The reflective approach to teaching practicum debriefing (RATPD) is a strategy that aids University teacher educators and school-based mentors in the task of developing student teachers’ ability to reflect.
It is a practical user-friendly tool grounded in Schön’s (1987) reflection-on-action and the idea of Zeichner and Liston (1996) which states that reflective learning and teaching must involve the use of questions. It offers a systematic, yet a reflective way to debrief student teachers after a teaching episode and can be easily incorporated and used during regular debriefing sessions with student teachers.
The RATPD’s strengths lie in the fact that it encourages student teachers to think critically about their own learning and what is taught and about their own behaviour as teachers and to not only focus on techniques and methods of teaching or the daily issues that teachers face in their practice (as important as those are) but to consider “self as teacher,” which is a major facet of being and becoming a reflective practitioner.
The tool is significant and timely for two reasons. One, the development of student teachers’ ability to reflect is now expected in all credible teacher education programmes. In fact, reflection is a basic attribute for all teachers (Zeichner and Liston, 1996; Schön, 1987). Two, given the changing landscape of teacher education and training with an emphasis on school-centred teacher education and training programmes, what is being questioned, is the degree to which school-based mentors are equipped to develop reflection in student teachers. This tool helps to resolve this issue.
The RATPD is enacted through the use of 3 reflective questions:
1. What have you learned about teaching?
2. To what extent has the observation or teaching episode caused changes in your beliefs, values, and assumptions about teaching?
3. What have you learned about “self” as a teacher?
From previous research data, the usefulness of reflective question 1 can be seen in three ways.
1. First, the question revealed that participants had observed and learned about teaching techniques, the day-to-day operation of the school and classroom, and the general school context.
2. Second, the question facilitated the expressions of both positive and negative experiences of teaching.
3. Third, the question revealed the overall belief among participants that teaching is a difficult yet rewarding task that requires much effort on the part of the teacher.
The usefulness of reflective question 2 can be seen in the fact that it encouraged participants to think affectively, by targeting their values, beliefs, and assumptions in relation to teaching and learning. All research participants pointed out that the experience confirmed their beliefs, values, and assumptions about teaching rather than altering these areas.
The usefulness of reflective question 3 can be seen in that fact that it encouraged participants to personalise the teaching practicum exercise by examining and disclosing personal feelings and subject content deficiencies.
Two challenges have been highlighted by previous research and use of the tool. These include the fact that student teachers are sometimes reluctant to share their perception and what they truly believe about a particular issue or situation encountered and some may be unwilling to talk about emotions, values, beliefs, and personal assumptions.
The solution was to reassure students during debriefing sessions that what they say in the tutorial room “stays in the room.” In other words, promise confidentiality. Do not record all that is discussed in the session, especially if one sense that what is being discussed is personal and emotional. Additionally, after each session, invite each student to read and edit records taken during their own individual sessions.
Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Zeichner, K. M., & Liston, D. P. (Eds.). (1996). Reflective teaching: An introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.