• Can student teachers’ pedagogy be enhanced by heeding children’s thoughts about their learning?

      Hudson, Kate Joanne (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015-09)
      The focus of this enquiry was to enable student teachers to engage with children’s views to construct meaningful classroom learning experiences. The underpinning assumption was that learning is socially constructed. Issues addressed were: what pupils thought helped/hindered their learning in classrooms, how heeding children’s views of barriers to/facilitators of their learning can be used by student teachers for lesson evaluation, planning and reflective practice, to what extent children’s views can support student teachers’ understanding of children’s learning and the development of their pedagogical practices (this includes both curriculum planning and teaching), the development and learning of initial teacher education students as student teachers engaged in reflective practice. The research comprises two case studies; pilot and subsequent larger-scale project. It incorporated action research designed as iterative spirals of research, evaluation and development in classrooms where the student teachers were teaching children. New learning accumulated in one cycle was intended to be taken into the next. Bespoke pedagogical tools were used to create dialogic spaces and also as research data collection techniques. They scaffolded inter and intra- personal exchanges to enable student teachers to understand children’s learning from a socio-cultural perspective. These tools mediated children’s reflection on their learning and then feedback to the student teacher about what they had learnt; how they had learnt it and what would enable them to learn better. The results indicated: enhanced student teachers’ understanding of how children learn as they adapted their practice in response to children’s views, enhanced learning by the children owing to their exchanges on the interpersonal plane, with peers in the dialogic space created by the bespoke pedagogical tools, mentors require development to support student teachers to engage meaningfully with children’s learning. Outcomes cannot easily be generalised from case studies. This study found: children can express learning needs when appropriate scaffolds enable them to articulate abstract concepts, when student teachers respond to children talking about learning they can develop their practice.Implications for Initial Teacher Education are that it should: highlight the importance of children’s voice to support student teachers in developing their pedagogy, model ways in which teachers can create dialogic spaces for children’s interthinking, consider what development mentors require to support student teachers’ understanding of children’s learning in classrooms. Mediating the construction of dialogue with the Thinking Fish provided a way into both the process of interthinking for children, and also student teachers’ understanding of such interthinking as expressed through their dialogue in the focus groups. Thus the Thinking Fish may be considered to be the vicarious presence of the teacher. This may be a useful approach for teachers and student teachers to adopt as the experience for the participants in this study was meaningful and replicable in future practice, using real classroom activity as research data.
    • Seeking constructive alignment of assessment in teacher education: locating the reflection in reflective writing

      Croft, Julia (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015-04)
      The aim of this thesis is to promote a dialogue about constructive alignment (Biggs, 1996) with a particular focus on the use of reflective writing as an assessed task in courses of teacher education and the influence it has, or does not have, on teacher reflection and/or in improving practice. The work is set against a national context in which time to reflect is being written out of teacher education as a consequence of policy which locates ‘training’ to teach increasingly within the busy-ness of school life. Persuaded by principles of constructive alignment and, therefore, troubled by student teachers’ perceptions of complex assignments which appear to have little relevance to their practice as teachers, I have undertaken an action research study (McAteer, 2013; Norton, 2009; and Wells, 2001), beginning with a conviction that it is possible to design assessment tasks which truly integrate professional and academic requirements and influence the learning activity of student teachers in ways which are meaningful for their development as teachers. Using an adaptation of the Ward and McCotter (2004) ‘Reflection Rubric’ to locate characteristics of reflection within the reflective writing submitted for assessment, the study evaluated the relationship between written reflection and academic and professional attainment and found little evidence that engagement in the reflective writing assignment had contributed to the participants’ development as teachers. I conclude that the assessment strategies of students and of the course had been either not aligned or destructively aligned. The thesis narrates my journey to the adoption of a socio-constructivist perspective, leading to greater insight into the relationship between established assessment practice and the learning activity of student teachers, and a questioning of my practice. Crucially, the notion of a ‘framework for assessment’ is broadened to encompass all assignment-related activity, the people involved and the timeframe, in addition to the task and criteria. I conclude by identifying a desire to know more about the national view of assessment in teacher education, seeking a network of colleagues in order to explore ways in which counterparts in other institutions are supporting student teachers to develop reflective practice and assess reflective writing.
    • What are the issues involved in using e-portfolios as a pedagogical tool?

      Mills, Jeanette Marie (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2013-11)
      In Initial Teacher Training (ITT), one of the technologies rapidly being adopted to support the development of trainee teachers is the e-portfolio. Research into successful use of e-portfolios beyond their function as a repository has been scanty to date. The purpose of the current study was to extend the boundaries of understanding of e-portfolios beyond this function. This was undertaken through two in-depth case studies where e-portfolios were used as a pedagogical tool intended to support the development of reflective practice on a one year postgraduate ITT course, during two years of investigation in one university A mixed-methods approach was adopted to capture the richness of participants’ self reports of their experiences, statistical data regarding interactions on the e-portfolios and analysis of reflective writing. Data were collected and analysed from questionnaires, student and tutor interviews and interactions with the e-portfolio together with analysis of the content of reflective e-journals, with a special emphasis on the place and depth of reflection. What emerged was a rich contextual understanding of e-portfolio use by trainee teachers and tutors and the problematic nature of conceptualising and assessing reflective thinking, together with the extent to which the development and depth of their reflective thinking had been supported by e-portfolio use. The results confirm previous concerns related to the training requirements of users and also the time needed for students and tutors to engage in interactions. Further they imply that the prerequisites of successful use of e-portfolios, as a pedagogical tool, to support the development of reflective thinking include common agreement about what constitutes reflection and reflective thinking embedded within a strong, rigorous and well theorised conceptualisation of course structure and content. Implied also is the need for a well understood and transparent framework to assess the depth of reflective thinking that should complement the competencies that underpin Standards, and support the professional development of teachers.