Weblogs as instruments for reflection on action in teacher education

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Calgary]On: 15 September 2013, At: 14:19Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Interactive Learning EnvironmentsPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/nile20</p><p>Weblogs as instruments for reflectionon action in teacher educationIwan G.J.H. Wopereis a , Peter B. Sloep a &amp; Sybilla H. Poortman ba Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies, Open Universityof the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlandsb Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Sittard, The NetherlandsPublished online: 09 Aug 2010.</p><p>To cite this article: Iwan G.J.H. Wopereis , Peter B. Sloep &amp; Sybilla H. Poortman (2010) Weblogs asinstruments for reflection on action in teacher education, Interactive Learning Environments, 18:3,245-261, DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2010.500530</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10494820.2010.500530</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>Weblogs as instruments for reection on action in teacher education</p><p>Iwan G.J.H. Wopereisa*, Peter B. Sloepa and Sybilla H. Poortmanb</p><p>aCentre for Learning Sciences and Technologies, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen,The Netherlands; bFontys University of Applied Sciences, Sittard, The Netherlands</p><p>(Received 15 April 2009; nal version received 15 October 2009)</p><p>This study examined the use of weblogs as a means to promote student teachersreective practice. The assumption was explored that weblogs are suitable tools tosupport and stimulate reection on action in teacher training and consequently toenhance the students ability to reect. Three groups of student teachers usedweblogs to reect on teaching practice during an 8-week internship. Students wereasked (a) to reect on their own teaching experiences and (b) to provide peerfeedback. Analyses of the student contributions show that weblogs are useful forreection on critical incidents in the classroom and that they can stimulateinterconnectivity in groups of students. However, weblogs do not incite deepreection or spiral reection, which can only be the result of explicit instruction.This exploratory study further shows that large-scale quantitative research isneeded to support the premise that weblogs are suitable tools for reection.</p><p>Keywords: weblogs; blogs; reection; teacher education; social networks</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Popular second generation web-based read and write tools, such as socialnetworking sites, folksonomies, wikis and weblogs, are regarded powerful tools forinformal learning (boyd &amp; Ellison, 2008; Mason &amp; Rennie, 2007). Therefore, it is notsurprising that educators consider their implementation in formal educationalpractice as well (Alexander, 2006; Greenhow, Robelia, &amp; Hughes, 2009; Klammaet al., 2007; McLoughlin &amp; Lee, 2008; Ravenscroft, 2009). This article discussesweblogs, a mainstream social software (Downes, 2004; Herring, Scheidt, Wright, &amp;Bonus, 2005; Williams &amp; Jacobs, 2004; Wijnia, 2005), and focuses on their use forreective practice in education. According to Luehmann (2008), weblogs allow forexternalizing thinking processes and subsequent review, and thus oering richopportunities for reection and feedback. Because of the relative novelty of weblogtechnology and its scanty diusion in formal educational practice, this claim is notsupported by rigorous empirical research. We therefore conducted an exploratorystudy on the usefulness of weblogs for reection in formal education. The teacher-training domain was chosen because reection is an important constituent of theteacher education curriculum (cf. Association for the Professional Quality of</p><p>*Corresponding author. Email: iwan.wopereis@ou.nl</p><p>Interactive Learning Environments</p><p>Vol. 18, No. 3, September 2010, 245261</p><p>ISSN 1049-4820 print/ISSN 1744-5191 online</p><p> 2010 Taylor &amp; FrancisDOI: 10.1080/10494820.2010.500530</p><p>http://www.informaworld.com</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>ity of</p><p> Calg</p><p>ary] a</p><p>t 14:1</p><p>9 15 S</p><p>eptem</p><p>ber 2</p><p>013 </p></li><li><p>Teachers [APQT], n.d.). Moreover, this domain has a large research traditionregarding reection, learning, professional development and technology (Hatton &amp;Smith, 1995; Kirschner &amp;Wopereis, 2003; Korthagen, 2001; Strudler &amp;Wetzel, 2005;Van den Berg, 2001). Before we discuss the research questions of this study in depth,the concepts of reection, weblogs and weblog aordances will be elaborated on.