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I need to raise my expectations: Helping student teachers to reflect [1]

Glen Evans
The University of Queensland

1994 JA Robinson Memorial Lecture
James Alexander Robinson started his career as a pupil teacher with what was then the Queensland Department of Public Instruction. He subsequently took leave from the Department to matriculate and complete the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He was a foundation member of the staff of the Teachers' Training College in Brisbane, and continued on the staff of that institution until enlisting to serve, with distinction, in the First World War. Upon his return, J.A. Robinson was appointed Principal of the Rockhampton State High School, and in 1935 he succeeded John Morris as Principal of the Teachers' Training College. In 1939, he also succeeded Morris as the Queensland Institute for Educational Research's representative to the governing body of the ACER, a position which he held until his retirement in 1954. It is perhaps appropriate this evening to speak on an aspect of teacher education.


Introduction

The research that my colleagues and I have been undertaking over the past several years has been concerned with skill development. We have been largely testing ideas about how feedback can promote more efficient learning of skills. There have been two different foci for this work. One is concerned with the learning of trade skills, particularly welding and electrical installation. The other has been involved with student teachers and their practical expression in classroom teaching. At a very general level there are some surprising similarities in the nature of these two skill areas, but of course the content is very different. It seems appropriate to concentrate this evening on the second area.

Merrilyn Goos, Peter Galbraith, and I have been interested in two kinds of feedback that student teachers receive in their practice teaching. One type is from the events of the lessons themselves, particularly from the responses of their students. Teaching is an ongoing interaction with students who not only react to the teacher's actions, but also initiate actions of their own to which the teacher must respond. This interaction is all the more complex because there are many students, rather than just one or two clients, as in many professional exchanges. The feedback during, or in, interaction comprises the signposts by which the teacher steers an activity towards the goals of the lesson. Not all the responses to this complex feedback are deliberate (e.g. Clark and Peterson, 1986). The teacher may actively decide between different courses of action, or he or she may simply respond in a routine way.

For student teachers, one major learning task is to anticipate classroom events and have routine actions available. To do this, however, it is first necessary to be able to recognise these events, to be able to classify them, and to understand their significance. Teaching is, of course, more than implementing routines. It also involves continual problem solving and decision making (Clark and Peterson, 1986). When these happen during a lesson, they involve some level of reflection by the teacher. We have called this reflection in action. To the extent that the teacher's responses to events are routine, they could be regarded as automatic regulation.

Again teaching involves types of reflection other than that during the interaction. It involves planning and reflection before teaching, in preparation, and reflection after teaching. This last may be a solo journey by the teacher, or, as commonly happens with student teachers, it may be assisted by another person-supervising teacher, university tutor, or peer. Our research has centred on an intervention in the process of reflection after teaching, that is, immediately or very shortly after student teachers have conducted a lesson (Evans, Galbraith and Goos, 1993).

Method

We worked with groups of Post Graduate Diploma in Education students in 1992 and 1993, about 30 in each year. Overall our sample comprised 58 students in three groups.

Group 1, the control group (N=31) simply undertook the pre- and post-tests. These consisted of a questionnaire on beliefs about teaching, a questionnaire about the sources of knowledge that the student teachers tapped for their teaching, and a task that we used to assess their recognition of and theoretical thinking about classroom events. We called this the Lesson Observation Task. The beliefs questionnaire had two parts each covering nine aspects of teaching. The first part sought ratings of importance on a number of items for each aspect; the second ratings of confidence.

For the lesson observation task, we showed video clips of about 5 minutes duration of segments of actual lessons taken by experienced teachers. The student teachers saw one video in their own major teaching area - science, mathematics, or humanities/social science - which we labelled the curriculum video. They also saw a clip from an art lesson, in which none of them had any experience or curriculum knowledge, which we labelled the general video. For each video we asked a number of questions, from the responses to which we derived three variables: the total number of statements in the nine aspects of the beliefs questionnaire (e.g. constructivist approach, transmissive approach, academic organisation), the total number of statements concerned with teacher focussed and student focussed teaching actions, and the total number of changes from pre to post on eleven categories of observation, including inferences, principles, observations based on theory, student learning processes, and the like.

