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The role of reflection in the emerging professionalisation of Teaching Assistants

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Reflection has developed as a strategy used across a number of professional occupations with the purpose of improving practice. In the education context it is largely considered from the process or outcomes perspective and less from the perspectives of the users. This interpretative study reverses that position and explores the perspectives of students using reflective strategies in a University education programme. The intention of this study was to determine students’ perceptions regarding reflection and to evaluate the extent to which they considered that their reflective experiences contributed to changes in how they perceived their role within an emerging professional identity.
This reflexive study utilised a combined qualitative strategy in which 29 students participated. All participants were working as Teaching Assistants in either paid employment or on a voluntary basis. Data were garnered using questionnaires, focus groups, semi-structured interviews and student reflective journals. Interpretation of the qualitative data was a reflexive, iterative process to identify any connections within the narratives of the participants and the extent to which reflection was implicated in professional changes that they had noted.
The findings build on the evidence in the literature and revealed that the ways in which the participants conceptualised reflection was more individual and granular than suggested in the literature. Reflective writing and dialogic activities were considered by the participants to be integral elements of their developing conceptualisation of a professional identity. An unanticipated theme to emerge from the data related to the extent to which both organisational culture and self-monitoring played an inhibitory role in professional development. There was evidence of deepening levels of criticality in the reflective process and these levels were aligned to the Dreyfus model charting the progression from novice to expert and thus offered a new way of thinking about and supporting professional development.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateFeb 2019

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