didactical relations promotes student learning, and such a focus seems more characteristic of experienced teachers.
It is possible that reviewing video recordings of their own teaching aided student teachers in extending their teaching focus and enabled them to pay more attention to student learning.
These results further support the ideas of several researchers suggesting that the use of video recording may facilitate student teacher learning (e.g. Darling-Hammond et al., 2005).
For student teachers, these findings suggest that guided study of one’s own teaching can pave the way to thorough understanding of the instructional core, thus facilitating progress towards high-quality instruction.
Therefore, the results of this study suggest the incorporation of a guided reflection procedure into the context of teaching practice to support student teachers in elaborating their perception of their practice and enabling them to construct practical knowledge about different aspects of teaching.
Additionally, some differences emerged when examining the critical events identified as meaningful by student teachers from different curriculum groups.
The class teacher group emphasised the didactical aspect of teaching in both empowering and challenging events more.
The kindergarten teacher group was mostly empowered by events focusing on the relation between teacher and children, but at the same time, they were more concerned with didactical aspects of teaching.
The subject teacher group was the only group that addressed all three relations in their meaningful events, and they were the only group that focused on content-related concerns.
These findings suggest that in different teacher education curricula, the professional focus is likely different.
The class teacher curriculum greatly emphasises the teacher’s role as students’ learning facilitator throughout its five years of study.
The emphasis in the three-year kindergarten teacher professional preparation seems to be more on educational goals and interpersonal relations than on content-related aims.
The subject teacher’s curriculum is preceded by three years of subject studies that seem to have some influence on the aspects that student teachers following this curriculum emphasise as meaningful.
In conclusion, this study offers insight into the aspects of reflection that foster student teachers’ professional development.
Using video recordings of actual teaching practice and allowing student teachers to identify meaningful aspects of their practice as a base for their further learning in the context of carrying out the guided reflection procedure enabled to uncover what student teachers perceive in the context of their teaching practice.
Additionally, it indicated how this could be supported at the university level.
The first important outcome of this study lies in the explanation of critical events student teachers identified as meaningful.
Considerable research has been conducted on reflection, but less has been documented about what student teachers and teachers reflect on.
Second, the results of this study suggest that with suitable guidance, beginning teachers can notice student-related aspects of teaching earlier in their professional development and, therefore, focus on supporting student learning.
Although it is typically expected that beginning teachers focus more on themselves and the content-related aspects of teaching (e.g. Beijaard et al., 2004).
Third, the results of this study indicate an important gap.
Experts learn from mistakes; therefore, reflection is commonly focused on challenging and problematic aspects of practice.
The results of this study suggest that reflecting on the empowering aspects of teaching results in the construction of knowledge that can more easily be used to guide teacher actions and therefore might facilitate the bridging of the ‘gap’ between theory and practice.
Reflecting on the empowering aspects of teaching also seems to enhance learning.
Overall, this study emphasises that teaching practice during initial teacher education is a significant context for student teacher learning that could have important implications for a teacher’s future professional practice.
Thus, it is important to explore the meaningful events, characteristics, and contexts of practice to understand how to guide and supervise student teacher learning.

Allas, R., Leijen, Ä., & Toom, A. (2017). Supporting the construction of teacher’s practical knowledge through different interactive formats of oral reflection and written reflection. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 61(5), 600–615.
Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(2), 107–128.
Darling-Hammond, L., Hammerness, K., Grossman, P., Rust, F., & Shulman, L. (2005). The design of teacher education programs. In L. Darlin-Hammond & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do, (pp. 390-441). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.
Fuller, F. F. (1969). Concerns of teachers: A developmental conceptualization. American Education Research Journal, 6(2), 207–226.
Husu, J., Toom, A., & Patrikainen, S. (2008). Guided reflection as a means to demonstrate and develop student teachers’ reflective competencies. Reflective Practice, 9(1), 37–51.
Leijen, Ä., Allas, R., Toom, A., Husu, J., Mena Marcos, -J.-J., Meijer, P., Knezic, D., Pedaste, M., & Krull, E. (2014). Guided reflection for supporting the development of student teachers’ practical knowledge. The European Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 112, 314–322. 
Toom, A., Husu, J., & Patrikainen, S. (2015). Student teachers’ patterns of reflection in the context of teaching practice. European Journal of Teacher Education, 38(3), 320–340.

Updated: Oct. 23, 2020