Critical Reflection and Teacher Capacity
Critical self reflection is the purposeful analyzing, reconsidering and questioning of experiences within a broad context, such as learning theories, pedagogical content knowledge, curricular knowledge, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and dispositions. This analysis considers social justice, politics and/or culture with the intention to promote change. Teacher capacity is the capability of teachers to effectively utilize all of the above areas with the end result of student success. It is important to understand the relationship between critical self-reflection and teacher capacity. Critical self-reflection can be used as a conduit for establishing and increasing teacher capacity, and it provides a forum in which teachers can be empowered by developing a path to action. If pre-service science educators are taught to include critical self-reflection as a part of their professional responsibilities, they will be prepared and confident as beginning in-service teachers to participate in and even create opportunities for educational reform.
As a co-creator of the teacher’s guide for The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science, I was able to utilize the skills of inquiry learning and teaching, concept mapping, pedagogical content knowledge, and constructivism. The Habitable Planet is a multimedia course for high school and college level students and their teachers and is sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
I have worked with the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University to develop an assessment system for an online course for science teachers. I used the science teaching criteria from the National Science Education Standards (NSES) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to create an assessment scale by which to measure the objectives of the course.
The Masters of Secondary Science Education (MSSE) Program at Montana State University is a program that enables in-service science teachers to attain a master’s degree while teaching. I have been involved with this program over the past two years as both a student, enrolling in content (on campus) courses, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Foundations of Action Research online course. After observing the methods used to teach both types of courses, I theoretically designed a master’s level online component entitled “Action Research in Content”, which would create and emphasize the relationship between the knowledge gained during the summer campus courses and the teaching and/or pedagogical online courses taken during the fall and spring semesters. I look forward to expanding this idea and putting it into practice in an appropriate setting.