Numerous techniques aim at increasing the level of novice teachers’ competence, and guided reflection is one of these strategies. Pre-service teachers often apply this technique since it enables novice educators to tie theory and practice. The concept of guided reflection has been used for decades, and it is well defined. For instance, Reiman (1999, p. 598) note that guided reflection is a “benchmark disposition of the teacher as she or he engages in the teaching/learning process.” Orland-Barak and Yinon (2007) also admit that guided reflection enhances the teaching/learning process, but the researchers focus on the role guided reflection plays in linking theory and practice. The researchers note that it is essential for novice teachers who often lack certain skills due to the limitation of teaching courses.
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It is important to understand what exactly guided reflection is and why it is important. Husu, Toom, and Patrikainen (2008) provided a detailed description of the most conventional form of guided reflection. One of the lessons is recorded and, within a few days (to keep memories fresh), the teacher has an interview followed by a detailed discussion of different strategies employed in class. During the interview and discussion, the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson and approaches employed are revealed and analyzed. Clearly, there are other ways and strategies. Orland-Barak and Yinon (2007) stress that one session is not enough, and pre-service teachers will benefit from a series of reflections, as this will enable them to have a broader perspective on their experiences. It is obvious that one session will be insufficient as lessons are usually often confined to particular themes, and limited materials and strategies are employed. More so, a series of sessions also enable us to trace certain trends and detect major issues each student faces.
Researchers also emphasize the importance of a collaborative approach. It has been acknowledged that guided reflection has to be held in groups as this facilitates the reflection process through sharing ideas and analysis of different perspectives (Risko, Vukelich & Roskos, 2009; Ash & Clayton, 2004). In groups, students are able to reflect upon different approaches utilized and notice different approaches. The broader perspective enables pre-service educators to be more open-minded and ready to try new strategies. It is noteworthy that Ash and Clayton (2004) identify three phases of effective or “rigorous” reflection: description, analysis, and articulation. Reiman (1999) argues that articulation is very important as language and thought are interconnected, and the ability to frame one’s ideas helps people have a deeper understanding of complex concepts.
It is necessary to note that guided reflection has long been used, and researchers have developed strategies applicable in particular disciplines as well as universal approaches. For instance, Nolan and Sim (2011) have developed a framework that can be used to train pre-service teachers in childhood education. At that, the framework can be employed in other settings as well. The researchers have identified six levels of reflection that enable students to evaluate their experiences and obtain the necessary understanding of important concepts. The six levels of reflection are returning to experience, attending to feelings, association, integration, validation, and appropriation.
As has been mentioned above, guided reflection is beneficial for pre-service students in many ways. It helps students connect theory and practice (Orland-Barak & Yinon, 2007; Reiman, 1999). For instance, out of three students that took part in an experiment, two students revealed a better understanding of theory and the way they applied theory in their lessons (Orland-Barak & Yinon, 2007). The third student focused on her performance, and the way materials were employed. This experiment shows that guided reflection helps novice students link theory and practice through additional research is important as the sample of three participants can hardly be seen as relevant.
Apart from that, Vogt and Au (1995) also stress that guided reflection leads to the evolution of educators. The researchers argue that continuous reflection helps teachers evaluate their experiences and acquire new skills and knowledge. More importantly, teachers become more open-minded and ready for change, and they often become those who create the need for change (Nolan, 2008). Notably, teachers learn how to react to numerous administrative pressures, which also leads to improvement of their performance.
At the same time, it is important to remember certain limitations and pitfalls of the practice. Nolan and Sim (2011) emphasize the need for the creation of certain conditions to make guided reflection effective. For instance, the researchers claim that questioning tends to put novice educators in a vulnerable position. It can also lead to such negative emotions as frustration or fear. The practice may often be associated with issues at the workplace (awkward situations or even conflicts). Therefore, it is essential to make sure that a favorable atmosphere is set. It is also essential to ensure authenticity and meaningfulness of reflective activates to make students active and involved. Clearly, sometimes time is disproportionately invested, and students may feel a lack of time when contemplating. Finally, reflective activities should be diverse to ensure the engagement of students.
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Ash, S.L., & Clayton, P.H. (2004). The articulated learning: An approach to guided reflection and assessment. Innovative Higher Education, 29(2), 137-154.
Husu, J., Toom, A., & Patrikainen, S. (2008). Guided reflection as a means to demonstrate and develop student teachers’ reflective competencies. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 9(1), 37-51.
Nolan, A. (2008). Encouraging the reflection process in undergraduate teachers using guided reflection. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(1), 31-36.
Nolan, A., & Sim, J. (2011). Exploring and evaluating levels of reflection in pre-service early childhood teachers. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(3), 122-130.
Orland-Barak, L., & Yinon, H. (2007). When theory meets practice: What student teachers learn from guided reflection on their own classroom discourse. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(1), 957-969.
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Risko, V.J., Vukelich, C., & Roskos, C. (2009). Detailing reflection instruction: The efficacy of a guided instructional procedure on prospective teachers’ pedagogical reasoning. Action on Teacher Education Research, 31(2), 47-60.
Vogt, L.A., & Au, K.H.P. (1995). The role of teachers’ guided reflection in effecting positive program change. The Bilingual Research Journal, 19(1), 101-120.