Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 9, No. 1, 18–30, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This collaborative self-study examines the notion of writing reflectively in teacher education, and documents how student teachers in Canada and the Netherlands respond to their teacher educators’ reflective journals. The authors also examine the impact their own reflecting has had on their understanding of their teaching, and on the way they teach future language teachers to learn to teach and to reflect on their teaching.
The authors are two teacher educators who work with prospective teachers of foreign languages in two different countries: Canada and the Netherlands.
The data include the personal analyses of the authors' teaching that they shared with their students after each class; the responses they received from the students; the comments they exchanged after reading abstracts from each other’s reflective writings were also included. In addition, their students also filled out a short questionnaire at the end of the sessions about what they had learned from reading the authors' reflective writing about their teaching of classes that they had attended.
The results revealed much greater understanding of the complexities of reflective writing.
For example, Lynn found that she became more reflective during her classes, and began to explain her pedagogical decisions more explicitly while teaching. Janneke had already incorporated this approach in her teaching. She made conscious choices between the two types of reflection and found the journal to be a useful tool for the deeper issues that she did not want to take the time to discuss in class.
The authors argue that their reflections helped them improve their practice in terms of forcing them to make their class objectives and pedagogical decisions more explicit.
The language of reflection was also a consideration for this study. Both authors are teacher educators of preservice teachers of English as a foreign language, and a large majority of their students are also English foreign language students, so language development is an important part of our programs. As a result of their heightened awareness of the complexities of reflecting in a second language, the authors found themselves using this situation as an opportunity to explore the meanings of some words more carefully, and to refrain from making assumptions about meanings.
In addition, the findings also include the discovery of a new space for discussions about learning to teach, and a much greater awareness of the importance of deliberate, explicit exchanges in teacher education classes.
For instance, the authors discovered that some students read their public journal and analyzed its contents. Students who responded to them indicated that reading the reflections about classes they had attended permitted them to experience the learning possibilities of reflection for teaching. Both Canadian and Dutch students find difficult this kind of writing to analyze one’s own teaching.
This study offers a unique contribution to the authors' understanding about the value of reflection and reflective writing for learning to teach.
From this study, the authors have first-hand knowledge of the connections they make with students and colleagues and the deeper levels of communication that are possible when they share their thoughts about what they do and why.
In conclusion, participating in such a study helped the authors to: engender a sense of teaching about teaching that goes beyond the simple delivery of ideas, information and theories about teaching and helps to create a bridge into the world of learning through experience.
In this way, their analyses of our teaching practices could be discussed and investigated further, thereby creating a richer learning experience for everyone involved. Keeping a public journal proved to be a valuable experience for both the authors and their students. Thus, they want to continue writing the journal and to continue to explore the potential of writing reflectively and sharing this with students.