Reflective practice during the practicum: linking theory and practice

Year: 2013

Author: Jones, Mellita, Ryan, Josephine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The Australian Professional Standards for Teaching (AITSL) place reflective practice at the center of teachers' professional development. This view of teacher learning links to Korthagen et al.'s (2006)  contention that learning does not occur through experience, but rather through reflection on experience in interaction with others, making reflection an ‘essential tool' (p. 1024) for teachers. The practicum offers a key period for achieving reflective practice, thereby also addressing the theory-practice gap for which teacher education is often criticised. However, the practicum also presents a barrier to reflection in that preservice teachers are placed in schools away from face to face contact with lecturers and each other for extended periods. The online platform has the potential to address this difficulty and enable preservice teachers to engage in reflective practice during this critical component teacher education.

This paper outlines an aspect of an Office of Learning and Teaching curriculum project designed to improve the practicum for rural and regional preservice teachers. Under analysis here is the use of online reflection during a practicum undertaken by preservice teachers from two Victorian regional campuses combined in the online space with the aim of enhancing their reflection and learning.  Using Kreber and Cranton's (2000) content, process and premise levels of reflection, the study examined the level of critical reflection in threaded discussions through weekly discussion topics posed. A total of 84 preservice teachers were place in one of four Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) each with a dedicated lecturer. Findings indicated that preservice teachers tended to engage equally in content and process reflection.  However, there was substantially less engagement in premise level reflection where Kreber and Cranton (2000) argue that reflection becomes critical and learning is most significant. The findings also revealed that preservice teachers most often ignored lecturers' contributions to the forums; leaving researchers to ponder whether lecturers can guide the reflection towards more critical levels where links between theory and practice are given greater consideration in preservice teachers' thinking. The research is important as we move into the AITSL era because teacher educators need shared understandings of the theory and practice of reflective practice.

Korthagen, F., Loughran, J. & Russell, T. (2006). Developing fundamental principles for teacher education programs and practices. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22: 1020-1041.
Kreber, C., & Cranton, P. (2000). Exploring the scholarship of teaching. The Journal of Higher Education, 71(4): 476-495.Reflective practice during the practicum: linking theory and practice