As well as these various pre- and post-measures, we also used composite judgments in the four areas of teaching proficiency that are used as the final ratings for practice teaching in the course - subject knowledge, professional commitment, organising skills, and interaction and communication.

The last of these was the particular focus of the intervention. Group 2 student teachers (N=13), as well as taking the pre- and post-tests, were interviewed in "special reflection sessions" in the last two weeks of each block teaching practice (5 weeks and 6 weeks, respectively). These interviews sought a self evaluation and also involved questions on goals, teaching methods, use of feedback during the lesson, changes in knowledge and beliefs as a result of the lesson, and goals for future lessons. The interviews were essentially information seeking, to help us understand the nature of changes in these aspects of teaching, but clearly they also invited reflections by the student, which themselves could have caused changes in teaching. In fact they did do so.

Group 3 (N=14), the main experimental group, as well as th e "special reflection sessions", also participated in a more active "reflective intervention" for two lessons in weeks 2, 3 and 4 of the second block practice. It was this intervention in which we were particularly interested. It involved each student in a session following the lesson in which scaffolded intervention was offered by a mentor using a prompt which we called a reflection card.

Figure 1: The Reflection Card

1. Student Learning2. Teaching approaches3. Opportunities
for feedback
4. Indicators
ExpectationsActions
Engagement
Involvement
- attitude to learning




Learning process
- how students learn




Progress
- how well students learn




Social context
- environment in which
  students learn




The reflection card (figure 1) consisted of a grid with four rows corresponding to important lesson features for the students - involvement or engagement of the students, learning processes used by the students, progress made by the students during the lesson, and social context, the environment in which students learn. The four columns of the grid referred to four major lesson features for the teacher - expectations and actions, concerned with teaching approaches, and two aspects of within-lesson feedback, the opportunities the student teacher created to obtain feedback, and the indicators or cues during the lesson which the teacher actually used as feedback. The reflection card was thus used to help the student teachers reflect on some 16 aspects of their own teaching. How the intervention was carried out is illustrated below.

Results

First it may be useful briefly to report the results of the study, using the combined sample from the two years. Our data indicated no differences between groups on the beliefs questionnaire, either in the importance they attributed to items or in their confidence in implementing various beliefs. Interestingly there were significant pre-post differences in confidence for all nine scales and significant differences pre-post on all but one of the importance scales, that is, constructivist approaches to teaching, academic organisation, management, teacher's self presentation, catering for differences in students' cognitive characteristics, catering for differences among students in social and affective characteristics, feedback to students, and methods for promoting motivation. The pre-post changes in confidence would certainly be hoped for in a teacher education program.

There were some interesting changes in students' reported sources of knowledge. We anticipated that the two experimental groups would place more weight on reflection and use of theory. This expectation was met only for the 1992 group. In 1993 the differences among the three groups were not significant. However, in 1993 we asked a number of extra questions at the end of the year, under the heading: "practice teaching - what helped?" The two experimental groups rated feedback, both from other people and from self, significantly higher than did the control group (p<.05).

What of actual performance? In the overall teaching practice ratings, we made the assumption that knowledge of subject matter, as assessed by entry G.P.A. and by supervising teachers' ratings, was least likely to be affected by our intervention, and would also strongly influence ratings on other aspects. We therefore statistically controlled for these two variables. When we did so, the mean ratings on interaction and communication were significantly greater for the two experimental groups than the control groups (p=.005), although the two experimental groups (1 and 2) did not differ significantly (Table 1).

