Teachers' Reflective Practice in Lifelong Learning Programs

Teachers' Reflective Practice in Lifelong Learning Programs

Annie Aarup Jensen (Aalborg University, Denmark) and Anja Overgaard Thomassen (Aalborg University, Denmark)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2963-7.ch002
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This chapter explores teachers' reflective practice in lifelong learning programs based on a qualitative study of five teachers representing three part-time Master's programs. The theoretical framework for analysis of the interview data is Ellström's (1996) model for categorizing levels of action, knowledge and learning, activity theory (Engeström, 1987) and expansive learning (Engeström & Sannino, 2010). The results show a divergence between what the teachers perceive as the Master students' learning goals and the teachers' goals and objectives. This is highlighted through the teachers' experience with the students' understandings of the theories they are introduced to and how they apply them in relation to their practice context. The insights and the issues raised by the study are relevant for teachers in Higher Education.
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Lifelong learning is perceived as an important factor in order to keep up with the high level of global and local challenges we face, and to sustain positive development in our society. In this chapter we focus on one particular type of lifelong learning namely; part-time Master’s programs at university level. In fact, in a Danish context much attention has been paid to the obstacles part-time students face while holding full-time jobs (e.g. Lorentsen & Niemann, 2010). Indeed, students in part time Masters’ programs have been the object of some research. The research has been concerned with students’ experience of being in education (Stegeager, 2014), the poor conditions for studying that adult students are offered and are giving themselves (Lorentsen & Niemann, 2010), Masters’ students’ motivation for education and both personal as well as professional gain from education (Krogh & Jensen 2010), classification of Masters’ students’ application of theory in relation to practice as inspiration for further development of Masters’ pedagogy (Jensen & Bækkelund, 2004; Aarkrog, 2008), and issues regarding students’ challenges in bringing knowledge from their education into their own practice (Boud & Garrick, 1999; Keller et al., 2011; Stegeager et al., 2013; Thomassen & Rasmussen, 2015). Teachers’ experience of mature part-time Masters’ students within such context has been researched by Fibiger (2005), who describes the teacher role in a specific Masters’ program as coach and sparring partner. It is also described by Ry-Nielsen (2008) who takes his point of departure in a Master’s in Public Administration program to investigate how teachers use participant experience in the teaching situation as well as in assignments.

However, Teachers’ perceptions of the Master’s students approach to working with the theory-practice relationship in their education, as well as the teachers’ values and reflective attitudes have not been researched for in a Danish context. Therefore, in this study we investigated the reflective practice of teachers at Master’s programs. This is critical as teachers have a lot of influence on students’ learning (Illeris, 2003). Specifically, we focus on the teachers’ reflections regarding the special needs and interests of part-time Master’s students and how to support them in becoming reflective practitioners in three different programs situated within learning processes: Organisational learning, management learning and professional development. To this end, the teachers’ reflections and understanding regarding conception, experience and values were sought after as the teachers have a central position in Master’s programs (Illeris, 2003). Thus, this study was meant to answer the following questions: Why each student is interested in their Master’s programs? What is their objective? Do the students enter Master’s programs in order to gain new theoretical knowledge, or to get new practical tools and models? In addition to this, our research interest is the teachers’ reflective practice regarding the way in which the teachers are trying to create a connection between education and practice, as well as the study progression they are trying to support.

The chapter presents the contextual framework of the study, i.e. the principles of Problem Based Learning (PBL), and the three Master’s programs included in the study are categorised, showing the didactic variety of PBL together with different teacher roles. Five teachers were interviewed in the study. The theoretical framework for analysis of the teacher interviews consists of Ellströms learning levels (Ellström, 1996) and Engeströms activity theory (Engeström & Sannino, 2010). The analysis of the interviews shows teachers’ perceptions of their students learning processes and learning outcome as well as their reflections on the students’ learning goals. The results reveal among other things that the teachers’ ambitions for their students do not always coincide with their students’ learning objectives. However, before analysing the research findings, it is relevant to review the literature.

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