Engaging student teachers in meaningful reflective practice

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  • Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (


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    This paper examines the use of peer-videoing in the classroom as a tool to promote reective practice among student

    teachers. Twenty pre-service teachers from a variety of subject disciplines participating in a Post-Graduate Diploma in

    The theorypractice divide is a dominant themein the literature on reective practice (Schon, 1983;

    (Bean & Stevens, 2002). In addition to the more

    for enhancing student teachers reective andanalytical powers is now widely acknowledged

    a wider spectrum of practice and empowers them torecognise and critically evaluate good practice

    ARTICLE IN PRESS(Loughran, 2002, p. 40). While in-person observa-tion offers considerable scope for the development of

    0742-051X/$ - see front matter r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Corresponding author. Tel.: +353 1 716 8519.E-mail address: judith.harford@ucd.ie (J. Harford).van Manen, 1995). While teachers are often awareof the origins and evolution of the term reectivepractice and the importance of appearing to engagein reection, they do not see its application to theirreal life teaching experience (Craig, 1994; Cruick-shank, 1987). Multiple opportunities and formatsfor reection therefore need to be explored in orderto build teachers capacity for critical reection

    (Copeland & Decker, 1996; Whitehead & Fitzger-ald, 2007). Perry and Talley (2001, p. 26) identifyvideo as a powerful tool for bringing the complex-ities of the classroom into focus and supporting pre-service teachers in connecting knowledge andpractice. Video as an analytical tool allows for aseries of concrete examples of the teaching andlearning environment which enables teachers to viewEducation programme in an Irish university participated in the study. The practice of encouraging student teachers

    working in the same school to participate in structured video analysis avoids the impact of external observers whose role is

    largely evaluative and endorses a collaborative model that promotes dialogue and shared learning. This practice promotes

    a culture of observation and critical dialogue in a profession which has traditionally been characterised by isolation, while

    at the same time fostering and validating the voice and experience of the student teacher. Locating the discussion within the

    framework of the theoretical literature on reective practice, the purpose of this paper is to contribute to the international

    debate over best practice in supporting, encouraging and scaffolding reective practice. It comments on the implications of

    reective dialogue for the modernisation of teacher education and offers guidelines on how best to scaffold and promote


    r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Teacher education; Reective practice; Peer videoing; Communities of practice

    1. Introduction traditional modes of fostering reection such asjournaling and writing, the power of video as a toolEngaging student teachers in

    Judith Harford

    University College D

    Received 8 May 2007; received in revised fo

    Abstract2008) 18841892

    eaningful reective practice

    erry MacRuairc

    , Dublin 4, Ireland

    2 January 2008; accepted 12 February 2008


  • performativity (Thrupp & Wilmott, 2003). Thedevelopment of a discourse on reective practice

    ARTICLE IN PRESSJ. Harford, G. MacRuairc / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 18841892 1885owes much to the scholarship of Dewey and Schon,both of whom advocated that learning was con-tingent upon the integration of experience withreection and of theory with practice (Humphreys& Susak, 2000). Dewey (1933) emphasised theimportance of active and deliberate engagementwith problematic situations, underpinned by anawareness of ones own ideas and attitudes. ForDewey, open-mindedness, a sense of responsibilityand wholeheartedness or dedication were central tothe potential development of a reective practi-tioner. Schon stressed even further the relationshipbetween reection and experience, differentiatingbetween reection-in-action and reection-on-ac-tion. The former refers to the importance ofteachers being aware of their decisions as theywork, while the latter refers to the importance ofreecting back on and critiquing ones practice.student teachers reective capacity, because of itsreal-time nature, it does not allow for studentteachers themselves to view their own practice, nordoes it allow for replay to deconstruct practice.Video is a much more versatile medium whichcaptures the immediacy of a real classroom andwhich allows students to view examples of authenticlearning experiences (Newhouse, Lane & Brown,2007). The peer-video model, the basis of this study,allowed for student teachers working in the sameschool to video each other while on teachingplacement and participate in the analysis of theirwork in a university-based tutorial. The peer-basedelement of this study located ownership over thevarious critical stages of the videoing process rmlywith the student teacher and reduced the perceivedpower dimension often associated with the presenceof an external observer.

