Examining a framework of dialogue e -mails and inquiry into practice to scaffold reflective practice in preservice teachers during their early field experience
This qualitative study focused on the development of reflective practice with preservice teachers through a framework during an early field experience. The framework provided an explicit structure for the preservice teachers to investigate four focus areas (teacher's role, active learning, culture, and assessment). The preservice teachers explored a focus area, dialogued via e-mail with a peer, and then discussed their findings in small groups.
The preservice teachers were given a pre and post survey that queried them about their beliefs related to the four focus areas and the concept of reflection. Content analysis of the explanatory statements on the survey, dialogue e-mails and written reflections after small group discussions, and focus group interviews guided a systematic examination of the data. The dialogue e-mails and written reflections were also analyzed using a rubric for reflective levels.
The survey results indicated that while a substantial number of preservice teachers maintained the same belief after experiencing the framework of inquiry into practice, an equal or greater number of preservice teachers changed. These preservice teachers became more student-focused as the semester progressed. They also became increasingly self-critical of their own teaching practices which led them to alternative approaches. Consequently, these preservice teachers were able to articulate their beliefs in the context of teaching.
The structure of the framework provided opportunities for the preservice teachers to rehearse reflective practice; thus teacher educators have an explicit methodological model for developing reflective practitioners. Moreover, the preservice teachers indicated that the framework increased self-monitoring which facilitated analysis of their teaching. The preservice teachers documented flexibility in reference to instruction to meet the needs of their students. Finally, this study indicates that changing beliefs may indeed be more fluid than originally thought, but restructuring preservice teacher programs to include an authentic audience for reflective assignments is essential. Additionally, restructuring teacher education to include opportunities in which preservice teachers investigate specific focus areas linked to course requirements may be the best way to bridge the gap that preservice teachers believe exists between the university and school realities.