Teacher candidate learning of action-oriented knowledge from triggering incidents in teaching practice

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
Jul. 01, 2019
July, 2019

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 25:5, 536-552 

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study is a part of the authors’ broader research project on student teacher learning during teacher education in five teacher education contexts in four European countries (Estonia, Finland, The Netherlands, Spain).
The project aimed to enhance student teachers’ reflective competencies in order to support learning of action-oriented knowledge during teaching practice.
In this study, they especially examine the characteristics of meaningful critical events identified by Finnish student teachers and qualities of action-oriented knowledge they extract from the practical incidents.
They also strive to elaborate more closely the relationship between these two.
This study aims to increase the understanding of the critical incidents and the action-oriented knowledge (AOK) they trigger by addressing the following research questions:
(1) What classroom events do teacher candidates define critical for their learning?
(2) What kind of AOK do teacher candidates generate from reflecting on the critical events?
(3) How is the quality of the critical incidents related to the AOK of the teacher candidates?
The study contributes to the research on student teacher learning and teacher education pedagogies through the procedure of guided reflection.
In specific, the authors aim to contribute empirically to the research on student teacher learning by investigating the critical incidents student teachers identify meaningful for their learning, and the quality of action-oriented knowledge as well as by elaborating the relationship between the two.


Participants - Altogether 82 student teachers (68 female, 14 male; mean age 26 years) in primary and subject teacher education programs from two teacher education institutes in two different universities in Finland participated to the study. They were in the different phases in their teacher education studies and were attending the teaching practice periods in their specific teacher education programs.

Data collection - The data were collected with the procedure of guided reflection (Allas et al., 2017; Heikonen et al., 2017; Husu et al., 2008).
The procedure consists of video recorded lesson and two critical incidents (one empowering, one challenging) chosen by the student teacher, and three successive reflective phases:
i) stimulated recall interviews (STR) focused on the chosen critical incidents,
ii) general and context specific reflective discussions, and
iii) summative portfolio writings where student teachers analysed their practice both by themselves and together with their peers or supervisors.
The video stimulated student teachers’ thoughts during the lesson, supported their reflection on the critical incidents, and helped to extract their action-oriented knowledge from their notions.
The data consisted of 160 critical incidents, which through STR-interviews produced 5176 analysis units.

Findings and discussion
According to authors’ results, student teachers emphasised most descriptive action-oriented knowledge when reflecting on the critical classroom events.
It might be triggered due to the use of videoed critical events, but it can also indicate the student teachers’ true need to elaborate the practical details in the classroom.
It was still relatively new for them especially from a teacher’s perspective, and thus, they had tendency to focus especially on themselves in the classroom (Fuller & Bown, 1975; Heikonen et al., 2017).
They had also prepared the lessons carefully, they were willing to succeed, and they had a need to evaluate their performance in the profession to which they are studying for.
Managing descriptive action-oriented knowledge paved their way for more thorough analysis and understanding of the classroom practice.
The results further showed that student teachers extracted least inferential action-oriented knowledge in relation to the classroom incidents.
This seemed to be relatively challenging for student teachers.
It was difficult for them to identify pedagogical patterns and more general courses of action to be further utilised in the profession.
This might be due to their limited experience from the classroom interaction and teacher’s work, and it might require much more time in order to be able to consider work of teaching from this kind of both practical and more general perspective.
Managing inferential action-oriented knowledge might require more time, but it will later guarantee student teachers’ successful action in the teacher’s work.
Student teachers expressed justified action-oriented knowledge meaning that they were able to find either practical or theoretical reasons for their classroom actions.
They justified their ways of acting by presenting concrete justifications for the course of action, because they knew what worked in specific classroom situations for the pupils in question.
In some occasions, they also found theoretical groundings for their pedagogical actions with pupils, and they were able to link their practical work with pedagogical theories learnt during teacher studies.
Justified action-oriented knowledge allows student teachers to understand their work thoroughly and do it sustainably (cf. Darling-Hammond, 2008; Kennedy, 2016; Tiilikainen, Toom, Lepola, & Husu, 2019).

Practical implications for teacher education
The framework of guided reflection faces the challenge to construct AOK and provides a tool to determine the ways teachers perceive, analyse, and reflect on their professional practices.
In this study ,the authors’ challenge has been to assist teachers in extracting complex meanings from their teaching experiences.
The aim of ‘developmental responsiveness’ (Edelstein, 1992) calls for the testing of intervention programs to foster teachers’ pedagogical knowing and action.
First, the instructional core framework applied in this study can be used to situate student teachers’ learning according to the crucial instructional relations present in teaching.
Secondly, the authors’ three-phase reflective framework provides a flexible tool to guide and differentiate teachers’ reflective judgements linked to these different instructional relations, and it is hoped that it can become an effective tool to further foster teachers’ professional development.
Instead of only describing or evaluating one’s own practice critically, the authors’ aim has been to guide student teachers systematically towards elaboration of practice, as well as analysing and understanding it on a more conceptual level.

Allas, R., Leijen, Ä., & Toom, A. (2017). Supporting the construction of teacher’s practical knowledge through different interactive formats of oral and written reflection. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 61(5), 600–615.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2008). Knowledge for teaching: what do we know?. In M. CochranSmith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Teacher Education: Enduring Questions in Changing Contexts (3rd ed., pp. 1316–1323). New York, NY: Routledge
Edelstein, W. (1992). Development as the aim of education-revisited. In F. Oser, A. Dick, & J. Paltry (Eds.), Effective and responsible teaching (pp. 161–172). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Fuller, F. F., & Bown, O. H. 1975. Becoming a teacher. In K. Ryan(Ed.), 74th yearbook of the national society for the study of education, partII (pp. 25–52). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
Heikonen, L., Toom, A., Pyhältö, K., Pietarinen, J., & Soini, T. (2017). Student teachers’ strategies in classroom interaction in the context of the teaching practicum. Journal of Education for Teaching, 43(5). doi:10.1080/02607476.2017.1355080
Husu, J., Toom, A., & Patrikainen, S. (2008). Guided reflection as a means to demonstrate and develop student teachers’ reflective competencies. Reflective Practice, 9(1), 37–51.
Kennedy, M. (2016). Parsing the practice of teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 67(1), 6–17.
Tiilikainen, M., Toom, A., Lepola, J., & Husu, J. (2019). Reconstructing choice, reason and disposition in teachers’ practical theories of teaching (PTs). Teaching and Teacher Education, 79, 124–136 

Updated: Sep. 02, 2020
Action learning | Critical incidents method | Teacher candidates | Teacher education | Teacher practices