The role of reflection in integrating theory and practice in foundation phase teacher education

Rousseau, Nicoline (2015-12)

Thesis (DEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this study the perceptions and experiences of a number of South African Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase (FP) teacher educators and students were explored to obtain insight into the role of reflective practice in BEd FP programmes. The study was undertaken against the background of a combined initiative of the European Union (EU), the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and a number of universities to improve undergraduate FP teacher education. Reflective practice is a core aspect of many teacher education programmes and supported in this regard by policy (DHET, Revised Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications, 2015:9-11). Reflective practice is also generally regarded in teacher education scholarship as playing a key role in the integration of theory and practice. However, there is a lack of research evidence that this actually happens. There is also a lack of clarity with regard to the challenges involved in implementing reflective practice for optimal learning, while the purposes or envisaged “endings” for the process of reflective practice are equally vague. The main objective of the study was therefore to gain a better understanding of the role of reflective practice in Foundation Phase teacher education in South Africa with regard to both conceptual and operational issues. A further objective was to explore how the challenges experienced in the process of reflective practice in four South African universities linked with the central debates in the literature. The argument in this study is that reflective practice is a complex concept, yet potentially a very valuable tool in teacher education at different levels. Reflective practice can play a meaningful role in developing agency amongst student teachers (and qualified teachers) with positive consequences in a developing country such as South Africa. However, for reflective practice to be productive and meaningful, certain conditions need to be observed to meet the challenges involved. A multi-site case study design was used for this qualitative, interpretive inquiry. Propositional categories gleaned from the work of seminal authors informed the initial planning of the interview protocols. The data was generated through semi-structured interviews with FP teacher educators, focus group interviews with student teachers and an analysis of relevant documentation, thereby contributing to rich, in-depth data. A process of thematic analysis generated four themes with sub-themes, thereby organizing the essential meanings extracted from the interviewees’ understandings and experiences of the role of reflective practice. The findings were interpreted according to the framework generated by the thematic analysis. A number of key issues were highlighted by the findings, the first being that the perceived theory-practice gap reflects a false dichotomy embedded in the language of education. A second theme revealed that FP teacher educators, as well as student participants, had disparate views of the conceptual nature and the purposes of reflective practice. Thirdly, the FP teacher educators, as well a student participants, had disparate views of the operational aspects of reflective practice. Finally, understandings of reflective practice in FP teacher education remained largely tacit among the role players; this points to a need to develop an explicit vocabulary and an equally explicit framework assisting teacher educators and students in coming to terms with envisaged purposes and processes with regard to reflective practice. The findings of this study is specific to the contexts of the four participating universities and the period during which the interviews were conducted. However, the findings contribute to a scholarly understanding of the dilemmas, challenges and choices which teacher educators face when implementing reflective practice in developed, but specifically also in developing countries, as a means to integrate theory and practice.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie studie word die waarnemings en ondervindings van Suid Afrikaanse grondslagfase onderwysopvoeders en studente ondersoek om sodoende insig te verkry in die rol van reflektiewe praktyk in BEd Grondslagfase programme. Relevante dokumentasie is verder gebruik om bykomende inligting in te win. Die studie is onderneem teen die agtergrond van ‘n gekombineerde inisiatief van die Europese Unie (EU), die Departement van Hoër Onderwys en Opleiding en ‘n aantal universiteite om voorgraadse grondslagfase onderwysopleiding te verbeter. Reflektiewe praktyk is ‘n kernaspek van baie onderwysopleidingprogramme en word in die verband ondersteun deur beleid (Departement van Hoër Onderwys en Opleiding, Hersiene Minimum Vereistes vir Onderwysopleidingkwalifikasies, 2015:9-11). Reflektiewe praktyk word in die algemeen in onderwysopleiding beskou as ‘n kernaspek in die integrasie van teorie en praktyk. Daar is egter ‘n gebrek aan bewyse om hierdie bewerings te staaf. Daar is voorts ook ‘n gebrek aan duidelikheid met betrekking tot die uitdagings wanneer dit gaan om die implementering van reflektiewe praktyk vir optimale leer. Die uiteindelike doeleindes van die proses van refleksie is ook vaag. Die hoofdoel van die studie was gevolglik om ‘n beter begrip te kry van die konseptuele en die operasionele rol wat reflektiewe praktyk vertolk in die grondslagfase van onderwysopleiding in Suid Afrika. ‘n Verdere doel was om ondersoek in te stel na die uitdagings in die implementering van reflektiewe praktyk in vier Suid Afrikaanse universiteite en dit te vergelyk met die sentrale debatte in die literatuur rondom die rol van reflektiewe praktyk in onderwysopleiding. Die sentrale argument in die studie is dat reflektiewe praktyk ‘n komplekse konsep is hoewel dit die potensiaal het om ‘n baie waardevolle medium op verskillende vlakke in onderwysopleiding te wees. Reflektiewe praktyk kan ‘n betekenisvolle rol speel in die ontwikkeling van agentskap (agency) van onderwysstudente (en onderwysers) met positiewe gevolge in ‘n ontwikkelende land soos Suid Afrika. Tog, ter wille van produktiewe en betekenisvolle reflektiewe praktyk, is daar sekere voorwaardes wat in ag geneem moet word om sodoende die uitdagings die hoof te bied. ‘n Multi-terrein gevallestudie is gebruik vir hierdie kwalitatiewe, vertolkende ondersoek. Kategorieë gegenereer deur die literatuurstudie is aanvanklik gebruik ter inligting van die beplanning van die onderhoude. Die data is gegenereer deur semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude met grondslagfase onderwysopvoeders, fokusgroep onderhoude met grondslagfase studente en ‘n analise van relevante dokumentasie. Hierdie wyse van data-insameling het bygedra tot ryk, in-diepte data. ‘n Proses van tematiese analise het vier unieke temas met sub-temas gegenereer. Die temas is gebruik as ‘n ontledingsraamwerk om die perspektiewe en ondervindings van die respondente verder te organiseer en die bevindings te interpreteer. Die eerste tema het uitgewys dat die sogenaamde gaping tussen teorie en praktyk in werklikheid ‘n vals universiteit - skool tweedeling verteenwoordig. Hierdie tweedeling is diep gesetel in die taal van onderwysopleiding. Die tweede tema het uitgewys dat die grondslagfase onderwysopvoeders, sowel as die onderwysstudente, uiteenlopende menings handhaaf oor die konseptuele aard en doeleindes van reflektiewe praktyk. ‘n Derde tema dui daarop dat grondslagfase onderwysopvoeders, sowel as onderwysstudente, ook uiteenlopende menings handhaaf oor operasionele aspekte van reflektiewe praktyk terwyl ‘n vierde tema uitwys dat menings rondom reflektiewe praktyk hoofsaaklik versweë bly tussen die vernaamste rolspelers in onderwysopleiding. Hierdie verskynsel dui waarskynlik op ‘n behoefte aan ‘n eksplisiete woordeskat en ewe eksplisiete raamwerk om onderwysopvoeders en hul studente te help om die doeleindes en prosesse van reflektiewe praktyk te ontgin. Die bevindings van die studie is slegs direk van toepassing op die kontekste van die vier deelnemende universiteite gedurende die tydperk waartydens die onderhoude plaasgevind het. Nogtans dra dit by tot akademiese insigte met betrekking tot die dilemmas, uitdagings en keuses wat onderwysopvoeders in ontwikkelde, maar veral ook in ontwikkelende lande, in die gesig staar wanneer hulle reflektiewe praktyk wil inspan om teorie en praktyk te integreer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97820
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