Developing (as) Critically Reflective Practitioners: Linking Preservice Teacher and Teacher Educator Development

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Published: 
July 15, 2021

Source: Book chapter taken from -
Leah Shagrir & Smadar Bar-Tal (Eds.), Exploring Professional Development Opportunities for Teacher Educator.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

At the outset of their collaboration, the authors recognized that their partnership was valuable for the development of their identities as teacher educators, but they also recognized that they needed to expand their exploration to their interactions with their students, preservice educators in credential programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.
They saw an opportunity to use this framework with their students by having them collectively respond in writing to the series of questions.
They found that the framework not only assists their own professional development but informs the authors’ practices and pedagogies as well.
In this paper, they outline the multiple ways that their students have used this framework to examine their own beliefs, and how their reflections intricately connect to the authors’ own pedagogical development.

Research Methods
For the initial phase of this study, the authors grounded their inquiry and self-study in the following question:
What explicit and practicable framework can they provide their preservice educators as they work to reflect on their practice and understand their current classroom context?
As they worked through their own multiple methods of reflection, they created a list of questions that a practitioner might ask themselves about their own practices, their classroom setting, and the students they are teaching:
• Ask who and where
• Ask how and what
• Ask why

These questions were the framework for the authors’ reflections on their own teaching practices and settings, and then discussed them with each other in their written dialogue and phone conversations.
They recognize that this framework is grounded in their theoretical understandings of the philosophy of teaching and learning as social practices, which involve the collaborative process of making meaning and shared understandings about one’s world (Lave, 1996; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Vygotsky, 1980).
The questions that they listed above are designed to help any educator begin to acknowledge and reflect on the role of the school or classroom context, specifically addressing the role that power plays in that context.
While these questions can be answered individually and in isolation, they quickly realized that they can be expanded on and amplified through a process of sharing responses with other practitioners.

Self-study methodology
This project spanned a two-year period as the authors were in their second and third years as teacher educators.
They were working in a large, public university and smaller, private university, both of which were located in the northeast part of the United States.
They drew from self-study methodology (LaBoskey, 2004; Loughran, 2002) to frame their initial data collection and analysis strategy.
Self-study provided a framework through which they used multiple qualitative sources of data to collaboratively examine their own development as new teacher educators.
Self-study provided a systematic methodology for learning from their practice by making it a problem to be examined.
Through collaborative journaling and dialogue they sought to unpack their own developmental processes.
This analysis revealed what questions they should be asking in order to develop a critical inquiry orientation to their practice.
This year of self-study work on the challenges of developing themselves as teacher educators produced the framework for critical, in-depth, and collaborative reflective practice presented above.

Working with Preservice Educators
In the second phase of their collaboration, they expanded the study and began to use this framework with their preservice teachers.
For this second phase of the study, they chose to purposefully follow a cohort of seven undergraduate students who were completing the coursework and requirements for a teaching credential. They were in their junior year and took two education courses as a group, one of which was focused on the social and emotional development of young children, and the other on authentic assessment practices in early childhood education.
During this year of their program, the students were simultaneously observing and assisting in a classroom setting for approximately 48 hours over the course of each semester.

Data Collection and Analysis
For this phase of the research, the authors collected data on this cohort’s development as educators, their interactions with each other, and their interactions with one of them, as their course instructor and advisor.
These students were asked to, in class, write responses to several questions in the authors’ framework, and then collaboratively responded to one another, often asking questions and providing comments on each other’s responses.
To analyze this second cycle of data, they engaged into two phases of data analysis.
Analysis demonstrated how collaboration changed the scope and depth of the preservice teacher responses.
The authors then took this finding and re-examined their own collaborative journal and found the same pattern arising between the two of them, as teacher educators.
This iterative and recursive process of analysis allowed them to examine their development in relation to the development of their preservice teachers.
The iterative nature increased the validity of their findings as they applied verified themes that emerged from the analysis of preservice teacher collaboration to their own collaborative journaling as teacher educators.

Findings and discussion
For the authors, these past two years have become a story of mutual transformation through a critical reflective practice with their preservice teachers.
The preservice teachers were changed by the collaborative process, and so were the authors.
The authors’ multi-year iterative analysis of critically reflective practice of both their practice as teacher educators and the preservice teachers they have worked with revealed the interwoven nature of their development.
Their two key findings -
(1) that collaborative journaling allows for expansive thinking as peers (whether they are teacher educators or preservice teachers) thoughtfully question, critique, and probe each other’s and
(2) that this process requires vulnerability and risk taking – demonstrate that a collaborative critically reflective practice is an essential component to the identity development of both preservice teachers and teacher educators.
Their unique iterative and recursive analytical process also demonstrated how systematic analysis of preservice teacher collaboration can reveal patterns in teacher educator collaboration that are informative for teacher educator professional development.
Although situated within their specific contexts and practices, their process and findings offer several insights for teacher educators more broadly.
Firstly, they offer a framework for structuring critically reflective practice for both teacher educators and preservice teachers.
The framework that arose from their own collaborative work has been useful to engage in alongside preservice teachers.
It provides a structure for their collaborative reflections and a model for preservice teachers of how educators develop, refine, reassess, and revise their philosophies.
Secondly, the process of collaborative journaling expanded their reflections.
The authors suggest that not only should both teacher educators and preservice teachers engage in low-stakes, collaborative, peer writing, but that they should also analyze those journals to examine their own development and take note of how collaboration prompts different levels of engagement.
Finally, the authors recognize that a willingness to share vulnerabilities and take risks requires relational care.
The expansion is not possible if teachers do not believe that their collaborative writing partners are evaluating their reflective performance.
Those relationships are always situational and contextualized, but they do not necessarily occur in ‘safe’ spaces.
But the constructive tension of risk, vulnerability, and care can support an environment where collaborative critically reflection can be transformative for teacher educators and preservice teachers alike.

References
LaBoskey, V. K. (2004). The methodology of self-study and its theoretical underpinnings. In J. J. Loughran, M.L. Hamilton, V. LaBoskey, & T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 817-869). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Lave, J. (1996). Teaching, as learning, in practice. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 3(3), 149-164.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Loughran, J. J. (2002). Effective reflective practice: In search of meaning in learning about teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(1), 33-43.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Updated: Jul. 20, 2021
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