12.3 Supporting student teachers’ reflection

Helping student teachers to become reflective practitioners is an important part of the teacher educator’s role, but how can this be achieved? Student teachers simply selecting the relevant TESSA sections and trying out the activities in their classrooms is not enough to bring about real improvement. Student teachers need further support to help them to understand and reflect fully on their classroom experiences with different sorts of activities. This could be through sharing their experiences:

  • in seminars or tutorials
  • in discussions with mentor/supervisors/head teachers/inspectors
  • through communication with a tutor by email
  • through discussions with peers by email, mobile or text messages.

Student teachers can be helped to reflect constructively by sharing both good and bad experiences in a non-threatening way. Describing is a good starting point for reflection, but teachers also need to be encouraged to think about why things happened the way they did, and what they will take from this experience into their lessons next time. The last question in Activity 12.2 gave you a few ideas on how to invite students to reflect. Let’s explore further your role in helping student teachers to develop reflection.

Activity 12.3 Using the TESSA handbook 'Working with Teachers' as support

This activity will help you to identify ways of encouraging reflective practice in your student teachers.

Asking questions at face-to-face seminars or during post-lesson discussion in a school visit is one of the strategies you could use to help students to reflect on their and their learner learning.

Remember it is important to scaffold the student teacher’s progress through the process of raising awareness, planning for use, using and reflecting on use of a new learning and teaching strategy. This will lead to the student teacher gaining independence and developing his/her own use of some aspects of the TESSA resources as illustrated in Aisha’s case study below.

Case study 12.1: Aisha develops her own materials

“Using story with big book in science went really well. Is there a section on using big print in a different subject I could try?”

This was the SMS message Mall. Rabiu, Aisha’s Teaching Practice Supervisor received the afternoon after Aisha tried this technique for the fourth time. Her supervisor was pleased she had persisted and succeeded so well: the first attempts had been a little difficult. He looked at the Teaching and Learning Methods table, phoned her back and suggested she tried using stories without the big print and looked at these TESSA sections:

  • inviting a local storyteller as in Literacy Module 2 'Ways to collect and perform stories'
  • in Literacy Module 2, the sections 'Investigating stories' and 'Using story and poetry'; in Module 3, the section 'Ways towards fluency and accuracy'
  • in Social Studies and the Arts Module 3, 'The art of storytelling'
  • in Life Skills Module 2, the section 'Investigating self-esteem' and in Module 3, 'Exploring the environment'.

Together they decided on a route through the suggestions that he had made.

Aisha’s confidence went from strength to strength and she gained expertise in this technique that she started inventing her own stories to illustrate some of her lessons in a range of subjects. Other teachers in the school asked her if they could observe her reading stories with the children and also borrow her resources.

Tool 8 focuses on the discussion and feedback that follows observing a student teacher’s lesson on a school experience visit. This is a good opportunity to help them reflect. By asking ‘why’ questions you can prompt them to reflect on the reasons behind their planning and teaching decisions. ‘How could you…’ and ‘What if….’ questions prompt thinking about alternative approaches. Presenting evidence from the lesson, for example the number of learners engaged in a particular activity or assessment evidence, is another way to get students to think critically about their teaching.

Activity 12.4: Supporting student teachers’ post-lesson reflection

This activity will help you to plan for supporting student teachers’ reflection on their teaching.

Part 1

Consider the questions below. These are intended to support teachers’ evaluation and reflection. What other questions would you add for student teachers?

  • How did the lesson I planned work in practice?
  • Which activities worked well in my lesson? Why?
  • Which activities did not work as well as I planned? Why? What can I do to improve this next time?
  • Did I have all the materials I needed? What else would have been useful?
  • Which learners worked / participated well in the lesson? Why?
  • Which learners found the activities difficult? What can I do to help them?
  • What do I need to remember next time when I am planning a similar lesson?

Part 2

Imagine that you are visiting a student teacher who is resistant to using active learning methods in their teaching. Write some questions that you could use in a discussion with a student teacher to help them reflect on their teaching approach after observing a lesson they teach.

12.2 Being a reflective teacher educator

12.4 Teaching Methods Audit