do teachers bring to the teaching-learning process?
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
teacher as reflective practitioner
stands to reason that, if teachers are to be effective in
the approaches they decide to take, they should act in accordance
with their espoused beliefs. In reality, though, this is hardly
the case. According to Chris Argyris and Donald Schon (1974,
1978), there is usually a discrepancy between what teachers
say they believe (their 'espoused' theories) and the ways
in which they act (their 'theories-in-action'). What could
resolve this discrepancy is an attempt to help teachers become
'reflective practitioners' (Shon, 1983), thereby subjecting
their professional practice to ongoing critical reflection
and making clear their own particular world view. Smyth (1991:
116) suggests that this critical reflection can be fostered
by means of asking a number of questions:
What do my practices say about my assumptions, values and
beliefs about teaching?
Where did these ideas come from?
What views of power do they embody?
Whose interests do my practices seem to serve?
critical reflection is not negative in its own right, it does
imply that teachers should be cognisant of their belief systems,
in order to monitor how far their actions reflect those beliefs.
However, in keeping with constructivism, becoming effective
and autonomous is a shared process, whereby both teachers
and learners monitor, reflect, and act. Thus, a teacher needs
to look both inwards and outwards. She needs to become aware
of others' points of view, as well as her own beliefs-about
learners, about learning per se, and about herself.
cannot be defined or evaluated, but there are a number of
things that we should know about them. Beliefs are culturally
bound and, since they are formed early in life, they tend
to be resistant to change. By virtue of the fact that they
are difficult to measure, we almost always have to infer people's
beliefs from the ways in which they act rather than from what
they say they believe.
hold any or a combination of beliefs about their students.
Roland Meighan (1990) suggests that there are at least seven
different ways in which teachers construe learners and that
such evaluative constructions have a profound influence on
their classroom practice. So, according to him, learners may
be construed as:
constructs are seen in terms of a continuum which mirrors
the nature of the teacher-learner power relationship. Thus,
the first three constructs are teacher dominated, whereas
the latter involve learner participation.
More specifically, the notion of learners as resisters sees
learners as recalcitrant individuals who do not wish to learn.
This assumption, however, gives rise to the assertion that
punishment is the most appropriate way of overcoming such
An even more common conception of learners is one in which
they are viewed as receptacles to be filled with knowledge.
The teacher is seen as having a "jug" of knowledge
which he pours into the learners' "mugs." This is
what Freire (1970) describes as the 'banking' concept of education,
where learners are like bank accounts into which deposits
are made and drawn upon.
Even though we have not dwelled upon Meighan's theory in detail,
it should be apparent by now that constructivism fits more
comfortably with the latter end of the abovementioned continuum.
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