Table 1: Adjusted Means on Teaching Practice Variables: Years 1992 and 1993 combined

VariableaCovariateGroupp
3
(Expt D)
(N = 14)
2
(Expt A)
(N = 13)
1
(Control)
(N = 31)
SKGPA4.023.68 4.10.258
PCGPA4.404.20 4.33.682
OSGPA3.993.75 3.94.722
ICGPA4.303.92 4.02.425
PCGPA, SK4.384.414.25.258
OSGPA, SK3.964.043.83.282
ICGPA, SK4.274.203.93.016*

D+A(26)E(30)
p
IC
GPA, SK4.243.93.005**
a. SK   SUBJECT KNOWLEDGE
  PC   PROFESSIONAL COMMITMENT
  OS   ORGANISING SKILLS
  IC    INTERACTION AND COMMUNICATION

In the lesson observation task, which was perhaps the most direct measure of the recognition and thinking that the interventions were intended to promote, the results were even more convincing. In terms of changes in the total number of observations, inferences, and applications of theory for each of the general (GENCHANGE) and curriculum (CURCHANGE) videos between pre-test and post-test, the groups differed significantly. Group 3 was greater than Group 2, and this in turn greater than Group 1 for the general video, and the two experimental groups were both greater than the control for the curriculum video (Table 2). Similarly, after controlling for pre-test values, the total number of observations on post-testing was, for both videos (POSGEN and POSCUR), in the expected order (Group3 > Group2 > Group1). The mean numbers for student focussed observations (POSVIDSF) were also in this order (p<.001). Thus the results on the lesson observation task suggest that there were clear effects of the intervention on the student teachers' perceptions of teaching features.

Table 2: Adjusted Means for Variables from the Lesson Observation Task: Years 1992 and 1993 combined

ScaleGroupp
3
(Expt D)
(N = 14)
2
(Expt A)
(N = 13)
1
(Control)
(N = 31)
GENCHANGE 3.072.001.39<.001
CURCHANGE 2.362.381.03<.001
POSGENa 13.3111.7610.44.062
POSCURa 11.7810.499.21.031
POSVIDSFa 17.6315.0211.08<.001
POSVIDTFa 7.437.247.81.862
a. Post-test means adjusted for pre-test scores. GEN refers to the general video, CUR refers to the curriculum video, SF refers to student focussed statements, TF to teacher focussed statements.

While these quantitative results provide support for the use of the two reflective treatments, what is of particular interest is that the treatment for one of them (Group 2) was relatively inexpensive - it involved undertaking the pre and post measures and a relatively simple interview. Apparently the chance even to think about one's teaching in a systematic way in a situation that is non-judgmental and encouraging can be an effective prompt to change. With some of the Group 3 students, who used the reflection card, the change was even more dramatic.

Among those for whom there were marked changes, there is much to learn from a qualitative analysis of their responses in both the special reflection sessions and the reflective interventions. I therefore am presenting most of the remainder of my talk as a case study of one such student teacher, to whom we gave the pseudonym "Damien".

The Interview Procedures

The first three parts of the special reflection sessions prompted the student teachers, where necessary, to elaborate on the lesson outcomes, goals, and the methods they used to achieve their goals. In the case of both goals and methods, we sought information on possible influences - the particular group of students, the lesson content, their own beliefs, their supervising teacher, constraints such as resources, facilities, supervisors' requests, time available, and university classes and lecturers. We asked how the influences acted or why the particular factor was not an influence. We also asked about what were the ideas behind their approach, and the strengths and difficulties in the lesson. The fourth main part of the session was concerned with feedback during the lesson - significant incidents, changes in goals or plans during the lesson, monitoring progress, and checking to find out whether goals were being met. In each case the interview prompted the student teacher for elaborations and asked for examples to illustrate. The final component of the session was concerned with further evaluative reflection on goals, beliefs, and methods. It focussed on the extent to which the students now thought these to be effective and whether, as a result of their experience, they would make changes. It concluded by asking about specific goals for the next few lessons and general goals for future teaching, and how these had been influenced by the lesson and by the reflection session.

