Loughran Learning How to Teach: Unpacking a Teacher Educator's Thinking about Pedagogy

Loughran, J. (1994). Learning how to teach: Unpacking a teacher educator’s thinking about pedagogy in pre-service education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association. New Orleans, LA.

Summary: This paper describes a self-study the author conducted into his own practices as a teacher educator. He values reflection and he wondered how his modeling of reflective thinking during his courses would influence and impact the way in which his student teachers perceived reflection and developed reflective practice. He interviewed 20 of his 22 students multiple times and he also analyzed the journals they provided. He found that modeling his reflective stance through thinking aloud did influence the development of reflective thought in his student teachers.

Reflection is the way in which teachers think about their practice.

Wondering for myself – How do Schon’s reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action connect to and intersect with the pedagogical skills on which I am researching?

“Reflection-in-action comprises the reframing of unanticipated problem situations such that we come to see the experience differently (p. 3).” In my mind, this quote where Loughran is talking about Schon’s work is also connected to Mezirow’s work on transformational learning and transformational learning theory.

“Reflection occurs in response to a puzzling situation (p. 4)”. MY WONDERING – Does it always? Do I have evidence to respond to this thought?

Retrospective reflection is… ‘looking back’ on the experience and offering opportunity to “…make better sense of past experiences and to develop new or deeper understanding of that situation” (p. 4).

NOTE TO SELF – I need to look into the professional web spaces the Residents have created and do some investigating into the idea of the blog as an online journal. Journals are made public when they are shared with their teacher, but the blog magnifies this public aspect by expanding the audience. It gives a whole new meaning to learning in a public space and contributes to the ideas of the social nature of learning. However, there are drawbacks, which I am sure are documented in the literature. I just need to do some more searching.

Loughran cites Richert’s (1987, 1990) research to identify the needs of student teachers and the conditions for developing reflective practice in student teachers. Those conditions include : “(1) adequate time to reflect, (2) a feeling of safety – through opportunities for reflection that were non-evaluative, (3) partner observation, someone to observe the teaching, (4) partner characteristics – someone who was knowledgeable about pedagogy, the subject matter and skills in encouraging reflection, and (5) articulation – the opportunity to genuinely discuss their own teaching” (p. 6). MY THOUGHTS – How does the blog change or make adjustments to these conditions?

“Teaching is inextricably linked to learning. Teaching for understanding involves exploring the relationship between teaching and learning within the context of such things as: the content, and the teacher’s understanding of the content; the nature of the students and their experiences; and the temporal and physical characteristics of the setting. The more these contextual issues are explored the greater the possibility that development beyond a purely technical approach to (and understanding of) teaching might occur. Hence there is a need for teachers to reflect on the relationship between the act of teaching and the experience of learning” (p. 7). MY THOUGHTS – I think this is true for supervision. I can see a parallel.

“There is a need for consistency between a teacher educator’s teaching practice and his or her supervisory practice” (p.8). MY WONDERING – Here he distinguishes between teacher education and supervision, but the doesn’t explain his distinction. I am wondering how he sees the two as different or maybe he doesn’t. I think that there are differences.

Loughran actually uses the term ‘seeing’ in his paper, but he doesn’t define it. “Being attuned to ‘seeing’ is being open-minded, seeing the problem situation in different ways is being responsible and wanting to respond whilst accepting the consequences of action is to display the attitude of wholeheartedness” (p. 9).        MY WONDERING – I NEED TO DO AN ANALYSIS ON THE WORDS ‘SEEING’ AND ‘NOTICING’ TO SEE WHICH I PREFER AND WHY. WHAT DOES EACH MEAN? This reminds me of the work of Ed Pajak on teaching and instruction.

Loughran also explains that he uses the strategy of ‘thinking aloud’ but he doesn’t define it nor cite anyone as using this strategy in teacher education.

Throughout his study, Loughran does not recognize the role of vulnerability. By thinking aloud and stating when he did not know something, he was making himself vulnerable. His students responded positively, but I am not so sure that would always be the case. I don’t think we know enough about the interplay or the conditions of the environment he created in his classroom to allow this vulnerability to be powerful in teaching nor do we understand the nature of beliefs of his student teachers and how those beliefs interact with his vulnerability. I wanted to know more here.

MY THOUGHTS – Thinking aloud through modeling draws attention to, or points to use a term I have been using, to an important moment. His examples are making me think that pointing can be direct or indirect. It is direct if the person draws attention and specifically articulates/identifies the strategy, critical incident, etc. It is indirect when the person moves on to the next pedagogical skill by unpacking that the other may or may not realize the strategy/critical incident to which the person was referring. This would be an indirect way of pointing.

“This anticipatory reflection involves considering possibilities before deciding on a means of action” (p. 30).

“Problem recognition may have initiated a reflective cycle but her inability to quickly develop suggestions limits her capacity to develop ‘on the spot’ alternatives causing her to see that her classes generally go as planned” (p.33). In this example, Loughran is commenting on a struggle one of his student teachers had. When I apply this example to my research, I see it as evidence of a lack of pedagogical skills on the part of the student. It suggests that she does not have the sophistication to employ all of the skills while she is reflecting-in-action. This means that as teacher educators we have to help develop these pedagogical skills. So, pedagogical skills are not necessarily just for teacher educators but maybe they are pedagogical skills in reflection. ??? I’m thinking aloud here.

In addition to anticipatory reflection, Loughran also identifies contemporaneous reflection and retrospective reflection. “By learning from retrospective reflection, contemporaneous reflection may be enhanced” (p. 34). Retrospective reflection is reflection-on-action after the teaching event has occurred. Contemporaneous reflection is reflection-in-action; it’s reflection happening simultaneously along with the teaching event. MY THOUGHTS – Pedagogical skills can be applied to retrospective reflection or contemporaneous reflection, but if the pedagogical skills are not refined or as sophisticated, then part of the learning process is to use pedagogical skills to develop pedagogical skills.

“As reflection is a cognitive process, access to such thinking needed to be possible in ways that allowed it to be observed and understood across a range of teaching and learning contexts and in a number of observable forms” (p. 38).

Loughran draws upon Dewey’s (1933) notion of reflection and the process through which individuals engage as they reflect as being problem situation, hypotheses, reasoning, and testing, when he says, “As their repertoire of suggestions, experienced and anticipated problem situations, hypotheses, reasoning, and testing skills increases, their ability to reflect during teaching is enhanced” (p. 40).

“Reflection is not simply a personal trait that some have and others do not. It is something that when understood and valued, can be developed through teacher education where teacher educators practice what they preach” (p. 40).



Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. New York: Heath and Co.

Richert, A. E. (1987). Reflex to reflection: Facilitating reflection in novice teachers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.

Richert, A. E. (1990). Teaching teachers to reflect: A consideration of programme structure. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 22(6), 509-527.

Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professional think in action. USA: Basic Books, Inc.