</p><p>Reection</p><p>Reection is dened as the mental process of (re)structuring experiences, existingknowledge or insights (Korthagen, 2001); it is currently a key concept in teachertraining and development. The ability to reect is essential for both the individual(aspirant) teacher and the teaching community at large. For the individual (aspirant)teacher, elaborate and ongoing reection on the learning process is important forinitial skill learning and subsequent professional development (Korthagen &amp;Vasalos, 2005; Schon, 1983). For the teaching profession, reection skills are keyingredients for inducing and guiding educational change and reform (Griths,2000). This notwithstanding, teacher training and development programs fail to turnout highly competent reective practitioners. The complex nature of reection ispartly responsible for this. Especially, deep reection on professional actionsrequires extensive training (Korthagen &amp; Vasalos, 2005). Teacher training anddevelopment programs simply are too short to allow learners fully to masterreection skills, as is the lack of quality of reection instruction. Boud and Walker(1998), for example, mention the negative eects teachers misconception ofreection may have on acquiring the reection skill. According to them, suchmisconceptions lead to rule-following approaches to reection, in their turn,inevitably leading to a reduction of learners motivation for reective practice andlearning. Consequently, students often postpone their reective activities until theyhave to hand in their reective writings for evaluation by teachers or peers. Althoughstepping out of the process is regarded an important strategy for reection(Benammar, 2004), mounting up reective writing activities till the end of anapprenticeship period is certainly not.</p><p>Even when reection instruction is well designed and implemented, teachertrainers can be confronted with students who have an aversion towards reectivewriting. Some students perceive reective writing as a distraction from learning,failing to associate it with working as a teacher. Others might delay reective writingas it exposes feelings of vulnerability (Hatton &amp; Smith, 1995). For reectioninstruction to be eective, it is therefore imperative to create a supportive learningenvironment in which students feel secure.</p><p>Reection involves understanding ones own process of learning in variouscontexts. It is an active, intentional and purposeful process of exploration, discovery,and learning, embedded within social interaction. Interactivity is an importantcondition for gaining multiple perspectives on learning and receiving feedback onones own performance and understanding (Lin, Hmelo, Kinzer, &amp; Secules, 1999).Multiple perspectives on student performances can be provided by teachers bymeans of expert modelling. However, these perspectives can also be presented to thelearner or commented upon by peers. According to Boud (1999), using peers ascritical friends in the learning process is a powerful instructional method.</p><p>A motley collection of tools exists for supporting reection (Benammar, 2004).The most popular tools portfolios (Mansvelder-Longayroux, Beijaard, &amp; Verloop,</p><p>246 I.G.J.H. Wopereis et al.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>ity of</p><p> Calg</p><p>ary] a</p><p>t 14:1</p><p>9 15 S</p><p>eptem</p><p>ber 2</p><p>013 </p></li><li><p>2007) and journals or logbooks (Korthagen, 1999) focus on externalizing andcapturing reective thinking. By committing reective thinking to paper or computer,it is possible to step out of the (learning) process and engage in observing andevaluating preceding performance and learning. Tools such as portfolios and journalsare therefore particularly useful for supporting reection on action: the active processof making sense of experiences for the purpose of orienting oneself for current and/orfuture thought and action (Ertmer &amp; Newby, 1996, p. 17; Schon, 1983). Ideally, this isa spiral process that includes alternating stages of acting, learning from the actionsand improving the action. Korthagen (1999, 2001) introduced a ve-phase spiralmodel to describe this process: action, looking back on the action, awareness ofessential aspects, creating alternative methods of actions and trail (which is the actionphase of a new reection cycle). Spiral reection is regarded a basic form of reectionon action and has been extensively used for reective practice (learning) in teachereducation (Benammar, 2004). Reection on action contrasts with reection in action,which means that the learner manages the process of learning online while it istaking place, and constantly adjusting and changing [it] as new information isassimilated (Ertmer &amp; Newby, 1996, p. 17; Schon, 1983).