Practicing What We Preach: Using Reflective Writing as an Indicator of Learning

Nov. 07, 2008

Source: Studying Teacher Education,Volume 4, Issue 2, November 2008,
p. 105 - 114

The first term of any preservice teacher education program can be challenging for students in many ways, and learning to read and write in a scholarly way is one potential challenge. This article chronicles events in the author's secondary education literacy course when she asked students to write in a descriptive, analytical, and reflective way about the experiences that led them to teaching.
The assignment was to be forwarded to potential cooperating teachers seeking interns in their classrooms. To assess her students' understanding of the letter of introduction assignment and their understanding of what it means to be reflective, the author administered a five-question, open-ended questionnaire.

The Questionnaire

Prior to this assignment, what was your understanding of the role of descriptive, analytic and reflective writing in demonstrating your abilities to meet INTASC Standard Principle Nine? What is your understanding of this connection now?
Assuming that you have a better understanding of the role that these modes of writing play in demonstrating your reflective skills, how skillful do you think you are?
How helpful were the in-class handouts (journal article, Six-Trait Rubric)?
How helpful were the class discussions, peer review sessions, and meetings with the graduate assistants?
What suggestions do you have for me, as the instructor, to improve student understanding of this assignment in future classes?

The stakes were high, and so was the confusion about what it means to write reflectively and how to link such writing to teacher education standards
This forced the author to study her own efforts to encourage reflective practice to discover where the gaps in understanding had occurred and how those gaps might be reduced. The self-study experience was enlightening, and she now realize that she can assume nothing about student understanding. The only way to know if understanding has occurred is to ask the right questions and then be prepared to adjust her practice accordingly.

Updated: Dec. 08, 2008