The conduct of the reflective intervention sessions, which lasted from 30 to 45 minutes, was designed to challenge, rather than discover how the students thought about their teaching. It had two bases. The first of these gave rise to the use of the reflection card itself, as described earlier, which acted as a prompt for the students to relate their theoretical ideas, whether formal or informal, to their actions in teaching and to arrive at new insights and goals for improvement. The second basis was our early realisation that reflection of this kind is itself a skill which benefits from assistance from a mentor. The role of the mentor in the process is as much concerned with procedural facilitation (cf. Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987) as with substantive facilitation. The theory behind the mentoring process we used stemmed from the ideas of Vygotsky (1978) concerning the zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is often defined as that level of performance that a learner can achieve with the help of a more expert mentor, but not alone. The ZPD is thus a construct directly rooted in a social theory of learning. In the case of the student teachers in this study, Merrilyn Goos adapted the ideas of Tharp and Gallimore (1988) and Newman, Griffin and Cole (1989) to the task of mentoring. They involve the notion of scaffolding, that is, providing strategic assistance which is gradually faded out as the learner reaches a more independent performance on the particular task, only to be replaced by a more advanced task. Scaffolding in this case involved four main actions by the mentor: cognitive modelling, providing feedback, questioning for assistance, and cognitive structuring. Cognitive modelling involves the mentor in using, out loud, cognitive strategies that the learner may imitate. Providing feedback involves the mentor and the learner in joint analysis, in this case of aspects of the lesson (see also Evans and Butler, 1993, for examples in trade skills). Questioning for assistance is intended to provoke reflection that the learner would not achieve alone. Finally cognitive structuring helps learners to organise and explain their experience and to provide a structure for analysis, evaluation, and goal setting. While each of these mentoring processes was present in the dialogues of the special reflection sessions, the structure of the reflection card provided a concrete scaffold.

Each of the mentoring functions involves the mentor in asking questions, particularly follow up questions, and mirroring what the student teachers says by distilling, summarising, paraphrasing or amplifying the students' responses and modelling reflective statements. They thus entail active teaching, but of a kind that continually assesses and reassesses the boundaries of the student's zone of proximal development and encourages progress within them.

The other aspect of both types of reflection interviews, apart from scaffolding, was to signal aspects of the teaching task that seem particularly important. The reflection card did this explicitly, but in both cases a number of strategic behaviours was also signalled. These were concerned with (1) awareness by the student teachers of factors influencing choice of goals and methods; (2) analyses by the student teachers, such as comparing teaching methods with intended goals and recalling indicators within the lesson of how goals were being achieved; (3) evaluation by the student teachers of how well goals were achieved and of the effectiveness of their methods; and (4) goal setting for future lessons.

Finally, since the interviews were recorded, it was possible to assess, by analysing the reflective intervention interviews, how effective was the provision of scaffolding. By comparing the first and last special reflection sessions it was also possible to explore to what extent the student teachers had benefited from the interventions. To what extent had they internalised scaffolding?

Damien

Damien's first degree was in mathematics and science. One of the classes to which he was assigned in the practicum was a Year 10 group whom he met for mathematics. The first interview with Damien was after a lesson with this group. This group of students had a reputation for poor classroom behaviour and performance. They were regarded by Damien's supervisor, their regular classroom teacher for mathematics, as being uninterested and unprepared. For a variety of reasons, they had no regular classroom and changed rooms frequently.

The supervising teacher believed in whole class exposition and questioning, that the tasks set should be ones that the students could readily achieve, and that the key to helping these students was to give them the opportunity for successful performance. In the first lesson observed with the group, Damien elicited a reasonably good response from the students. His supervisor also thought so.

We start with the first special reflection session, also after a lesson with this group two weeks later. In his report on his preparation for this lesson, Damien had said that his confidence was lower, that he was now doing less planning, and that he was mainly concerned to meet his supervisor's expectations. During the actual lesson, Damien was at first alone with the class, when he experienced discipline problems with the students. The class, however, became much more task oriented when the supervisor arrived. The supervising teacher continued to tour the class while Damien was teaching. Overall Damien was experiencing more problems, more resistance from the students, than in the previous lesson observed. The lesson ended inconclusively.

