Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.4, 448-456
Published Online August 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Reflective Collaborative Practices: What Is the Teachers’
Thinking? A Ghana Case
Amoah Samuel Asare
Psychology and Educa t i o n D ep a rtment, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
Received June 9th, 2012; r evised July 12th, 2012; accepted July 22nd, 2012
With advances in using the teachers’ classroom as the foreground for teacher improvement, reflective and
collaborative activities provide teachers with a positive attitude towards questioning their teaching in a
variety of professional development contexts. This study therefore explores how teachers within one
school develop their thinking about their practices, if given an opportunity to engage in a planned series
of critical dialogues relating to their own classroom teachings. Using a case study approach, four mathe-
matics teachers purposely and through theoretical sampling techniques were selected in a school in Ghana
for the study. The field research included interviews and reflective dialogue. Key issues identified include
the opportunities to systematically and rigorously diagnose their practices leading to the development of
different reflective scales when reflecting. The process was found to be a tool for supporting teachers to
critically think which is underpinned by social, political and cultural issues as a process to analyze com-
peting claims and viewpoints. Recommendations for policy and potential areas for further research were
also made.
Keywords: Reflective Collaborative Practices; Junior High School; Reflective Scales
Even though reflective and collaborative practices have be-
come one of the key principles underpinning teachers’ thinking
about their practices as championed in the West, in the Ghana-
ian context and most developing countries, such development is
given less attention.
In Ghana, efforts made to support teachers to understand
their practices is seen to be instructive and prescriptive in na-
ture (Acheampong et al., 2006) and overemphasizes on theory
with little link to collaborative and reflective activities. It is
within this contextual background that this study seeks to find
out how teachers in Ghana, can develop better understanding of
their practices, using their reflective and collaborative practices.
Specifically the study seeks to explore how teachers within one
school develop their thinking about their practices, if given an
opportunity to engage in a planned series of critical dialogues
relating to their own classroom teachings.
This article begins with a brief literature review on the mean-
ing and nature of reflective and collaborative practices. Brief
profiles of the participating teachers are shared because find-
ings seem to suggest that who they were and what the teachers
did at the start of the study partly accounted for their contribu-
tions during the reflective dialogue. Finally, the findings and
possible implications of the findings of the study for teachers
and teacher educators in Ghana and similar contexts are dis-
What Is Reflective and Collaborative Practice?
Sharing of views within critical dialogue in reflective col-
laborative activities in different context, positions one to make
decision about what seems promising. According to Richardson
& Placier (2001) teachers co-construct their understandings of
innovations by informally collaborating and learning from each
other as they reflect on their experience. Further, they claimed
teachers perceive and draw on a variety of personal and profes-
sional experiences, and other explicit knowledge to explain
their professional performances. However, Jurasaite-Harbison
and Rex (2010) think teachers have limited opportunities for
interactions; hence they rarely engage in knowledge transfer.
Reflective and collaborative practices are activities that support
the interaction that locate discussions of an activity within the
context of understanding and developing meaning to what is
Hatton and Smith (1995) have emphasized the following re-
flection levels in reflective collaborative exercises; descriptive
writing, descriptive reflection, dialogic reflection and critical
reflection. The study was informed by the environment, socio-
economic background and personal, reactive, emotional issues.
Rarieya (2005) who used four teachers in the same school fo-
cused her views as she explores and engages teachers to discuss
their actions came out with reflections that hinges on noticing,
making sense, making meaningful reflections, being transfor-
mative in reflection. These support Sherin & Han, (2004) ideas
which emphasizes on reflective dialogue, where the facilitator
factor was very crucial. Thus within any reflective collaborative
activities where participants move along different levels of
reflection. The reflective differences result due to the methodo-
logical and conceptual orientation adopted for the study.
Reflective and Collaborative Processes Uptake:
Sample and Instrument
The study employed a qualitative case study approach and
engaged four teachers from the same school. A typical school
site was reflexively selected in order to manage the context
specificity to support authentic views of participants for the
purpose of validity as suggested by Creswell (2009) and Bry-
man (2008), even though Wainwright (1997) has raised some
concerns about the typicality of a research site with regards to
what constitutes a typical site. Access in the study has two sides.
The first is the official permission which was negotiated for due
to some privileges, and my prior knowledge that I thought
could potentially be useful in the research process, informed my
choice of the school. My familiarity with the school being used
mostly for researches and the selection of teachers that I wanted
to use in the study were students who afford me insights that
generally may not be available for the decisions I will make
about the data. Thirdly, the nature of the study required con-
tinuous engagement of the teachers, as the study took place
during the in-term period. Hence there was the need to consider
the proximity of school to research environment for meeting
places for convenience in order to stagger the research groups
discourse in between the teachers’ formal teaching work, and
fourthly to minimize the financial constraints involved while
travelling. These characteristics helped me to select the school
within my university environment.
