Education Program Philosophy
The emphasis is on reflection - helping teachers think about what happened, why it happened, what else they could have done to teach their goals. Reflective teaching encourages teachers to be students of teaching. (Cruickshank & Applegate, 1981).
The undergraduate teacher education program at Gallaudet University can best be described as one that models a reflective learning and teaching process. The program emphasizes the need for prospective teachers to engage in problem-solving and higher-level thinking skills. Reflective learning/teaching incorporates the work of Dewey, and more recently, the work of Zeichner and Liston (1987) and Posner (1989) who state the need for bringing together experience and reflection to equal growth. The undergraduate teacher education program's reflective learning/teaching model is a process-oriented model and also borrows from the social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), emphasizing modeling as the primary learning process.
It is the responsibility of each faculty member to both teach "about" reflective learning/teaching, and to also model the process of reflective learning/teaching throughout the curriculum. The faculty act as models of reflective thinking, learning, and teaching while providing students with opportunities to engage in meaningful problem-solving. This program gives high priority to the process of learning and teaching. Successful graduates of the Gallaudet undergraduate teacher education program are expected to be critical thinkers and problem solvers who model for their students the synergistic process of reflective learning and teaching.
Reflective teachers are those who consciously review their teaching, materials, and planning, who evaluate what works, what does not work, and most importantly, make hypotheses about why it worked or did not work. The reflective teacher also has an "eye for improvement" (Cruickshank and Applegate, 1981). Reflective teachers are planners who carefully assess the needs of their students and anticipate what demands may be made upon them by the learning environment. The reflective teacher is also ready to engage in formative evaluation throughout the planning and teaching process and to problem-solve.
Students in Gallaudet's teacher education program are encouraged throughout the program to question and to challenge what they read and observe. Reflective learning means that there may be more than one "right" answer to any given educational problem. This model of reflective teaching is evident throughout the developmental sequence of courses.
Beginning with their foundations course, Introduction to Education (EDU 250), students in the teacher education program are encouraged to analyze their own thoughts and beliefs about education and to compare them with a number of different philosophies of education. Throughout the program, students are also encouraged to develop a personal set of belief statements and to reflect on why they hold such beliefs.
Students are provided with numerous opportunities to engage in peer teaching during their classes, and to join their peers in reflecting upon these experiences, both cognitively and affectively. Students are taught how to engage in visualization and mental imaging of their teaching and how to use this skill to improve their teaching.
During their practicum experiences, students work with their cooperating teachers and university supervisors to engage in daily written reflection on what they have observed or done. Group reflection and problem-solving are facilitated during seminars in which students "debrief" their clinical experiences each week as a group.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Prentice-Hall, Englewood , Cliffs, NJ.
Cruickshank, D. & Applegate, J. (1981). Reflective Teaching as a Strategy for Tender Growth. Educational Leadership, 553-554.
Posner, G. (1989). Field Experience: Methods of Reflective Teaching. 2nd Edition. White Plains: Longmans.
Zeichner, K. & Liston, D. (1987). Teaching Student Teachers to Reflect. In M. Okazawa-Rey, J. Anderson & R. Travers (Eds.) Harvard Educational Review, 284-309.