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Title: Exploring the use of online reflective journals as a way of enhancing reflection whilst learning in the field : the experience of teachers in Saudi Arabia
Authors: Almalki, Shatha Mohammed
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Globally, reflective thinking is considered a vital aspect of ongoing learning and professional development in the teaching profession. While engaging with reflection particularly for trainee teachers who do not have relevant experience can be challenging, this could be significantly more challenging within an education system that lacks support for the development of metacognitive skills. The utilization of technology-focused reflective tools has been shown in literature to enhance trainee teachers’ reflective capacities. Thus, adopting technology could facilitate and motivate pre-service teachers to engage with reflection in challenging contexts. This study explores such a context and aims to understand Saudi pre-service teachers’ experiences and their supervisors’ perspectives when the former engages with reflection via the use of technology as a means to foster reflection to help the preservice teachers develop professionally and personally during their school placement journey. Due to the complexity of the teaching and uncommon use of the reflection concept within the Saudi context, a combination of action research framework design and narrative analysis was adopted in this research of twelve elementary pre-service teachers and three supervisors at the IAU in eastern Saudi Arabia to understand their experience through their stories. Furthermore, the technology adopted in the reflective journals used novel forms of graphic representation to aid understanding and development of complex reflective concepts and their stages within the group of trainee teachers. The findings indicate that there were some impediments that had arisen during this study related to reflective thinking skills such as difficulty in identifying and assessing certain issues at the beginning of the study and difficulties in speculating the future action as well as some writing challenges noticed among some participants. Moreover, this research found that some contextual factors contributed to hinder participants from reflecting at a deeper level in some of their journals. Individual differences appear among the participants in which their ability to reflect was dependent on their willingness and their initial attitudes articulated by the Deweyan theory. Nonetheless, the majority of Saudi pre-service teachers in this study were able to shift their paradigm to openly express their thoughts and acknowledge their weaknesses as well as to adopt a more active role and actively take responsibility for their learning and teaching. Furthermore, the narrative interviews revealed a developing sense of moral and ethical consideration among participants as a result of engaging with reflection. The study provides evidence that when fostering reflective thinking in a supportive environment, a positive attitude and a sense of pride were apparent among trainee teachers by the end of the research. The combination of technology and the reflection process was found to motivate the participants to engage in reflection. This research found some consistencies between main objectives that motivated bloggers in general to engage with blogging and some of the initial orientations expressed by the participants in the present study, including airing their voice to influence and benefit others and seeking some support and feedback from the audience. Visualising and modelling the reflection concepts by using infographics and exemplars as online scaffolding tools embedded in the main blog helped the participants to understand the meaning of reflection and how to start reflecting on their practice, especially at the beginning of the study. Continuous online feedback from professionals was also found to be crucial to fostering reflection within many of the pre-service teachers when writing their reflective journals. This research has implications for developing teachers' training programs in countries worldwide.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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