Having been given the permission from the District Educa-
tion Officer (District head) and head of the school to use the
selected school for the study, my next concern was to select
teacher participants for the study. Mattessich et al. (2001, 2005)
believe that in any collaborative activity, members involved
need to review who to include, but in this study the responsibi-
lity was on me to do the selection. In view of this, I decided on
four criteria to help me to select the members. Firstly, the
teachers needed to, on their own thinking, develop their own
strategies to engage in a professional discourse about their
teaching actions by setting their own agenda without taking
instructions from me as well as for them to have explicit and
unspoken control over relevant issues. Secondly, because it was
a classroom-based study, I wanted to focus on the experiences
within one subject area that I will be able to understand the
processes mathematics teachers go through in reflective con-
versation. Hence teachers teaching mathematics were consid-
ered appropriate. Thirdly, the group needed to have the capacity
to continuously monitor the activities and integrate into their
plan the necessity to include new members if the need arose
and finally the number needed to be not so large that the proc-
ess of collaboration would become unmanageable due to the
limited data collection period of six months.
The only three mathematics teachers (all females) were ini-
tially purposely selected with the help of the headteacher. These
cohort of teachers for typicality (Creswell, 2003), were former
students from the University of Education, Winneba. A fourth
teacher, a male, through theoretical sampling techniques, was
selected after the initial interview and feedback from my pres-
entation at a seminar organised at the University of Education,
Winneba. Issues related to collaboration, age and gender came
out strongly from the transcripts of the initial interviews and
suggestions from the seminar and this eventually led to the
inclusion of another mathematics and science teacher to the
These four teachers had gone through two levels of teacher
preparation institutions and were all teaching in the Junior High
School levels at the selected school.
The following four teachers were therefore selected to form
the sample for the study.
Profile of Cases
Aggie: She is about twenty three years old mathematics
teacher has been teaching in the school for three years before
the study. As a class teacher and having attended some INSET
activities, she thinks the facilitator factor and organizational
challenges inhibit effective INSET activities. She cherishes the
collaboration of colleagues for improvement as an alternative.
Catherine: Catherine is about forty five years old who dis-
covered her potential for teaching from her youthful days. As a
resource consultant for INSET activities in the school district,
she believes self assessment is the best option for looking at
oneself in terms of effectiveness. She believes in the offer of
suggestions and direct how to her suggestions during collabora-
tive talk sessions with colleagues.
Lydia: She is a twenty eight year old teacher and has been
teaching in the school for four years. As a staff secretary, she
thinks effective management of self is the cornerstone for every
effective teacher. She believes in teachers co-switching be-
tween teacher centred and child centred approach as teaching
approach, and thinks relying on students comments collabora-
tively support one’s self assessment.
Oneal: Oneal, the only male in the study and twenty eight
years. He once acted as the assistant head of the school and
now a member of the schools’ sports committee. Oneal believes
attending INSET programmes is good if done collaboratively
with colleagues, however, the way it is organised creates pro-
blems which inhibit teacher’s interest in attending such pro-
Ethical Issues
In order to identify significant problems or issue to any study
and present a rationale for its importance (Creswell, 2003),
informed consent, confidentiality and anony mity issues need to
be addressed in researches. In the study, informed consent was
necessary, because the participant were required to give out and
engage in the frequent interactions in complex manner as sup-
ported by Stark et al. (2006) who said when participants give
their consent to a study, they are empowered rather than the
researcher being protected; they are assured of anonymity and
confidentiality in order to avoid any possible harm to them. In
addition, it sought to avoid deception and harm (Heath et al.,
2004). Even though, Heath, Crow, and Wiles (2004) have ar-
gued that “informed consent is a largely unworkable process
given that researchers can rarely know the full extent of what
participation may entail, or predict in advance all the possible
outcomes of participation” (p. 406).
The Data Source
The data sources for this study included individual inter-
views and reflective dialogue on observed video playback of
the teachers’ classrooms teaching actions. Seven steps sup-
ported the data collection .
The first step was a one-on-one interview. Data collecte d fo-
cused on the teachers’ background information, their profes-
sional development activities and their current practices in the
school of the study. The second step was a trigger session
where the teachers viewed and discussed two mathematics les-
sons. This was to set the context of the RD process and which
guided them to develop protocol for subsequent phases.
The next step called the collaborative meeting helped the
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 449
teachers develop the following:
Establishing a helpful and non-threatening environment for
all activities in the intervention;
Develop clear guidelines within which they are to operate;
Decide how each of the teacher’s lesson was to be video-
taped, the number of times and how to the reflective con-
versations are to be organised on their videotaped lessons
The development of parameters around which group dis-
course would revolve around.
The fourth step was the video capture. Participants decided
on what lesson to be video captured, the day of the videoing,
time an d lesson to be c aptured. Th is vide o capture wa s done on
three occasions as agreed by the participants. The fifth step was
the reflective conversation period termed the dialogue session.
