The core of being a reflective teacher means gathering data about your teaching activity, analysing this, and reflecting upon it in a critical manner to improve your own practice. Reflective teachers, who are committed to the learning of students and have a deep understanding of the dynamic nature of knowledge.
“An empowered teacher is a reflective decision maker who finds joy in learning and in investigating the teaching/learning process – one who views learning as construction and teaching as a facilitating process to enhance and enrich development.” (Twomey Fosnot, C., 1989. Enquiring teachers, enquiring learners: A constructivist approach for teaching)
Dynamic nature of knowledge
The postmodern approach to learning is founded upon the assertion that there is not one kind of learner, not one particular goal for learning, not one way in which learning takes place, nor one particular environment where learning occurs. Kilgore makes several assertions about the postmodern view of knowledge (Kilgore, D. W. , 2001. Critical and postmodern perspective on adult learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education):
- Knowledge is tentative, fragmented, multifaceted and not necessarily rational.
- Knowledge is socially constructed and takes form in the eyes of the knower.
- Knowledge is contextual rather than “out there” waiting to be discovered.
Hence, knowledge can shift as quickly as the context shifts, the perspective of the knower shifts, or as events overtake us. Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers.
Beliefs and values are integral to knowledge, determining in large part what the knowers see, absorb and conclude from their observations. People with different values see different things in the same situation and organise their knowledge by their values. At a personal level, knowledge requires a relation between the “knowing self” and the external world, and it is useful to talk of knowing as an activity or process, and as dynamic rather than as static. Furthermore, knowledge may be viewed as individually centred.
Changes in technology, the emergence of new providers, and the rapidly changing dynamics of the knowledge economy are reshaping how knowledge is created and integrated, disseminated and applied, organised, and validated. The dynamic nature of knowledge is likely to change the role of teachers in the schools in the decade to come. The professional development programme for teachers must offer ideas for how to prepare for the future in a world where knowledge itself is dynamic and changing.
Teachers roles and knowledge
Three T’s of the curriculum: Transmission, Transaction, Transformation
Every good teacher will sometimes transmit knowledge or engage in transactional or transformational teaching. The basic belief about knowledge and the role of the teacher in the classroom will distinguish a transmission from a transactional from a transformational teacher. The curriculum will give varying degrees of control to teachers over content, methods and assessment, and this will determine the nature of what the teacher does in the classroom: transmission, transaction, or transformation.
There are some common and necessary roles for teachers in all three perspectives. Students will, in all three perspectives, learn details and they will learn concepts. In all three perspectives, students will be expected to work, to study, and to carry out independent assignments.
The basic beliefs that teachers may have will relate to the way they interpret their roles as teachers.
Belief that knowledge is objectively determined and recorded
Teachers may feel that their role is to pass on accumulated knowledge to students. Their role, here is more likely to be that of a transmission teacher. Such a teacher is more likely to use transmission teaching and evaluation methods more often than transactional or transformational techniques.
Belief that knowledge is personally constructed
Knowledge may be negotiated, socially and personally constructed. People interact with the empirical world and with one another to increase understanding of the world and one another, and that students must learn how to interact with one another and the world to come to understand it. Teachers with such beliefs are more likely to be transactional teachers.
Belief that all people should participate in knowledge creation
There has often been a desire by groups of people to control knowledge, as they believe that knowledge carries power with it. This control of knowledge mistakenly implies that there is a system where some people are trusted with the “Truth” of knowledge and others are not capable of creating knowledge (their beliefs are discounted as unimportant). Teachers often disregard this elitist view of knowledge and believe that their students cannot learn unless they get rid of the worldview that they (the students) are incapable of creating knowledge. Such teachers are more likely to be transformational teachers.
In reality, many teachers have transformational beliefs yet teach in transmission styles. The reason is that teaching is challenging and has many pressures. Teachers must teach academic content, manage a group of same (sometimes multiple) aged children, ensure that all children feel valued and are encouraged to participate, prepare the children for other subject areas and the next level of schooling, prepare them to be good citizens and for the workforce, ensure they are as physically and emotionally safe as currently possible. There are additional pressures from education administrators, the community and from parents. In such an environment, it is difficult for teachers to consider their beliefs about knowledge and help students rise to their true potential as creators of knowledge.
The Triangle Noble
There are shortages in teacher supply in all countries in the world. There are challenges in extending outreach of school education to all children in developing countries, as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. The challenge is both of quantity of teachers as well as of quality. The need is for reflective, caring teachers, who embody the best that education has to offer.
Bhutan’s Education Minister, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel, has brilliantly articulated “The Triangle Noble”, which constitutes the cardinal principles that one considers when deciding to become a teacher. Together, the tenets of the Triangle Noble lead to effective teachers.
The role of teachers and the individual rationale for becoming a teacher must encompass all three of the tenets of The Triangle Noble:
- A deep love of children
- A passionate interest in a certain field of knowledge
- The level of importance one assigns to education
The design of teacher training programmes should not be merely to infuse knowledge or enhance skills. The most important element is the transformation of attitudes, which will have the greatest impact in the transformation of teachers. Teaching is a noble profession and it is imperative to restore it to this level in order to attract the best and brightest young men and women to be teachers and educators.
6th September 2015