The aim of the special reflection session was to help Damien to articulate his cognitions of the lesson. To represent Damien's reflections, we used a mapping device. One map, constructed from the transcript of the interview, centred on the student teacher's goals and methods for the lesson. We were interested, as mentioned earlier, in how the goals and methods were perceived and the factors involved in their formation. We distinguished several such factors - the particular group of students, the student teacher's beliefs about teaching, the lesson conduct, constraints seen as being set by the supervising teacher, resources, time available, and ideas from the university program. The maps we constructed linked goals, methods, and influences in the way shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Damien: Reflection Map for First Special Reflection Session (Year 10 mathematics, Class A)

This map schematically shows Damien's understandings of the relationships between goals and methods and the influences on each of them. Damien's responses also portrayed three major aspects of his personal context. He was unwilling to try methods he had not seen practised, and he had only ever experienced whole class expository teaching; he perceived himself as a non-authoritarian teacher; and he perceived conflict between Dip. Ed. suggestions and those of his supervising teacher.

The reflection map shows his concern with the students' experiencing success and his approach of setting very easy tasks. This policy was reinforced by his expectations of the students' abilities and behaviours, and his supervising teacher. In the event this policy was to prove demonstrably counter-productive, in that he had to make his expectations lower and lower.

While he wished to help individual students, he did so through whole class teaching and questioning, and seat work. These methods became the context in which he tried to apply his beliefs about student involvement and encouragement. After four weeks of practice teaching, Damien had settled into a relatively conservative equilibrium between his own ideals and those of his supervisor. He was surviving but not really comfortable with what he was doing.

For an understanding of how the student teachers reflected during their lesson, in terms of events, we used a different type of map, which we called a feedback diagram. This map centred on goals and plans, methods, and outcomes of the lesson. Rather than focus on beliefs and influences, it was concerned with feedback, reflection, and regulation before, during or in, and after the lesson, which we designated as RB, RI, and RA, respectively. The intention was not so much to capture the student teachers' interactive thought process, as in studies of teacher thinking, but to help them to analyse each of these reflective aspects in order to develop for themselves understandings and goals for future lessons. This type of reflective action has the advantage of deliberately relating theoretical analysis and practice.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Damien: Feedback Map for First Special Reflection Session (Year 10 mathematics, Class A)

Damien's feedback map from the first special reflection session (Figure 3) suggests that he did not find such reflection easy. His only reference to reflection in action was to questions to check students' understanding. After the interview, he mentioned that he wanted to gain confidence in his present teaching method and later to try other methods. He would try to help the students achieve more understanding. Notably these goals were quite general in nature.

I have already presented some quantitative information on the results of the study. Damien's second reflection and feedback maps (Figures 4 and 5, respectively) illustrate qualitatively some of the changes in this student teacher.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Damien: Reflection Map for Second Special Reflection Session (Year 10 mathematics, Class A)

The second special reflection session was towards the end of the second teaching practice, after intervening on-campus study and a further five weeks of teaching practice. This lesson was with a different year 10 class in mathematics, but with the same supervising teacher. Figure 4 shows that Damien still had the same belief structure. His goals, however are a little more specific, and "changing students' beliefs" has been replaced by aiming to have students work things out for themselves, as a means of understanding. He has only partly retained whole class teaching as a method and has now elaborated this method with specific statements about the nature of the mathematical examples to be used. He has now made use of an activity worksheet, which became the vehicle for his helping individual students. The way in which he related his beliefs to these goals and methods has become detailed, explicit, and theoretically informed (e.g. "create and strengthen information networks in memory"). He has reconciled his goals, methods, beliefs, and the requests of his supervisor. An important clue to some of these changes is his specific reference to the second reflective intervention session, to be discussed later. Damien had experienced what was for him a powerful insight about the use of student activities.