This phase included discussions on the video playback of the
captured lessons. The sixth phase forms an overview session
where the participants reflected on the video capture and the
group discourse sessions with the seventh step, being an exit
meeting which ends the RD process. Steps four, five and six are
repeated on three occasions.
Data Authentication and Trustworthiness
In qualitative researches a way is needed to assess the “extent
to which claims are supported by convincing evidence”
(Silverman, 2006). To be able to authenticate the trustworthy-
ness of data collected depends on how reliable or valid the sub-
jective nature of discourse(s) is/are treated to ascertain the
strength of interactions. Further, Yin (2009) thinks that “if a
later investigator followed the same procedures as described by
an earlier investigator and conduct the process all over again,
the later investigator should arrive at the same findings and
conclusion” (p. 45). Data was therefore authenticated after re-
flection, based on three criteria advocated by Heikkinen,
Hutunen, and Syrjala (2007) were adopted. These included,
principle of reflexivity, and principle of workability.
Principle of reflexivity, (Heikkinen et al., 2007) based on
ideas on how researchers consciously reflect on their pre-in-
sight or analyze their ontological and epistemological presump-
tions, provided a better forum for the participants in the study.
Even though, to present a particular reflexive account which is
necessarily better in quality and being more truthful than any
account is what is required in any qualitative study, “one cannot
expect to know the ‘ultimate truth’ that corresponds exactly to
an external truth” (Feldman, 2007: p. 28) is always a problem.
But the RD process saw participants exchanging ideas, claims
and counter claims to compare and contrasted plurality of per-
spectives and used multiple realities, to develop understanding
and knowledge.
The principle of workability according to Heikkinen et al.,
(2007) is about how the quality of any interactions gives rise to
changes in social actions. But Feldman was concerned with
how equal value can be given to all interpretations by saying:
Where there was the possibility to have desired outcomes,
such as liv ely discuss ions or an attentio n to ethical problems th at
draw upon unchallenged or false assumptions about race, eth-
nicity, gender or sexual orientation that helped to maintain the
status quo rather than leading to emancipation (p. 29).
However, the study saw participants empowered and eman-
cipated by way of developing their own ground rules and se-
lecting the focus for the discussions. This saw how they criti-
cally dialogued using plurality of perspectives to agree and
disagree to develop consensus.
The Methods and Data Collection Process
Semi-structured interviews and the reflective dialogue (RD)
gave the participants voice which challenged them to authentic-
cate their opinions in a flexible environment
Within the discussions, the participants listened, paid atten-
tion to their cultural background, responded appropriately to
each other’s views, respected and recognized the hierarchical
arrangement of ages, as well as each others’ views, which de-
pict their own cultural dimensions. The discussions focused on
either subject content or pedagogy and as a focal point they
either used specific examples or general knowledge about the
observed action which they preferred, to advance their argu-
ments. In addition, they often used their past experiences, cited
literature or an already discussed issue to support their claims.
The ability of the participants to recall or recount actions exhi-
bited were supported by video playback actions of their teach-
At the outset of the RD, the environment was characterized
but later it became cordial. Consensus building therefore was
not easy. The start was characterized by tension and conflict
coupled with judgmental remarks about their colleagues’ ac-
tions resulting in confrontation as each put up strong defense
for their actions. Changes in attitude, in relation to the softening
of stance and the building of consensus manifested after the
continuous and increased frequency in engaging with the inter-
Challenging Issues/Limitation
Firstly, the views of the sample size of four participants ap-
peared too limited to be used to generalize the findings. Sec-
ondly, mechanical problems related to the video and audio data
affected the transfer of the recorded data to another device for
Thirdly, by using the grounded approach in the analysis, one
issue of concern was data saturation. The informal dialogue
within the RD and the use of the iterative process and multiple
comparison methodology make it very difficult to completely
exhaust dealing with all issues in the data. What is produced is
solely the researcher’s own analysis showing how reflexive the
researcher is.
The next important factor was the limited resources and fi-
nancial support for the study.
Multi-case design employing the thematic approach was used
to analyze the data collected. The study, a phenomenological
one (Van Manen, 1989) allowed interpretation of the lived ex-
periences. From the iterated process of reading and rereading
the transcribed narratives from interviews, views were wrestled
with and interrogated. The analyses were guided by the follow-
ing questions: what changes were being observed to occur in
words and phrases in the data that were pointing to how the
participants were reflecting? How were they organizing their
thoughts? How were they describing actions being observed?
How were they interpreting what they observed? How were
they being critical about what they saw? Both within case and
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 451
cross case analysis formed the focus of the analysis. The par-
ticipants’ way of re-categorizing issues of concern (within-case
analyses) informed the cross- case analysis .
Substantive comments from the data are used as templates to
explain and justify claims made. The teachers’ use of their re-
flective skills which were serendipitous and occurred without
planning and forethought provided the underlying basic ideas in
developing understanding as well as overcoming challenges
they were confronted with.
