A Case-Based Tool Promoting Teacher’s Reflection on Intercultural Encounters

June, 2020

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 45(6)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The research question addressed in this study is the following: What kind of reflection on intercultural and inter-worldview encounters do case-based discussion workshops produce, and how?
This question is answered in qualitative terms.
The answer, however, includes formulating certain criteria for reflection that can be included in intercultural competences, such as frequencies of ‘superficial’ and more desirable reflection.


Design-Based Research
The study is closely connected to the research-based academic development project.
For this setting, the design-based research (DBR) approach was chosen.
Since the 1990’s DBR has been used especially in education, teaching, and learning settings.
It can be seen as a close relative to the action research model but, as Wang & Hannafin (2005) explain, DBR studies and develops a more a fixed design or model.
The aim of these designs and the theoretical insights reached when evaluating them is broader than simply to solve local challenges (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012).

The Design of the Case-Based Tool
The aim of the authors’ case discussions was to examine authentic cases experienced in culturally or religiously diverse school contexts.
In this article, this kind of case-based discussion, preceded by motivation to approach cultural and worldview diversity and concluding with remarks on the importance of reflection in teacher’s work, are called case discussion workshops.

The Data and the Analysis
The data was gathered from five training case discussion workshops carried out in diverse settings.
In this article, the case discussion sheets filled in by the participants are analysed.
In all, 80 completed sheets were gathered from the workshops conducted during the spring term 2018.
Not all of the cases in the workshops were the same, and obviously different cases provide different perspectives.
In order to be chosen for discussion, a case had to provide enough background knowledge and at least some complexity, although the cases also had to be concise enough to fit on the sheet.
The authors sought to choose cases that provided different perspectives on cultural and worldview diversity: besides cases where diversity caused problems to be solved, they wanted to include cases where the narrator or their students learnt something about diversity.
The participants’ written entries on the case discussion sheets were analysed using Atlas.ti.
Qualitative content analysis was used, combining data-driven and concept-driven approaches (Schreier, 2012).

Results and discussion
This design-based study shows that written tasks can stimulate and guide case discussion in small groups towards reflectivity.
The pyramid of reflection created on the basis of Korthagen’s (2005) onion of reflection makes it possible to evaluate the depth of reflection within case discussions.
Most of the reflections given by participants were superficial or on the meso-level, which is not necessarily a problem if they pave the way for deeper reflection.
However, the level of reflection varied greatly between the small groups and to some extent also between the cases.
Guidance and thorough discussion after group work are essential in order to share the insights reached by the most advanced groups.
Similarly, the use of different cases is important if intercultural and inter-worldview reflectivity is to be properly enhanced.
Although reflection as a concept has reigned in teacher education for decades (Luttenberg & Bergen, 2008), teacher education does not seem to guarantee that in-service teachers have the capacity for critical reflection, even in small groups where insights can be shared.
Both in-service and student teachers needed scaffolding by the instructor, but certain tasks in the case discussion sheets could also serve as scaffolds.
Encouraging the participants to formulate questions and reflect on the emotions present in the cases seemed to fulfil that function, because the tasks were not too abstract but could be used as scaffolds to guide towards deeper reflectivity.
The pyramid of reflection also revealed certain tensions that are present when teachers encounter cultural diversity.
The discussion did turn to certain principles but those principles were sometimes also questioned, and conflicts of interests and responsibilities were identified.
Acquah and Commins (2015) observed that critical reflection both created dissonances and helped the students to resolve them.
In the data, many questions remain unanswered and tensions unresolved.
For the participants, this may have been distressing.
From the perspective of reflection, however, questions are often more important than answers as they trigger new processes.
The pyramid of reflection can be used in teachers’ initial and in-service training and to evaluate the level of reflection in discussions on intercultural and inter-worldview encounters.
However, more research is needed to identify the properties that a case should have in order to enhance reflectivity in particular teacher education contexts.

Acquah, E. O., & Commins, N. L. (2015). Critical reflection as a key component in promoting pre-service teachers’ awareness of cultural diversity. Reflective Practice, 16(6), 790–805.
Anderson, T., & Shattuck, J. (2012). Design-based research: A decade of progress in education research. Educational Researcher 41(1), 16–25.
Korthagen, F. (2005). Practice, theory, and person in life-long professional learning. In D. Beijaard, P. C. Meijer, G. Morine-Dershimer & H. Tillema (Eds.) Teacher professional development in changing conditions (pp. 79–94). Springer.
Luttenberg, J., & Bergen, T. (2008). Teacher reflection: the development of a typology. Teachers and Teaching, 14(5-6), 543–566.
Schreier, M. (2012). Qualitative content analysis in practice. SAGE.
Wang, F., & Hannafin, M.J. (2005). Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments. Educational Technology Research & Development 53(4), 5– 23.  

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021


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