Inquiry and reflection are more than just preservice and inservice exercises. Reflective practice is a significant factor in promoting lifelong learning. The individual and social nature of knowledge construction informs what it is candidates learn about learning, teaching, counseling, and leading. Candidates learn to reflect upon and create experiences and environments that support the inquiry and reflections of both individuals and groups.
An important component of professional growth is the recognition that thoughtful practice requires thoughtful reflection on practice (Schon, 1983, 1986; Boud, 1985; Onosko, 1992; Clinchy, 1995; Grant & Murray, 1999) and on one’s impact on P-12 learning. Teachers and school professionals need to be able to reflect on and analyze their own practice. This idea of being a reflective practitioner relates to the notion of “teacher empowerment” (Prawat, 1992).In his research, Onosko (1992) found a correlation between teachers’ goals and the perceived climate of thoughtfulness in the classroom. He concluded that thoughtful classroom practice requires reflection on practice. To assess the impact of their teaching and improve their practice, teachers need to consistently monitor and adjust their teaching. As they monitor the understandings that students are gaining or the misconceptions they may have, teachers need to adjust their plans, which may range from making a minor change to stopping and re-teaching at a different time.
In Initial programs, the preparation of reflective practitioners is accomplished through increased field experiences and regular requirements for written reflections about students’ course-based and school-based experiences. (Ferguson, 1989; Pugach, 1990). Candidates have a variety of experiences that encourage them to analyze their professional practice and identify their strengths and weaknesses in order to grow and learn. Throughout their course work, they are engaged in cooperative learning groups, experience and practice interdisciplinary teaching, and authentic assessment. Then, beginning with their first field placement in schools, candidates write reflection papers guided by specific questions. They have the opportunity to select a student in their classroom and observe the student throughout the semester. These reflections are shared and discussed with their peers, school-based teacher educators, and college faculty. College classroom work and work in schools are closely connected as candidates discuss and evaluate what they observe and do in the classroom. As candidates progress through their field experiences in schools, they continue to inquire and reflect on their experiences as they plan and teach their lessons. During student teaching, candidates keep reflective journals which are shared with their college supervisor. They also videotape lessons they teach, and these videotaped lessons provide another opportunity for analysis and reflection. The videotaped lessons are also shared with college supervisors and discussed with teacher candidates, and they are a required component of the professional portfolio presented at the culmination of student teaching in most Initial programs.
Portfolio preparation is initiated in candidates’ first methods class. Throughout their programs, they present their portfolios to their peers, college faculty, and school-based teacher educators. At each level of presentation, candidates have the opportunity to reflect on and analyze their work for the semester. The professional portfolio presented at the end of the program represents their work throughout the program, and it provides candidates with an opportunity to demonstrate how they have met the standards of the program.
In Advanced programs, the theme of reflection is carried through in much the same way as in Initial programs. Reflection is a “meaning-making” process that moves a learner from one experience to the next with deeper understanding of relationships and connections (Rogers, 2004). Candidates discuss with their peers, analyze situations encountered in their work, and critically examine their daily practice. The college classroom becomes an arena in which ideas, problems, practices, and reflections are shared and examined.
Throughout their programs, candidates are active inquirers and thoughtful leaders. They use insights from intentional and systematic inquiry to make informed decisions. To become effective teachers, counselors, and administrators who adopt an inquiry stance in their work, candidates engage in active, ongoing inquiry. Fieldwork and coursework alike require them to search for answers to important and intriguing questions about the process of learning, practices that promote effective leadership, counseling, and teaching, the ways in which students learn, and how families and schools are socially, historically, and culturally situated.