An essential challenge for any program of teacher preparation is maintaining a critical tension between theory and action. Often candidates in preparation programs complain that their university courses are "too theoretical" and not practical. On the other hand "best practices" are rarely contextualized and techniques that work in one place often fail in a different setting. Candidates quickly realize, as do many entering teaching, how inexperienced they are at the actual work of teaching. This reinforces the large gap between what they think should be happening and what they are able to make happen. A strong reflective practice holds together the tensions generated by this gap and provides a roadmap of development for enactment skills.
The goal is to build a habit of critical analysis about the learning process with an increasing focus on emergent practice. It is difficult to enact a cycle of analysis that in Rodgers' (2002) terms is "rigorous and systematic and therefore distinct from ordinary thought." Our program requires a named set of elements, comparable to "historical thinking" or "scientific thinking." Candidates are expected to use theory to analyze classroom dynamics, think critically about their teaching choices and finally connect that reflection with student learning.