Pathways to student-teachers’ professional development. The role of core reflection.

Issue 29

“Pathways to student-teachers’ professional development. The role of core reflection.”

Maria Mamoura

Pages 56 – 72

Reflection, which has come back as a demand in recent years in the field of teachers’ professional development,has been approached in research by many educational theorists and researchers. Reflective practice is defined(among other definitions) as teachers’ ability to reflect on their actions, in order to understand more deeply the essence of each teaching experience and to join a process of dynamic learning (Zwart, Korthagen & AttemaNoordewier). More specifically, reflective practice helps teachers to identify their strengths and weaknesses,reviewing the relationship between theory and practice, so as to improve their practice (Attema-Noordewier, Korthagen & Zwart) and thus it can contribute to the substantial revision of the relationship between theory and practice (Körkkö, Kyrö-Ämmälä & Turunen). A recent approach to reflection practice, that of core reflection (Korthagen; Korthagen & Vasalos), has begun to gain momentum in the field of teacher education. This approach is based on the qualities and ideals of teachers as the foundation of reflection, and balances the professional and personal dimensions of their professional development (Korthagen & Nuijten).
In this ongoing qualitative research, an attempt is made to investigate the informal personal theories of student teachers of the Department of Educational Sciences (NKUA) about teaching and their role as teachers, as well as the possible transformation of these informal theories, as reflected in their oral and written reflective essays, after the completion of practicum (which lasted 2 semesters). The research was conducted using the
Korthagen’s model of core reflection.
The combination of qualitative data (semi-structured interviews of student teachers, discussions during university courses, reflective diaries) ensures the validity and reliability of the research. The analysis of the data was carried out using the method of thematic analysis.
As shown by the data analysis, the various exchanges among teacher students allowed them to reflect on their stance towards the teaching profession, on their ideas about themselves as trainee teachers with their strengths and weaknesses to a remarkable degree. They began to realize their practical knowledge, which
until then had been guiding their action, and to interpret it in using theoretical terms. Student teachers were also given the impetus to expand their understanding of the concept of their identity as teachers, moving from a traditional understanding of the teacher as a possessor of knowledge to an image of the teacher, who gradually becomes aware of both their mission and their multiple identities.
Applying the “onion model” enabled them to articulate their core qualities and characteristics, which were not fully conscious up until then; they began to realize their own knowledge that guides action (i.e. their practical knowledge), and how it can be connected to theory, while being simultaneously aware of their
own theoretical assumptions.
At the same time, research has also confirmed the Vygotskyan role of significant others in building a sense of identity: the dialogue between an individual and significant others is transformed into an inner dialogue within the individual (Lewis, 2002). In this sense, dialogic exchanges between a supervisor and a student
teacher can have a significant imprint on building elements of the latter’s professional identity, as he/she can be empowered and committed to take responsibility for his own learning process.
Finally, it appeared that student teachers’ reflection was spread across all six levels of the onion model. Student teachers moved from the outer to the innermost levels, giving shape to their initially undefined sense of mission, showing us that despite all the limitations and uncertainties that always exist in the educational world -and not only- the practice of core reflection can contribute to strengthening self-confidence, selfefficacy and building a dynamic educational identity.

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