    2. Reective practice and teacher education

    Reective practice is widely recognised as acentral tenet of the teaching and learning process(Brookeld, 1995, 2005; Zeichner & Liston, 1987).Its resonance with teaching is attributable to the factthat it encapsulates the complex, analytical andinquiring nature of teaching at a time when theprofession is under attack by a range of discoursesemanating from the new managerialist perspectiveand the competency-driven agenda associated withBoth testify to the centrality of experiential learningand both foreground practitioner knowledge(Schon, 1983, 1987, 1991).Different models and structures in teacher educa-

    tion programmes impact on the degree to which theidea of reective practice can be approached as ahabit that can be developed over time. In the case ofthis study, the ability to promote reection waslimited by the duration of a consecutive teachereducation programme which begins in Septemberand ends in May. A further challenge was toencourage student teachers to look beyond theirown subject specialism, a tradition that arises fromthe balkanised nature of the curriculum in second-ary schools in Ireland, whereby the focus is on theteaching of specic subject disciplines, while fre-quently ignoring the potential of cross-curricularactivity to enhance student learning. These chal-lenges had to be negotiated within the context of thereality of schools and the reality of the teaching day,both of which limit opportunities for reection(Day, 1993). The principal objective of this researchstudy was therefore to provide a realistic andmeaningful model that scaffolded reection overtime and promoted a culture of shared learning.Scaffolding in this context was understood asenabling student teachers to achieve a level ofreection beyond their current ability level (Lepper,Drake, & ODonnell-Johnson, 1997; Schon, 1983;Vygotsky, 1978). The peer-based component of thisparticular model was considered critical in scaffold-ing the reective process. The value of peer-basedlearning and peer-based assessment is widelyacknowledged (Davies, 2006; Stefani, 1998).

    3. A synergy of perspectives

    Convinced both of the importance of reectivepractice to the teaching and learning environmentand of the apparent gap between the reality of theclassroom and the theory of reective practice, itwas decided to experiment with the development ofa community of practice model within whichstudent teachers would critically evaluate the teach-ing practice of their fellow students. The focus onschools as communities of practices and as learningorganisations has recently received considerablecritical examination and application (Hodkinson &Hodkinson, 2003; Wenger, 1998). The rationaleunderpinning the concept of a community ofpractice has particular relevance for educationalsettings because it recognises the variety of perspec-

    tives and activities that prevail in such settings. The

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSJ. Harford, G. MacRuairc / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 188418921886three core elements identied by Wenger (1998) ascentral to the community of practice model, i.e.joint enterprise, mutuality and trust, provide aframework for in-school collaborative activity thatcan counteract many of the reductive tendenciesassociated with the performance-driven skills andcompetencies model. A community of practicewithin this setting was understood in terms of thevalues, practices and beliefs that emerge fromworking in collaboration (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 1992). The signicance of the community ofpractice model was that it fostered and legitimated acollegial and supportive environment in which itwas safe to speak the truth and ask hard questions(Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p. 37).

    4. Methodology

    Twenty student teachers involved in a 1-yearteacher education programme (Post-Graduate Di-ploma in Education) were selected to participate inthis study. Students were allocated to two tutorialgroups, 10 students in each group. The tutorial wasselected as the nucleus of this study, as it was feltthat it represented the most appropriate mechanismfor fostering a community of practice in whichstudent teachers could transform the challengesconfronting them in the practicum into professionalknowledge (Sim, 2006). The sample was chosen onthe basis of three criteria: the ability to satisfy thepair model (whereby pairs of student teachers werelocated in the same school on teaching practice);subject specialism (teaching subject); and schooltype (co-education/single sex, etc.). This ensuredthat a range of subject areas and a diversity ofschool-type, with specic reference to forms ofgovernance and socio-economic classication, wererepresented in the chosen sample. The use of thepeer video technique was chosen because it locatedthe focus within the student body and recognisedthe fact that student teachers bring to the classroomtheir own experiences and identities as learners.Specically, the model entailed student teachersengaging in peer videoing of class teaching in realtime and the subsequent analysis of their teaching ina tutorial structure. The fact that the model wasstudent-led and student-centred provided a moredemocratic, collaborative and egalitarian environ-ment within which to engage in the process of videorecording and analysis. The strength of this modelwas that it was rmly grounded on the principles of

