Teachers' self-assessment and professional development through their classroom journals
John Dewey's pragmatist view of the teacher as investigator was theoretically connected with the discursive structure of the teaching experience that superimposes a verbal and contextual dimension to the teaching event. The emphasis in this approach to the experience of the self-critical teacher was on making the teacher conscious of his or her own discourse and language and the language of others as discursive practices. An advocate of this school of thought in this century was Mikhail Bakhtin whose body of work provided challenges and potential solutions to what researchers have called the epistemic crisis of the 20th century, especially by defining writing as the study of the discursive subject rather than the study of reified objects. The Bakhtinian approach to this field of study is a translinguistic one that takes the spoken or written act (utterance) in its specific, socio-historic context to communicate meaning.
The purpose of this study was to explore how the regular use of classroom journals by teachers provided them with self-reflective data that enabled them to assess their own performance and that helped them to develop professionally. This study asked teachers to become observers, recorders, and assessors of their own work, viewing the culture of their classrooms ethnographically, and it investigated whether teachers could use journals to assess their own teaching performance and to effect changes in their teaching practices based on an analysis of the data gathered from these journals, whether these experiences as journal-keeping inquiries could be an effective vehicle to engage professionals in discussions on curriculum development, and whether the process of journal keeping and collegial discussion could lead to meaningful professional development and self-assessment.
The findings indicated that (a) journal keeping enables teachers to view the culture of the classroom ethnographically through their self-reflective writing, (b) journal keeping promotes teacher inquiry, (c) individual journals provide teachers with ethnographic information for self-reflection and self-assessment, (d) journal keepers' group discussions promote professional communication, (e) journals may reveal both personal and professional insights, and (f) the reflective journal may be a teacher-directed alternative to traditional administrator-based evaluation.
0326: Cultural anthropology