Improving reflection in teachers

Charlene Tan describes a course which used “films such as The Simpsons and other pop culture platforms …to discuss contemporary moral issues with the students.” (492)

“Reflection,” she writes, “is recognized as instrumental in preparing pre-service teachers for their teaching career. However, using films to help pre-service teachers reflect on philosophical issues in education is a novel idea. …[in a class which used films to promote reflection] Through journal writing, the teachers reflected on key philosophical issues related to teaching and learning.” (483)

Using films

One effective way to promote reflection in pre-service teachers is to use films as the platform to interest, motivate and stimulate reflection. There are several treasons why films are such powerful tools in promoting reflection, the main reason being that films are narratives  propelled by images. Great writers such as Plato (analogy of the cave) Descartes (hypothesis of the malicious demon) and Thomas More (vision of a utopian society) often used vivid pictorial images to introduce, illustrate and stimulate thinking. Falzon (2002) argues that films provide ‘a galaxy of representations of characters, events and situations, in which philosophical ideas, themes and concerns find concrete embodiment, and to which we can turn in order to illuminate and provoke philosophical thinking’ (p5). Secondly, the realism in films also offers rich contextualized and authentic cross-cultural information to the viewers (Summerfield, 1993; Summerfield & Lee, 2001; King, 2002). Rather than employing static images (as in a painting or picture book), films piece together the moving images in a coherent manner through a story or plot. By presenting complete communicative situations, viewers can identify with the characters, situations and dilemmas portrayed in the film. This can generate interest and motivation, and lead to successful learning (Longergan, 1994; Guest, 1997). Adding to the above two reasons is the popularity and cultural significance of films; given that movies are accessible and prevalent in today’s culture, an exposition of the film will easily bring out the philosophical meanings to the audience…. Boyd and Fale’s (1983) definition of reflective learning is especially relevant to guide the teacher educator in using films to promote reflective practice. They see reflective learning as the process of internally examining an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which reates and clarifies meaning in terms of self, and which results in a changed conceptual perspective. Films, when appropriately chosen, are ideal in triggering the pre-serivce teachers to reflect on an issue of concern, ponder on the meanings and implications for themselves, and finally change or modify their values, beliefs and actions.

Using reflective journals

Journal writing is one of the ways to promote and facilitate reflections after the learners have watched the films. Writing film response journals helps the learners to gain the most from films (Holden, 2000) and facilitates philosophical reasoning (Kent, 1987). A journal combines the objective data of a log with the free flowing personal interpretations and expressions of a diary (Holly, 1989). Learners write reflections about what concerns them, excites them, causes them to think or learn (Posner, 1988).” (Tan, 485)

To “educators who would like to use films to promote reflection in their students [she recommends]:

* A variety of films from different genres and settings should be chosen in order to trigger more disparate thoughts and stimulate reflections in the learners. Some examples are drama, documentary, cartoon, science-thriller and comedy.

* Scaffolding in the form of short lectures given by the tutor, class discussions to clarify doubts and generate broad issues of concerns, and suggested readings should be given where appropriate. The above are particularly useful in the teaching of philosophical concepts which are perceived as abstract and esoteric to the learners.

* Journal writing is recommended as a useful tool for the learners to respond to the films. However, it has to be accompanied by clear learning objectives and explicit guidelines for the learners.

* Other modes of reflection such as self-reflection and verbal reflection can be used to replace or supplement written reflection. This is especially helpful for learners who have difficulty with the written language, or prefer oral communication and group interaction.” (Tan, 494)

Ref. Charlene Tan (2006) Philosophical reflections from the silver screen: using films to promote reflection in pre-service teachers’ Reflective Practice 7(4)Nov., pp483-497


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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