The second feedback map (Figure 5) shows an even more dramatic change. Damien reflected on his previous lesson to plan his methods, and he was now explicitly using the language of `'indicators " in his description of how he monitored and regulated methods through the progressive outcomes of the lesson.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Damien: Feedback Map for Second Special Reflection Session (Year 10 mathematics, Class A)

He also demonstrated in the interview a heightened awareness of the methods he was using and of their benefits. His future goals for the students were becoming more specific, and, for himself, he was tackling what had been an important issue over the whole of his teaching so far - the extent to which he was prepared to be assertive about students' behaviour.

Reflective Interventions

Damien was one of the Group 3 student teachers who appeared to improve most in terms of teaching success and ability to be reflective. In the post-test lesson observation tasks, he showed differences from the pre-test similar to other students in this group. Significantly he made the post-test comment that the "teacher's high expectations raise student achievement", reflecting a new theme. In the beliefs questionnaire, on the motivation scale, setting challenging tasks moved from least important to third most important out of six items.

In terms of what influenced his thinking, Damien's responses on the "Sources of Knowledge Questionnaire" indicate increasing attribution to "reflecting and comments from my school liaison tutor", "setting myself goals to help me improve my teaching", "planning how to achieve my goals for teaching", "checking to see how well I am getting on in my teaching", "theoretical ideas" (both self generated and Dip.Ed.), and app lying theories to see how they work".

There are no doubt many reasons for these changes in Damien's thinking - experience, growing familiarity with teaching, internalisation of theoretical ideas, and his own unaided reflections. The two reflective interventions, which took place between the first and second special reflection interviews, represent but few of the many possible influences. They, and the lessons associated with them, however, appear to have been critical events, particularly the second, and they may have provided a model for reflection. In each of these, the mentor sought reflections on each of the sixteen cells of the reflection card, usually working systematically by either columns or rows. The student teacher used the discussion to make written notes in each cell. The role of the mentor was to introduce each cell; e.g. the first was expectations and goals of the student teacher about the engagement and motivation of the students. She then used a variety of interventions, based both on the student teacher's previous responses and what she had observed during the lesson, to assist the teacher to analyse the particular issue. Help ranged through maximum assistance for no response, minimum assistance for incomplete responses, to no assistance for complete unprompted responses. Maximum assistance involved rephrasing or clarifying the request (1.1), indirect telling (1.2), and direct telling (1.3) of a suitable response. The following exchange illustrates indirect telling (1.2) following an unsuccessful attempt at minimum assistance. The indirect help finally brought Damien to the point of articulating the need for adequate resources with this class.

M: ...So what actions did you take to ensure that that actually happened? What methods did you use in this lesson?
D: Oh, just using an investigation, is that what you mean?
(2.1) M: Mmmm. Right, can we just go into that in a little bit more detail? How did you get them started and how did you ensure that they had the wherewithal to do all this stuff that you wanted them to do?
[After further discussion about the first part of the question, it seemed unlikely that D. would say anything about his reasons for providing all resources for the students -scissors, rulers, etc.]
(1.2)M: Yes, something else which you're probably not terribly conscious of and something, 7 think, you put a lot of thought into was that organising an activity like that requires a lot of resources.
D: Oh yes.
(1.2)M: And you provided all the resources that they needed, even down to paper and pencils and rulers.
D: No one was going to say that they didn't have something and weren't able to do it. So I made sure of that. I was scouring around the house looking for every ruler I could possibly find.

The use of both clarification and direct telling is exemplified in the following:

M: So what opportunities did you create to get feedback on the degree of engagement and involvement and willingness to work?
D: Feedback for me?
(1.1 )M: Mmmm. What did you do to allow them to be involved?
D: Oh they could ask me as many questions as they wanted.
(1. 3)M: Mmmm. Encouraged questioning... I think just the fact that you gave them an activity was an opportunity to allow them to be involved far more than a conventional expository lesson in which their involvement is really fairly minimal.
D: (writing) To be involved... yes, that's right.

