Autonomous teachers, autonomous cognition: Developing personal theories through reflection in language teacher education
In order for language teachers to meet the challenges of autonomy, we claim it is essential that they know what they believe about teaching and learning. Language teacher education programmes, therefore, should create opportunities for participants to examine and develop their personal theories of teaching. This conclusion was reached through conducting a study in which an inductive qualitative approach, based on a constructionist perspective of knowledge and learning, was used to investigate the personal theories of 20 language teachers. We wanted to discover how their experience over one course in their programme of education may have influenced their cognition. To do this we examined their own analyses of a series of personal reflective journal entries each of them had written during the course. Through inductive analysis we were able to identify a number of salient categories; that is, individual articulations yet one collective articulation of the teachers’ experiences. The articulations revealed that over the course the vast majority of teachers gained further understanding of their personal theories, that the reflective process was central to their experience and that engaging in reflection itself generated confidence for many teachers toward their personal cognition. Furthermore, their articulations support our belief that reflection continues to play a valuable role in teacher education, particularly as it pertains to teachers’ developing personal theories. The teachers’ analyses also reveal that confidence in their own theories may be gained directly from engaging in reflection. We conclude that the mental space afforded teachers in courses of education promotes such reflection and thus prepares them to be effective autonomous teachers.