</p><p>With the advent of the computer, electronic versions of these tools emerged. Theweblog is just such a promising electronic and web-based variant of a journalingtool; it is discussed in the following section.</p><p>Weblogs as tools for reection</p><p>A weblog or blog is a frequently updated personal website with dated entriesdisplayed in reverse chronological order (Emova &amp; Fiedler, 2004; Schmidt, 2007).Such posts can be easily commented on, oering opportunities for discussion andfeedback (Xie, Ke, &amp; Sharma, 2008). A weblog is unique in that it integrates theregistration, consultation and exchange of information. This is a prerequisite forreection on action. A discussion in terms of aordances can explain why (Chuang,2008; Wang &amp; Woo, 2008).</p><p>According to Norman (1988), aordances refer to opportunities for actions; theperceived and actual fundamental properties of technologies that determine theusefulness and the ways they could possibly be used. Kirschner, Strijbos, Kreijns,and Beers (2004) distinguish three categories of aordances: technological, social,and educational.</p><p>Technological aordances refer to the technical usability of a tool. A tool mustallow for the accomplishment of a task in a way that satises the user. For a tool thatsupports reection this means that its technology may not hamper the process ofregistering, consulting, and exchanging knowledge. According to Wang and Woo(2008) important technological aordances of weblogs are the online availability andaccessibility of the instrument, the user friendliness of contemporary authoring tools,the opportunities for customization and the dimension of display of information.Through the years, weblog tools have evolved into reliable, user-friendly instrumentsthat do not require elaborate computer programming skills. Current weblog users,therefore, can fully concentrate on writing and reading content (Du &amp; Wagner,2006). The opportunity for customization, for example means that students canmodify the interface and append external resources such as videos and pictures.Customization also nourishes ownership, an important success factor for educa-tional innovations (Sloep et al., 2006).</p><p>Interactive Learning Environments 247</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>ity of</p><p> Calg</p><p>ary] a</p><p>t 14:1</p><p>9 15 S</p><p>eptem</p><p>ber 2</p><p>013 </p></li><li><p>Social aordances focus on the exchange of information, on promoting socialinteraction. Weblogs allow for commenting on postings and thus for interpersonalcommunication. Because they are web-based tools, the extent of interpersonalcommunication can be very large. The awareness that a large audience can read andcomment on ones reective thinking, can aect reection both positively andnegatively. The idea of global interconnectivity can lead to better thought-throughreection posts by students; this awareness may hinder the expression of personalexperiences as well (parenthetically, weblog technology enables small groupinteraction, such as teacherlearner interaction only). Indeed, being in charge ofones reective writings is an important factor for weblog success (cf. ownership).</p><p>Educational aordances are those characteristics of an artefact that determine ifand how a particular learning behaviour could possibly be enacted within a givencontext (Kirschner et al., 2004, p. 51). Weblogs oer three educational aordances:ownership, developmental processes and interactivity (Wang &amp; Woo, 2008). Incontemporary educational practice students are increasingly responsible for theirown learning. This means that they should also be in charge of their learningtoolbox. In the case of weblogs, students are fully responsible for content andinterface. They own the tool, because they are allowed to customize the interface,add, edit or delete postings and (external) comments. Another educationalaordance is the opportunity to display developmental processes. Because a weblogpresents posts in reverse chronological order, it captures sequences of learningactivities. This can be further enhanced by adding keywords (tags) to posts, and thusallowing categorization and enabling students to monitor the acquisition of a specicskill or competence in depth. The last educational aordance is interactivity. Next tolearnerteacher and learnerlearner interaction (social aordances), Chou (2003)also distinguishes learnercontent interaction (educational aordance). According toWang and Woo (2008) learnercontent interaction is central to weblogs: studentswrite content and interact with content by reecting on it. Social interactionintensies this.</p><p>Research questions</p><p>This study seeks to nd out whether weblogs are useful instruments to support andpromote reection on action...</p></li></ul>

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