This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007

 

Reflective practices in teacher education

Bharati Baveja — University of Delhi, Delhi

 

Dissatisfaction with teacher preparation is ubiquitous world over. The increasing disenchantment with the existing practices has been expressed in different ways resulting in seemingly opposing positions. Referents or labels used to explain the intuitively understandable everyday phenomena, has formalized the discipline imparting exclusivity, characteristic of specialized discourse. “Currently there is a paradigm war raging in education. Evidence of conflict is seen in nearly every facet of educational practice. At the base of this conflict are the referents used by educators” (Tobin, 1993).  However, if humans are considered to be genetically programmed to instruct and benefit from instruction (folk pedagogy) exclusive labels may impede generation of informal knowledge. This attempt towards exclusivity has complicated and mystified everyday learning experiences and has increased the gap between theory and practice. The innovative frameworks for education therefore have little impact on the existing practices.

Remoteness between theory and practice has even greater implications for practicing teachers, who anyway do not attribute their professional competence to the one year B.Ed Program. At the same time, this ‘inertness’ also impedes their professional development as they fail to connect with innovations and paradigmatic shifts in the field. As a result, theory and practice tread their own paths without any intersection. In-service teacher education in our country is no better than the initial teacher preparation. Unless the ownership of educational reforms is assumed by the large pool of practicing teachers, all attempts towards improving education will fail. A more intimate interaction between pre-service and in-service teachers will go a long way in establishing a better interface between theory and practice.

There is a need to generate a collective think-pool which provides space for both these categories of teachers to express themselves freely and undertake the responsibility of their own development. Self reflection is basic to such an endeavor. There seem to be no alternative to reflective practices. At the outset there is a need to demystify the specialized discourse and locate the issues in the real educational settings; reconcile opposing positions and negotiate for effective practices; develop a discourse in teacher education which directly addresses important issues as they are experienced in the real settings rather than addressing them with fixed, preconceived notions drawn from disparate theories. Teacher needs to be seen as an active thinker capable of self development and striving for self-actualization.

Both theorists and researchers have pointed towards the need to capitalize on the ability to think and reflect, with which humans are naturally endowed. Interpreting experience according to fixed notions derived from alien theories causes confusion and cynicism. The teaching needs to be conceptualized as an ongoing process of contemplation - a never ending search for truth –an evolutionary process of self-development. Needless to say that the debate on effective practices in teacher education and education in general has to be situated in the realm of ‘Reflection’.

However ‘Reflection’ is perceived and practiced differently according to different schools of thought. The focus of content and process of reflection differs in different teacher education curricula. Recent research in the field has also indicated that there is a need to carefully examine the concept of reflection from various perspectives. The paper proposes to examine the concept of reflection from different schools of thought emerging from the views of John Dewey (1933), Schoen (1983), Habermas (1974, Frankfurt school of Social Research), Gauthier (1963) & Polyani (1967, Philosophers of practical action), Van Manen (1977) & Schwab (1971, Curriculum theorists) and from the Indian perspective of education being a contemplative process, drawn largely from Bhagwat Gita. It aims to articulate viewpoints from different perspectives into a coherent framework for situating teacher education in reflective practices.

Email the author, Prof. Bharati Baveja, at bharatibaveja@msn.com