Minimum assistance involved rephrasing a request to extend (2.1) a previous incomplete response (see example above), prompting for added information (2.2), and probing to explore an idea further (2.3), which is illustrated by the following exchange.

D: Today I particularly... before the lesson I said to myself, "I'm going to make sure I do my transition between the five things in the beginning and to the next thing properly. " I sort of had that expectation to do that.
M: So that's, ... it seemed like you really wanted their full attention.
D: Yes.
(2.3)M: And what was the reason for that particularly today?
D: Well obviously because (liaison tutor) was there. Isn't that terrible? If I had that expectation all the time I'm sure it would make things a lot better.

Damien supplied many complete responses and initiated several unprompted reflective statements (RS), as the following excerpt shows:

(2.2)M: O.K. what about willingness to work. What sort of actions did you take to make sure that they would be willing to work right from the very start? You've already mentioned that.
(3.1)D: Well, moving one person down the front. (3.2) That sort of... I mean if they were working with each other, O.K. they'd be talking and less willing to do the work. So it's only a tech... moving them is not only a technique to get them to be quiet or... it makes them... probably in a more workable situation.

And later, illustrating a different policy for different students:

(2.2)M: Any other signs that they were involved on task?
(RS)D: Oh yes they were talking amongst themselves about the work, a lot of them. I mean it's much better to have them working together on the work than even by themselves, I think, because they are able to talk and express themselves mathematically, which is important. Something which I never had an opportunity to do myself which is a real downfall I think.

Of the various moves made by the mentor, perhaps the most significant in raising the level of reflection were those labelled probing to explore (2.3). In many cases, this led the student teacher to deal with a somewhat more difficult problem, as the excerpt shows:

(3.1)D: The other thing I decided before the lesson I was going to... if anyone misbehaved or something like that I would make sure that they sat down the front. I'd do that early in the piece, which actually worked quite well.
(2.3)M: So do you think that's because you make a stand early in the lesson?
(RS)D: I think so. Like that's not to say... I should have done it a couple of other times as well I think.

The reflective intervention thus provided a scaffolded way for t he student teachers to learn to reflect. Part of the scaffolding consisted in supplying various levels of assistance, part in the use of the reflection card, which acted as a concrete prompt. The sessions were occasions to articulate problems and solutions. The solutions themselves were sometimes worked out in the reflective intervention sessions. In other cases, the solution occurred during preparation and teaching. In Damien's case, promising solutions to five important problems were produced in the second intervention session. These problems had been with him since the beginning of the first teaching practice.

Damien had seen the students' low ability as a constraint that led to low expectations on his part and poor progress for the students. He came to realise that his own teaching actions did not provide opportunities for students to understand the mathematics they were doing, and in fact he raised his expectations and provided the opportunities needed.

He had seen his own mild manner and the students' behaviour as preventing their attention and respect. He adopted a somewhat firmer stand ("I should have done it a couple of other times as well, I think") and came to reconcile the conflicting elements in classroom management ("With a bit more experience, I think I'll find an appropriate strategy").

He had seen the students' behaviour and his own belief in individual satisfaction as inimical to small group discussions and to promoting enjoyment and confidence. Because of a visit by the University liaison tutor, Damien was encouraged by his supervising teacher to try an activity involving students working in small groups on an investigation, rather than as a whole class or in individual practice. This change in approach was a high risk venture for Damien, but in the event it started him on the road to solving three problems, which he was able to discuss in the second reflective intervention. He saw his students expressing a high degree of intrinsic motivation - curiosity, variety, enjoyment, and confidence - lessening the "behaviour" problem. He was able, because of the students' engagement in the activity, to provide much more individual supervision, feedback, help, and encouragement. Finally he was able to realise his goal of students' "working things out for themselves".

This lesson was in some ways a stroke of fortune In Damien's perception, his supervising teacher had relaxed his objections to group work because of the visit by the University tutor. The format of the lesson allowed him successfully to address a number of issues.