Results of the Study: Changes along Reflective
Extensive researches by Hatton and Smith (1995), and
Rarieya (2005) in reflection and in-depth reflective dialogue
with its descriptive characteristics informed the identification of
the reflective scales. The analyzed data identified the following
reflection shifts: judgmental to supportive, descriptive to criti-
cal, unorganized to organized, and evaluative to interpretive
reflections as found in Table 1.
Deliberately Judgmental to Suppo rt ive Ref le ct io ns
From the data analysis, issues on resolving the on-the-spot
problems as they shared their views, the overarching behavior
of the participants was seen to invigorate one’s reflection that
epitomizes judgmental remarks about underpinning practices on
observations made at first contact with such practice. For ex-
ample expressing her opinion on Oneal’s first lesson, Catherine
By your judgment how did you f ind your performance? To me
it is no t the b est of performance because you did not impress me
as a teacher.
Oneal then replied, “I think I did well”.
Catherine further said “always try to open up to tell us about
your problems for us to be able to support you”.
Whereas Catherine reflected on what she observed, the indi-
cation is that she was also expecting Oneal to come out with his
own reflections on his actions. Seeking clarification or justifi-
cation in such a situation becomes a two-way affair between the
observed and the observer. Any alternative offered, therefore, is
dependent on the views expressed by the two participants. If
such professional reflection can be shared through communica-
tion, it is reasonable to conclude that participants try to deal
with identified problems on the spot.
As the process progressed, and after seeing and engaging in
the critique of teaching actions, Catherine realized it was more
rewarding to rather support colleagues with problems rather
than making judgmental remarks when she said.
I think we all need to support each other than to b e too critical
about what we see to be better performance later on.
Further Catherine realized emotional issues underpin some
comments made when she said.
I am really shocked about what you have said; I could ex-
perience your sentiments and feelings behind your views.
The study process suggests that the process trajectory seemed
to offer an environment in which Catherine changed. Facilitat-
ing factors that tend to help in the change process included
making judgmental and suggestive comments coupled with
being bold to challenge and pointing out faults.
Further, judgmental and supportive way s are influenced by the
human personal factors that include emotional sentiments. Here,
issues related striving to accommodate varied perspectives,
Table 1.
Reflective scales and individual behavio rs.
Reflective scales Participants/reflective comments What influenced shift Significant
observed shift
Judgmental Very instruct ive, seek for clarification, indif ferent to discussio n, questions
teachers inability to manage lesson.
Judgmental to
supportive Supportive Empathet ic and offers options.
Questioning the
influence of cultural
norms on be h aviors. Catherine
Descriptive Recount w hat observed, raises probable factors and q uestions to observe,
raises reasons to justifies occurrence of event.
Descriptive t o
critical Critical
Offer and rel ate ideas on well structured actions that relate to sch ool/official
education policy.
Emphasizes deeper and critical analysis of events.
Analytical views emphasize and relate ideas to socio-cultural issues.
Using rhetorical
questions to develop
deeper analysis of
Disjointed thoughts. Gives different explanations to same issue.
Inability to make interpersonal comparison.
Inability to sort out thought and views fro m others.
Inability t o monitor what others said.
to organize d
Prefers specific order of pre sentation of idea, systematic and coherent
presentation of idea.
Cherishes sequencing of arguments.
Organize , manage and monitor ideas commented by ot hers.
Realizing and
becoming aware of
engaging in debate
rather than being
indifferent to
Evaluative Prefers consistency of ideas.
Always concludes on initial attempts.
Makes judgments based on thinking of what is right.
Evaluative to
Prefer holistic mutually discussed issues.
Self evaluation and advances id eas to other similar ob servation s.
Asks for evide nces to all views to develop better understa nding. Pre fers
giving thought to ideas well before responding.
Focuses on formatively evaluating event rather than one step analysis.
Was of the view that
well managed self
and activitie s is
important t o
understand practice.
ource: Data from reflective dialogue.
making better quality analyses and addressing challenges re-
lated to emotional attachment underpinned supportive reflec-
Descriptive to Critical Reflections
The analyses shows that the sustained interactions that took
into account the nature of topic for discussions which provided
more descriptive comments, social, political and cultural issues
through the exploration of alternatives to resolve problems in
professional situations provided critical reflection characterized
the analysis .
One issue that seemed to support the shift in reflection was
about the emphasis placed on topics for discussion. Mono topic
discussion, even though produced in-depth knowledge within
the discussion on teachers’ practices, it also provide very real
possibility to skew discussions. However, multiple topic dis-
cussions, which sought to produce shallow knowledge as re-
marked by Oneal, appear to be more descriptive towards bal-
anced discussions on skills. Oneal felt:
... focusing on specific subject content with corresponding
reasons to justify the deficiency observed in its applications is
good, but descriptions are skewed and focused on only an aspect
of the practices, on the other hand, when reference is made on
pedagogical knowledge with accompanying reasons, descrip-
tions cut across various techniques teachers adopt.
