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Reflective engagement as professional development in the lives of university teachers

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This paper takes up two important issues in the professional development of university teachers: the controversy surrounding reflective inquiry and its purported benefits for professional development and the lack of research on what teachers learn from reflective inquiry and how that affects and/or changes their professional practice. 1 Specifically, the article asks what is reflective engagement and to what uses do university faculty put reflective engagement over time? Drawing on data from a study of 20 faculty members of the National University of Ireland at University College Cork (UCC) who created a teaching portfolio to compete for an award for excellence in teaching, I first demonstrate empirically how a greater conscious awareness of the act of teaching is facilitated by the creation of a reflective teaching portfolio. Then, through brief case studies, I examine specific uses three UCC teachers made of insights from their portfolio reflections and how they redirected their practice because of what they discovered. Patterns of redirection suggest that professional development through reflective engagement results from a subtle interaction of personal, professional and institutional elements. I offer a refined definition of reflective engagement and its processes to contribute to current discussions about a needed, shared understanding of it to carry out research and I present a small set of vignettes to suggest potential hypotheses for future investigations of its effects and meaning in the professional lives of university teachers.
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Keywords: Professional development; Reflective engagement; Reflective portfolio inquiry process; University faculty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College Cork, Ireland

Publication date: 2006-04-01

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