Positive Experiences as Input for Reflection by Student Teachers

Apr. 16, 2008

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 14, Issue 2
April 2008 , pages 115 - 127

In many teacher training courses, reflection upon practice plays a very important role in learning to teach. A number of strategies have been developed to help student teachers learn to reflect. Current reflection strategies often focus on problematic instead of on positive experiences. Ideas from positive psychology and solution-based therapy have inspired us to question whether problematic experiences should always be taken as starting point for reflection. Instead, teachers might learn even more from reflecting on positive experiences.

Thus, the aim of the current study is to compare the outcomes of reflecting on difficult, problematic experiences with those of reflecting on positive experiences. We focused on three outcome areas: (1) the content of teachers' resolutions after reflecting because decisions need to be productive, (2) their motivation to act on their decision because teachers need to implement their resolutions, and (3) the emotions they have during the process of reflection because emotions are very influential to thinking and learning.

In an exploratory study, 16 student biology teachers were asked to reflect on two problematic and two positive teaching experiences and to take notes during the reflection process. Subsequently, these student teachers indicated their motivation for implementing their resolutions and they reported their emotions evoked by the reflection processes. In order to gain insight into results with respect to the three outcome areas, the content of the teachers' resolutions was categorized, motivation scores were averaged, and emotions were scored and calculated.

Our investigation showed that student teachers who reflected on positive experiences made more innovative resolutions, were more highly motivated to implement these resolutions and had more positive feelings compared to when reflecting on problematic experiences. Implications of the findings include the use of reflection methods based on positive experiences for experience-based learning and for developing adaptive expertise in teacher education. We also present some avenues for further research.

Updated: Nov. 20, 2008