This account of a research project explores postgraduate in-service teachers’ understanding and facilitation of active learning in primary, secondary and higher education in the United Kingdom. Qualitative data were elicited from six teachers during 2003-2004 using video-stimulated reflective dialogues of classroom practices illustrative of active learning. Outcomes of 18 dialogues have been taped, transcribed and analysed. The dialogues have begun to reveal teachers’ thinking, feelings and actions as facilitators of active learning. Findings, which are presented as case studies, indicate that teachers associate active learning, among other things, with learner autonomy, empowerment, developing higher order thinking skills and cooperative group activities. Increasingly, teachers devolve the locus of control of learning to their learners with appropriate guidance, monitoring and interventions. Classroom practices reflect an emphasis on discourse between learners and with teachers, guided discovery learning and learning as an essentially social process. The evidence suggests that video-stimulated reflective dialogues are an effective method for revealing teachers’ tacit knowledge about their pedagogy. Video-stimulated reflective dialogues emerge as a highly effective professional development tool which can enhance teachers’ career progression as they acquire and apply sophisticated higher order thinking skills in relation to their pedagogies.
This chapter focuses mainly on data elicited from primary and secondary school teachers’ video-stimulated reflective dialogues on active learning. The research project offered experienced teachers (6-20+ years in the teaching profession in the United Kingdom) an opportunity to focus on that aspect of their career progression which is concerned with developing expertise as a classroom practitioner. The data represents a small sample from a larger study (2003-2007) which is expected to result in 30 video-stimulated reflective dialogues with nine teachers. It is not my intention in this chapter to engage in an extensive, critical interrogation of literature on the subject of active learning (see, among others, Jones & Merrit, 1999; Livingstone & Lynch, 2000; Broadhead, 2001; Niemi, 2002; Birenbaum, 2002) and reflective dialogues (Moyles et al., 2002). I am concerned with conceptualizing video-stimulated reflective dialogues, outlining my research methodology and describing and interpreting findings presented as intrinsic case studies (Stake, 1995).
My research is based on a belief that teachers’ continuing professional development involves critical reflection on practice (see, among others, Brookfield, 1998; Muir & Beswick, 2007). Recent studies concerned with reflective teaching and its impact on professional development (Kennewell, Tanner, Jones & Beauchamp, 2007; Snow-Gerono, 2008) underscore the continuing importance of reflecting on pedagogies in order to improve them. The first phase (2003-2004) of this research project was concerned primarily with revealing teachers’ thinking, feelings and actions as facilitators of active learning. The second phase of the research (2005-7) focused on using video-stimulated reflections to critique teachers’ practice as well as the data-elicitation method. The research will then be developing as a reflective critique of reflective practice.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Dimensions of Pedagogies: Teachers’ intentions, self-awareness, practical reflections, technical reflections, perceptual awareness and critical reflections
Primary Education: Students aged 5- 11.
Higher Education: Students aged 18+.
Active Learning: Students are engaged cognitively, affectively and conatively in the learning process. Teachers create the conditions in which learners assume greater control and responsibility for their own learning. Teachers provide appropriate levels of support and interventions to facilitate the active learning process. Active learning emerges in this research as synonymous with guided discovery learning.
Video-Stimulated Reflective Dialogues (VSRD): A collaborative inquiry between research partners – teacher and researcher. VSRD are used to reveal and critique teachers’ pedagogies in relation to specific classroom episodes which they chose to reflect upon with the researcher.
Secondary Education: Students aged 11-18.
Intrinsic Case Studies: Findings are presented in terms of the attitudes, values, perspectives and beliefs of the individual teachers. What begins to develop through this process is their critical stance on dimensions of their pedagogies.