The excerpt above clearly indicates that descriptive reflection
can occur through multiple topic discussions. In support, Mat-
tessich, et al. (2001) and Fielding et al. (2005) collaborative
discussions are aimed toward providing in-depth understanding
of issues. Oneal’s point therefore is important and I suggest that
in order to avoid skewed understanding, recounting of events in
practice needs to include more and wider discussion in order to
have access to multiple skills and views. However as the dis-
cussions progressed, use of rhetorical questions to seek justify-
cations, and relating ideas to socio-cultural ethics of schools
made the participants more critical in their comments. Sound-
ing more critical about their teachings Oneal said.
I think our discussions now have given us much information
about our teachings but when we are discussing our practices, we
need to know how school policy is directing us to teach espe-
cially preparing them towards final examinations.
This excerpt shows how he was now emphasizing policy re-
lated to their practices.
Oneal’s transition shows that in such discussions, individuals
from the outset learn new things. However over time what is
learnt gives them much more understanding of the various
events that make them export what they have learnt to other
situations. The continuous and systematic organization of ac-
tivities saw Oneal, using rhetorical questions and self assess-
ment to advance his arguments. Oneal’s shift indicates that
invalidity and inconsistency in arguments characterised his
actions from the outset. Illustrating this, Catherine remarked
“We need to identify reasons that will make our claims more
understandable”. Using questions like “What was not good
about what you saw?”, “How do you think the teacher can ex-
plain the subjec t matter well? ” and “What went well and why?”
were what Catherine suggested could unravel reasons to justify
her claims.
Sustaining the questioning strategy was found to have re-
sulted in the participants advancing their accounts to school
policy. Significantly, their accounts on the deficiencies identi-
fied were more on the difficulties in realigning their practices to
their immediate school policies. This is confirmed by the fol-
lowing statement made by Catherine.
When discussing our practices we need justify any claim we
make for effectiv e t ransfer o f ideas. T h is is what the edu cational
policy is all about. If we do that I hope we will be able to know
what to include in our lessons to ensure our students attain good
grades at the end of their course since mostly the final examina-
tions wants the students to display quality and thorough learning.
Whilst it is evident that in reflective collaborative activities,
participants descriptively and critically reflected on the prac-
tices that were analysed, different factors influenced their shift
processes. However, regardless of their analytical base, it
would appear that the teachers seek out to develop deeper un-
derstanding of their practices as well as processes that seem
appropriate and relevant when developing the deeper under-
standing. Rarieya (2005) has suggested that at the centre of
discussing their practices, in the absence of sufficient reflective
ability, the teacher will not be able to bring his or her knowl-
edge to the appropriate professional lev el.
Unorganized Reflection to Organized Reflections
The data analysis saw the participants’ arguments generally
inconsistent, unsystematic and incoherent from the outset of the
discussions but later developed into arguments that were more
systematic, coherent and consistent.
Blurred thoughts on reflections seemed to influence one’s
inability to sort out thoughts and views expressed by others.
Such difficulty emanates from varied factors. One such factor is
about the individual not reflecting on what was observed but on
what ought to have been done. Exhibiting some behavior, Ag-
gie said “What are we doing? Are we to observe and talk about
the bad sides of everyone’s teaching or are we from the teach-
ing actions to see where we can also make mistakes?”
While Aggie did not question the way and manner issues
were analyzed on what observed, as suggested by Hatton and
Smith (1995), she questions the organization of the lesson con-
tent and how it could be improved. She rather, emphasized
what ought to have been done and what was done. Her actions
provide basis for a well organized thought, that stem from or-
ganization of thoughts that are consistently done when discuss-
ing teaching actions. This coupled with other elements such as
being well informed about what is being discussed, which sup-
port Osterman and Kottkamp (1993) and Day (1999) who
pointed out that, the act of engaging in discussing teaching
activities with colleagues to understand their teaching actions is
an indicator of reflection.
Saliently from the study, thoughts expressed on an issue(s)
from initial discussions sometimes were disjointed and in-
grained with varied interpretations, however, with time, more
organized thoughts were observed. The organized thoughts
emanates from the presence of situations and the use of differ-
ent professional perspectives as well as sharing existing knowl-
edge and beliefs. In this way, through essential skills that are
inconsistently, unsystematically and incoherently used can
become more organized in thoughts when examined with peers.
In conclusion, different types of knowledge that are inter-
twined can be organized not according to type, but rather to the
problem that the knowledge is intended to address as suggested
by Gallimore and Stigler (2003).
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Evaluation Reflection to Interpretative Reflection
From the analyzed data, one finding was about how the re-
spondents weighed competing claims and viewpoints of their
own and others as they explored alternative solutions to issues
raised regarding their performances.
