Feedback sessions as mediation spaces: empowering teacher candidates to deepen instructional knowledge and engage in the construction and transformation of theory in practice


Source: Educational Action Research, 28:2, 258-274

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article is concerned with the culmination of teacher candidates cyclical action research (AR) projects which the authors refer to as feedback sessions, which serves as a rehearsal opportunity before presenting their work in a meaningful way to a panel of professionals from the field.
The candidates are guided through the program from approximations to more authentic forms of teaching practice.
At this juncture, the teacher candidates, have progressed through the program, engaged in their own iterative cycle of AR around an authentic student need, and the rehearsal focus is on preparing them to share their research with practitioners in the field.
This is, in a sense, the last opportunity for the teacher candidates to engage with their faculty as students in this way before transitioning into professional educators themselves.
The primary mode of teacher candidate apprenticeship comes from the feedback that students receive from faculty.
During the course of their AR work, students have ample opportunities to share their work and receive feedback from their course faculty, their AR chairs, and their colleagues.
In addition to these individualized feedback sessions students receive throughout the term of their projects, students are required to present at a faculty feedback session prior to the public presentations showcasing their research.
At these faculty feedback sessions, students prepare a ‘dry run’ of the presentation that they will present at the AR conference or end of program symposium.
They are each allotted a 30-min time frame to present their study, which consists of 20 min of presentation time followed by 10 min of a question and answer period with faculty members from the department and their peers.
After they are finished, they receive feedback from faculty who are in attendance.
Because all students enrolled in the AR course are required to sit in on at least two other feedback sessions besides their own, they also hear and receive valuable insights from the feedback going on between faculty and presenters.
Teacher candidates revise their presentations before the research symposium, where they present in front of a panel of professionals from the field of education.
At these formal presentations, members of the teaching community, administrators, alumni and scholars are invited to serve as panelists as well as participants in the presentation sessions.
Because students do not progress through the AR cycle in a linear manner, the requirement for the ‘practice feedback session’ is that students have at minimum completed one cycle of their AR trajectory.

The intent of this paper is to share the authors’ work around AR within their department as it relates particularly to the feedback sessions their teacher candidates engage in preparation for the culminating research symposium with members of the education community.
Because they focused on one cohort consisting of 13 students, they utilized a qualitative (Berg 2001) single-case exploratory design (Yin 2009).
They were interested in how faculty approach feedback and what kinds of feedback they provide in order to better prepare their teacher candidates for these sessions.

Data collection and analysis
Feedback from the feedback sessions was analyzed in the following three-pronged process.
First, the authors collected all the feedback from faculty that was provided to the students.
Next, themes were generated as each piece of feedback comment was analyzed.
Lastly, the feedback was summarized in the form of a narrative to convey the essential points that were communicated during the feedback sessions.

The themes that emerged from these feedback sessions were primarily related to content and the procedural aspects of AR followed by comments on the actual presentation slides and style.
Much of the feedback was also centered around general research practice.
(1) Making Personal Connections: Positioning Self in the Research
(2) Delineating the context: Situating the study
(3) Making the unfamiliar familiar: Operationalizing terms and concepts
(4) Articulating the Purpose and Rationale for the Study
(5) Articulating the Research Question
(6) Grounding the Research Question within the Context
(7) Articulating the Intervention
(8) Articulating Rationale for Changes in Interventions
(9) Data Collection & Findings – ‘Show, Don’t Tell
(10) Tying Research Back to Original Question
(11) So what factor – Connecting Current Research with Future Practice
(12) Reflections

In the authors’ experience, these themes have remained constant over the years and have been used to coach the cohorts that have come through the program since this study was completed.
The process of documenting and analyzing their own feedback brought to light what they value in this work.
Through advising their candidates through their AR projects, they were surprised to see how their receptiveness to feedback changed over time.
In other words, their analyses of this feedback process confirmed that the teacher candidates’ ability to understand and internalize feedback was indeed, developmental, as theorists have suggested in the literature (Daloz-Parks 1999, 2000; Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano 2016; Hammerness et al. 2005; Johnson and Golombek 2016; King and Baxter-Magolda 1996).

By engaging in this deliberate process (Ericsson 2009) of developmental mediation, the authors believe they were better able to support our teacher candidates to recognize where they were at, re-vision their understanding and practice (Horn 2010) and encourage them to bridge their current understandings into reframed, broader perspectives.

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Updated: Feb. 03, 2021


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