Conclusion

It would be difficult to argue from the single case and a few occasions that the opportunity for the student teachers systematically to think through the lesson and the issues involved in the subsequent reflection session had a lasting effect on their knowledge and practice. What is clear is that through the scaffolded approach to mentoring, student teachers like Damien were indeed able to intellectualise issues. It is also apparent that he became more proficient at the reflection process, as shown by his reflection and feedback maps for a subsequent lesson. There is some statistical evidence also, that the reflection process differentially benefited those student teachers in the experimental groups in their teaching performance and ability to recognise lesson structures and draw inferences from them.

The latter part of this paper has been an attempt to explain this benefit in terms of the student teachers' opportunities for reflection. The mentoring processes, the reflection card, and the special reflection session all appear to create these opportunities, in such a way that these scaffolds can be gradually withdrawn as the student teachers become more self sufficient. Further, as several of them mentioned, the interviews presented a unique circumstance. They were the only instances in their total course where the expert, the mentor, was not also an assessor. With all other interactions - with curriculum staff, liaison tutors, supervising teacher - in the end the person would be required to make an assessment of their work. This, the student teachers saw as preventing full and frank help-seeking and reflection.

In spite of these general features, there are many contextual features about which it is difficult to generalise particularly the personality, viewpoints, knowledge, and skill of the mentor, supervising teachers, and university tutors. Further, particular events, as shown in Damien's case, can have an unpredictable impact. The role of the mentor, it should be noted, is far from that of a values free, neutral observer. The mentor's tasks of providing assistance, particularly in indirect and direct telling, imply a particular viewpoint and knowledge base. However, the mentor's role is to help the student teacher to reflect, and while modelling is a considerable part of this, prompting the student to do the work is more important.

What we have attempted is related to what has been termed clinical supervision (e.g. Gitlin and Smyth, 1989). What is perhaps different is the systematic use of scaffolding and the concentration on within-lesson feedback and reflection on self regulation. In terms of the overall project, we have also attempted to provide statistical evidence for the benefits. Use of a model of the teaching process that specifically includes reflection before, during, and after the lesson and an analysis of the knowledge that the teacher uses in action also seems to be advantageous. The approach could be generalised to other situations. Apart from student teachers, a more purposive use of scaffolding, including the use of something like the reflection card, with serving teachers and other professionals involved in intensively interactive situations may also be fruitful. In the light of current events in Queensland, it could be argued that continuing opportunities for professional development of teachers should rank at least as highly in the competition for resources as extensive changes to curriculum structures. We believe that using a process that allows teachers actively to conjoin theory and practice, such as the one we have been attempting, might be a useful approach to professional development.

Endnote

  1. J.A. Robinson Memorial Lecture, presented to the meeting of the Queensland Institute of Educational Research, 29 June 1994.

References

Bereiter, C. and Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written composition. New Jersey: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.

Clark, C.M. and Peterson, P.L. (1986). Teachers' thought processes. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.) Handbook of research on teaching (3rd edition) (pp255-296). N.Y.: Macmillan.

Evans, G. and Butler, J. (1993). Use of a trade practice model in teaching electrical installation procedures to apprentices. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Vocational Education Research, 1(2), 29-54.

Evans, G., Galbraith, P., and Goos, M. (1993). Feedback and reflection in learning to teach. In T. Simpson (Ed.), Teacher educators' annual handbook 1993, pp 182-216. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.

Gitlin, A. and Smyth, J. (1989). Teacher evaluation: Educative alternatives. London: Falmer Press.

Newman, D., Griffin, P., and Cole, M. (1989). The construction zone: Working for cognitive change in school. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tharp, R.G. and Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society. (M. Cole, A.R. Luria, M. Lopez-Morillas and J.V. Wertsch, Trans.). Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.

Please cite as: Evans, G. (1994). I need to raise my expectations: Helping student teachers to reflect. 1994 JA Robinson Memorial Lecture. Queensland Researcher, 10(2), 1-18. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qr10/evans.html


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