Issues on evaluative reflection to interpretive reflection, was
drawn from Bennett (1999) and Matttessich et al. (2005) ideas
which points out that the frequency with which participants
within any collaborative group communicate their views pro-
motes better understanding of issues discussed. However with
effective support for the identification of inconsistencies, the
individuals misapprehended issues under discussion in any
collaborative activity.
For example, Lydia prefers for “each one to assess what
he/she hears and form his/her own opinion about what they
heard”. She thinks “sharing such experiences with colleagues
can motivate one to seek and ask for more information for clari-
fication rather than presenting evidence that is not practicable”.
The excerpt brings to fore one’s willingness to engage col-
leagues in a collaborative endeavor where reflective views
permeate such interaction to understand one’s teaching action
which is worthwhile.
Further Lydia emphasizes self evaluation of one’s own
analyses of teaching actions. However, she thinks “this can be
done if teaching activities are well organized and the analysis
follows the manner in which the teaching actions are organ-
ized”. Scrutinising her comments, she formatively re-assessed
comments made by other colleagues and offered interpretations
continuously. One difficulty she faced was when the judgments
were based on opinions just like hers. Analyzing others’ opin-
ion is what she claims “... very difficult to do since you cannot
objectively verify it”. Her behavior in the interactions in the
later stages indicates that she concluded every submission to
any observed actions before explaining and interpreting how
she evaluated the observed actions. To her, it is important to
“let the people know the end product before you interpret how
you got there”. In sum, it was more illuminating to evaluate
before interpreting actions observed.
Discussing the Facts abou t the Refle ctive Scales
The views of all four respondents suggested that in reflection
collaboration activities, participants begin to examine actions
using their essential skills or generic competencies. This proc-
ess seemed to support how teachers try to test their personal
understanding of how they teach, how the activities influence
what they do, the extent to which they think about the actions
they observed indicating that the participants based their asser-
tion on the technical knowledge as suggested by Schon (1987)
on Technical Rationality. During the process, the participants
based their reflections on their technical knowledge. The par-
ticipants, in an attempt to resolve an identified problem or defi-
ciency, used such skills knowledge to try to interpret what is
acceptable. The teachers thus, carry out their analysis with the
resulting behavior reflecting the possession of requisite skill
which confirms Rareiya (2005) thought on RD.
The teachers’ shift along the reflective axis suggests that
teachers, in the process of their reflections, change the way they
reflect over time. That is, the start of their reflection changes as
they continue to en g ag e with reflect i ve a ctivities.
On deliberative judgement reflection to supportive reflective,
the underpinning idea hinges on the work of Schon (1987) that
explains reflection-in-action and reflection-on-acti on. This means
that during RD the two concepts go together (Rarieya, 2005).
However Fook and Gardner (2007) state reflecting on a practice
is finding a better way to practice. With the discussions, it al-
lows teachers to resolve the on the spot practices to develop
better understanding of their actions. Hatton and Smith (1995)
think about effectiveness in such reflective processes is where
each offer support to create different forms of reflection for
exchange of technical ideas. This is done through seeking clari-
fication and justification using questions to support colleagues.
Again, judgmental and supportive reflections are influenced
by human personal factor like emotional sentiments. However,
in accommodating varied perspectives, the quality of analysis
to address challenges underpin by emotional attachment can be
managed. This hinges on individuals sharing of multiple per-
spectives, hence they must be willing, ready and committed in
engaging in continuous interaction in critical reflection to
minimize emotional influence that inhibits their reflection
(Fook & Gardner, 2007).
Teachers are not just concerned with practices that will serve
their instant goal as they engaged in structured discourse; rather
they think about their broader purpose and practice in ways that
support their long-term goals. This idea underpins McLaughlin
and Talbert’s (2006) description about what teachers do when
they engage in discourse about their teachings, is given much
interpretation in the study where the multifaceted process en-
couraged each of the participants to draw, simultaneously and
selectively, from each others’ views to support their claims.
Through utilizing multiple perspectives teachers are able to
re-evaluate their fundamental assumptions (Fook & Gardner,
2007) about their teachings. There is thus, the connection be-
tween individual’s personal experiences and the broader social
context and how they are intertwined to influence the way one
uses what he/she knows to what they do.
Questions like why this behavior? What is the need to make
my teaching more practical? Are some of the questions that
promoted further inquiry resulting in issues connected to policy
of a school and this support Schon’s (1987) view of reflection.
Views that seemed to develop metacognitive skills and a belief
or ideology (Hatton & Smith, 1995) being the goal of practice
had to linked to socio-cultural or external policy of any institu-
tion. This normally is not common occurrence in day to day
interactions, however, as echoed by Hatton and Smith (1995)
“critical dimensions need to be fostered from the beginning, for
teaching is a moral business concerned with means and ends”
(p. 46). Since participants’ voices in discussions are normally
used to verify whether an action was good or not, individuals
need to mull over, or tentatively explored reasons as to why an
event happened, as championed by Hatton and Smith (1995)
and Rarieya (2005).
