Connecting University Supervision and Critical Reflection: Mentoring and Modeling

Apr. 29, 2009

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 44 Issue 2, p. 90–112, 2009.

The study reports on the experiences of supervisors in a university teacher preparation program regarding their critical reflection on their practice. This has an impact on the learning opportunities available for their student teachers.

Research Objectives

The goals of the study were to examine (a) the role critical reflection plays in how a supervisor comes to know her own stance, (b) how critical reflection is expressed in the enactment of the supervisors’ stances, and (c) the degree to which student teachers understand their supervisors’ ideas about critical reflection.
An underlying assumption in this study is that a greater understanding of supervisors’ stances and beliefs about critical reflection will aid in creating a synergy between the goals and mission of teacher education programs and the goals, attitudes, and interests of university supervisors.

Participant Selection

This investigation focused on 3 university elementary supervisors, all clinical faculty at the same university teaching in the same teacher preparation program. Each taught the same courses and provided field supervision, but to distinct cohorts of 20–25 students placed at schools in different public school districts. Each also provided mentoring to both the student teachers and school site teacher educators (STEs).

In addition to the 3 supervisors, 12 student teachers participated in the study. 4 students from each cohort of students were purposefully selected using criterion selection and maximum variation selection techniques (Patton, 2002). Participants were chosen who completed their field placements in four different contexts (two schools and two grade levels) from within each supervisor’s district. Other criteria included demographic information such as age (most of the students were in their mid to late 20s), gender (two were male), and ethnicity (All of the students were Caucasian, as were all of their supervisors); however, the overall sample varied little in these criteria. The final participants were chosen in an effort to represent the larger population of student teachers and to demonstrate the greatest diversity of experience (Patton; Polkinghorne, 2005).

Findings include: (a) an understanding of critical reflection is something that builds over time for student teachers through exposure to their supervisor’s practice; (b) explicitly modeling, guiding, and communicating the importance of critical reflection in teaching practice through supervisory stance helps teacher candidates develop critically reflective practices and understandings; (c) developing critical reflection in their individual and shared practices takes time for both parties.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (3rd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (2005). Language and learning: Data collection in qualitative research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 137–145.

Updated: May. 13, 2009