Publication details [#2291]

Gaumer, Jean E. 2000. Reflecting and reframing: Beginning teachers' use of metaphor. New York, N.Y.. 336 pp.


Much of the reform movement of the last two decades has focused more on structural and curricular changes than on the role of the classroom teacher as a change agent. Yet, few are in a better position to lead students toward developing inquiry and reflective skills because teachers set the learning environment for their students. Thus, the key issue is to understand how teachers formulate the beliefs and personal theories that inform their classroom practices, and how do we tap into that developing body of practical knowledge. Four participants who were in the last year of their preservice program for secondary English teachers in a New England university were selected for this study. Data were collected in three phases over a fifteen month period: at the beginning of their Methods class; during their student teaching; and during the first semester of their full time teaching position. Collection of data came from personal narratives, classroom observations and taped interviews with the participants during student teaching and the first semester of full time teaching. The findings indicated that using a combination of story and metaphor provided an effective method for participants to describe their beliefs and personal theories on good teaching practices and to identify dominant influences that helped formulate their teaching philosophy. One of the unexpected boons of using metaphor to describe teaching practices was that it helped the participants develop deeper insights into the teacher-learner partnership. The results support the notion that beginning teachers come to the classroom with diverse experiences, autobiographical as well as academic. Remembered experiences have an especially significant influence on the early formulation of beliefs and personal theories. As part of any teacher program then, developing reflective habits of mind is key to guiding prospective teachers toward understanding what they think and why about matters of teaching. Socrates' charge of "Know thyself" takes on new meaning for beginning teachers, for understanding the self can help them resolve whatever contradictions may occur between their formulated beliefs and the findings of studies on teaching and learning. (Jean Gaumer)