Unorganised reflection to organised reflection, emphases
views that, the most difficult aspect for fostering reflective
approaches is the eventual development of a capacity to under-
take reflection-in-action. However, writers like Fook and Gar-
dner (2007) agree that effective reflections depend on how
ideas can be systematically and coherently organized. Through
regular interactions, Rareiya (2005) also states that the teacher
is better able to reflect in a sustained manner, when the teacher
become open-minded, wholehearted, responsible, willing to
take risks and has access to alternative ways of teaching, since
they tend to use their “espoused theories” and “theories-in-use”
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 453
(Schon & Agyris, 1978) to organize their thoughts.
It is worthy of note that organizing thought involve knowing
what to evaluate and setting the criteria for evaluation (Minott
(2006), citing James-Reid (1983), hence teachers need to deli-
berately plan for evaluation as well as being empathetic (Slote,
2010). Such behavior which is a relational skill needed by
teachers, will help them deliberately put themselves into the
process of dialogue as this will create a trusting and safe learn-
ing environment (Young & Gates, 2010).
Creating such an environment will support one to “tune in”
to what one is saying (McCann & Baker, 2001; Hutchins &
Vaught, 1997; cited in Slote, 2010). This will enable one foster
the ability to listen effectively and carefully. This is necessary
because, “teaching is a complex interpersonal relationship, one
in which human beings are not as separate as we often assume”
(Markham, 1999: p. 59). Again the mood of the individual ac-
cording to Comer (1980).
Mood is a state of mind reflecting one's feelings at any par-
ticular moment. Everyone has experienced their good and bad
days. The dimensions of mood can influence our judgment of
ourselves and those around us. They can influence how we react
to situations.
This situation will allow teachers to adapt covert behaviors,
which could be detrimental or beneficial to any group discus-
sions as they try to develop understanding of their practices
(Rareiya, 2005). Even though it will be dangerous when such
behaviors are not open to the group as members may find dif-
ficulty when offering support or become disillusioned if they do
not have access to such behavior. It is therefore crucial for
teachers, according to Fook and Gardner to:
... model different ways of asking questions that might elicit
further thinking and reflection for a person, as oppose to asking
questions that might be more inclined to close persons thinking
down, or impl ici t ly imp ose a way o f th in king rathe r th an invite a
person to think it through for themselves (p. 97).
Such a questioning strategy, without any force or pressure
can help elicit information needed. Consequently, the study
showed the uses of multiple strategies are therefore needed to
elicit the appropriate information.
In order to get organized, personal beliefs and behaviors,
such as domineering and entrenching, need to be attended to
since it turns to close down discussions. These behaviors pre-
vent better conceptualization of principles of activities. This is
what causes Hatton and Smith (1995) to posit that.
It is widely acknowledged that from such a starting point
which addresses the immediate and pressing concerns..., it is
possible to move on to create learning situations which foster the
development of more demanding reflective approaches, taking
account of the factors which impact upon the practical context,
often using the technical competencies as a first frame-work for
analyzing performance in increasingly demanding situations (p.
Sustained discussions and persistence as found in the study,
provide ways through which effective communication was
possible. Individuals’ capability to deal with novel situations
seemed to differ. Even though the intentional behavior of re-
flection was tacitly being used, the honest, opened and objec-
tive way in which views which were expressed made under-
standing easy. Using such an atmosphere to gain experience
cannot happen without conflicts, arising from offensive com-
ments or conflicts and the provision of unclear statements re-
sults in tense atmosphere cannot be ruled out. The reflective
collaborative behaviors, as have been described by many au-
thors, (Fook & Gardner, 2007; Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993;
Sherin & Hans, 2004; Rareiya, 2005; Van Es & Sherin, 2008),
tend to create tension and if not well managed may stifle shifts
in reflection. Notwithstanding, consensus building can support
to create an atmo s p h e r e conducive to discussion.
There are suggestive evidences in literature that the impact of
reflection-in-action. Reflection-in-action, as suggested by Schon
(1987), enables an individual to compose a new situation in a
continuous manner and enables one to develop a behavior
which can be referenced to any time in the course of their work.
This is normally what influences immediate responses where
one unconsciously solves an identified problem.
The scales of the reflection rather portray that there are re-
flective processes that can support teachers to understand their
practices. Tacitly and latently, the participants traverse through
scales of reflection which are informed by varied and peculiar
factors. These factors may not be conclusive however they can
support changes in reflection.