    mutuality, trust and reciprocity. While there was noway of guaranteeing the level of trust and colla-boration that developed between the differentstudent pairs, the fact that each member of the pairwas engaged both in videoing and being videoedallowed for a greater understanding of and empathywith the tensions and challenges of the process.The tutorial took the following format: Two

    video clips from the same school were shown in eachtutorial session. Each student teacher provided alesson plan for the videoed lesson and a briefintroduction in relation to the contextual factorspertaining to the lesson being observed. Studentshad pre-selected a particular aspect of the class toshow to the group, usually lasting about tenminutes. Before showing the clip, the studentteacher provided a rationale for the chosen segment.The remaining students were seated in a circle withthe tutor (facilitator) also seated as part of thecircle.The facilitators role was simply to maximise the

    opportunity provided by the model to encouragedebate and foster reection in a safe and collegialenvironment. The facilitator thus posed questionsthroughout the session, rather than providingcommentary or contributing to the discussion,reinforcing the view that reection is not aboutanswers and solutions, but about questions anduncertainty. The videoed class was not graded andthe study played no evaluative role in the overallcourse. On a number of occasions across the twotutorials, because of issues that arose in the tutorialsetting, students were directed towards key read-ings. Through their engagement with relevantliterature in the eld, students deepened theirunderstanding of the reective process by examiningthe experience of other teachers, both novice andexperienced, reecting on particular aspects of theirpractice. However, while engagement with theorywas considered important in the developmentalprocess, it followed on from issues that arose withinthe practicum and was not examined in isolation.Students capacity for reection was scaffolded

    throughout the year using a framework that broadlyconsisted of a series of written prompts (see Fig. 1).The model moved with increasing complexityfrom core issues relating to methodology andmanagement towards more critically engagingconcepts such as the impact of individual contextson practice. Initially, students focused on techni-ques and classroom skills and gravitated largelytowards identifying the positive aspects of their

    fellow students practice. While both facilitators


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    J. Harford, G. MacRuairc / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 18841892 1887recognised the groups reluctance to engage indeeper critical reection and specically in criticismof their peers work, it was felt that this initialtentative phase was central to the development of apositive learning community. Gradually, with theaid of further, deeper prompts, students movedtowards more meaningful reection and decon-structed the practice of their peers in a more criticaland analytical way. Both facilitators monitored the

    Lens 1: Methodology; Management; Mos

    Lens 2: Methodology; Management; Mos

    Alternative to the Approach Used

    Lens 3: Methodology; Management; Mos

    Quality of Student Engagement in the Cla

    Lens 4: Methodology; Management; Com

    and the Achievement of the Objectives

    Lens 5: Methodology; Management; Crit

    Factors (eg socioeconomic groupings, ethFig. 1. Model for scaffolding reection: Lens 1: methodology; m

    management; most positive aspect of the lesson; suggest one alter

    positive aspect of the lesson; comment on the quality of studen

    comment on the link between the methodology and the achievem

    impact of the particular contextual factors (e.g. socioeconomic grdegree of the students critical readiness and metthis with additional critical inquiry prompts. Care-ful attention was paid by the facilitators throughoutthe process to ensure that students were guided intheir reection. Typically, each tutorial began with areview of the nature and extent of the previousanalysis session. In this context, students themselvesrecalled the main issue discussed in the previoustutorial and identied the key issues for reectionand critical comment that emerged. Under theguidance of the facilitator, students then exploredadditional aspects of practice that could becritiqued. In this way students were directedtowards the next lens in the reective scaffold.Focus group discussions w...


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