Guided group reflections of first-year pre-service teachers: Moving beyond the rhetoric of “go and reflect”
In South Africa, pre-service teachers enter education programmes with diverse preunderstandings of the teaching profession. For some, their experiences are often naively divorced from a genuine understanding of how present-day education perpetuates patterns of poverty and privilege. Responding to the pedagogical challenge of framing problems of social injustice in relation to the profession, we designed a school visit project to expose first-year pre-service teachers to school environments that represent the exciting inequities in educational experiences and opportunities. In this article we comment on the written group assignments that followed from the small-group discussions which were held after the school visit. Located within a lifelong learning framework, we proceed from the assumption that discussion in a group with support will afford students the opportunity to position themselves in relation to the grave inequalities embedded in South African education. Data obtained were analysed by means of open and axial coding to comment on the salient issues the students discussed, the issues they wanted further clarification on, and the opportunities they envisaged to engage with and act on. We found that, although the small-group discussions succeeded in setting a critical reflective process into motion, a space was not created for students to uncover and challenge their deep-seated assumptions that stem from a specific historical and cultural context.