While participants seemed to move through different reflec-
tive scales as they dialogued, the shift was promoted by some
factors. I argued that despite the inhibiting factors, some moti-
vating and facilitating factors influence the shift. In other words,
teachers should aim to be prepared to take risks, mutually share
views and be prepared to accept criticisms collaboratively as
postulated by Day (1999). However, addressing these needs
required first addressing their existing personal and contextual
constraints, which worked against the shift in the reflective
Implication of the Study for Teacher’s Education and
Teacher Educator
Reflection: A Tool for Understanding and Dealing wi th
On-the-Spot Professional Problems
As the participants reflected on the challenging factors, as
well as their beliefs in practical knowledge and mood, they
made decisions regarding how they could resolve any identified
deficiency or faultlessness in their practices. These decisions
and adjustments in turn influenced how they later reflected on
the observed actions.
Generally as they reflected during their discussion, they pre-
sented analyzed views on the events observed. They then
shared the views amongst themselves. Their mutually accepting
and deciding on an alternative for any identified deficiency of
faultlessness about an action made them to mutually support
each other during the interactions.
The process provided some insights into the nature of the in-
terrelated support each gave to the other. The relationship re-
garding recall and sharing of views actually provided evidence
to how their reflection-in-action/discussion addressed their
concerns after experiencing the arguments about their practices.
In effect they went through the process by, as Hatton & Smith
(1995) put it “contextualizing of multiple viewpoints” (p. 6).
Reflection Supporting Critical Thinking That Include s
Taking Account of Social and Political Issues
Coyle (2002) provides an argument that to be able to reflect
one need to emphasize that teachers take greater responsibility
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
for their own professional growth when this is set within their
unique particular socio-political contexts, they can link their
practice to policy or socio-cultural issues. Teachers therefore
need to understand that they are not teaching for teaching sake
rather their output is to fulfill a set objectives, be it national or
local. This can be done if teachers share their views with col-
leagues in their attempt to develop appropriate strategies to
change their practices and move it to the realm of policy or set
goals/objectives. This will enable teachers know that teaching
itself is not only the transmission of knowledge, rather it is
done to achieve a set national or local goal that needs to be
discussed passionately with colleagues or through teamwork.
Reflection Supports Systematic and Coherent Organization
of Thoughts
There was clearly the awareness of organizing thoughts sys-
tematically and coherently through reflection to develop under-
standing. Generally, participants try to examine how their es-
sential analytical process could be organized in an order that
will eventuate into developing better understanding. Doing so
will give them a better process to uncover their unknown and
unidentified skills. This means a reflection process is about
“unsettling thinking and unearthing fundamental assumption
about practice and to see how these are linked with actual prac-
tice” (Fonk & Gardner, 2008). Therefore “examining one’s use
of essential skills or generic competencies as often applied in
controlled, small scale setting” (Hatton & Smith, 1995: p. 6) in
any interaction can provide a better understanding of what hap-
Linking Knowledge to Practice
One issue that emerged from the study was about the ability
of teachers to link their knowledge to their practice. In their
quest for further investigation to see how effective the discus-
sions had impacted on their classroom practice. Specifically the
issue to be explored could include:
How they can ensure such ideas are well implemented?
What improvements are needed to ensure that professional
support can help teachers implement their discussed ac-
What factors need to be considered when teachers engage in
collaborative reflective dialogue on practices on the same
Are teachers to be given special training in how they col-
laborate and reflect on specific issue on teachers practice?
Strengths of the Research
The in-depth exploration using four teachers provided rich
and deep information where the teachers could learn new ways
of understanding their practices.
The second strength of this study was the way teachers con-
currently engaged with the study and at the same time per-
formed their normal teaching. The teaching actions used for the
exercise were contemporary hence issues discussed were recent
issues where ideas expressed were advanced into their class-
The final strength of the research process was the benefit de-
rived from getting an in-depth understanding of how teachers
can reflect and collaborate. The interactions afforded me the
opportunity to put into proper perspective the views of teachers
concerning their practices.
The main methodological limitation identified in the research
process was what Maykut and Morehouse (1994: p. 155) refer
to as the problem of reactivity. They pointed out that reactivity
is a “term used to describe the unintended effects of the re-
searcher on the outcomes of the research processes”. The first
of such problems of reactivity was my position as a teacher
educator. This was because the participants had the perception
that I had answers to all their teaching problems. Regularly they
sought my point of view when they were discussing their
teaching practices. In response I always reiterated that I was
also learning just as they were and I had to convince them that I
needed their viewpoints to enable me get a comprehensive pic-
ture of the issue.
The second problem of reactivity arose from the perception
of the participants that I had come to assess their teaching prac-
tices. They therefore had an initial suspicion about my being
part of the observation and discussions. Akyeampong (1997)
reports of a similar problem during his field work in Ghana,
which Marshall and Rossman (1999: p. 85) refer to as “Politics
of Organisations”. This earlier signal helped me plan towards it
by thoroughly explaining the rationale and purpose of the study
and my role as a researcher and facilitator as suggested by
Marshall and Rossman (1999) and Bens (2005). This position
made me maintain good interpersonal relationship to disabuse
their minds of any such suspicion.
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