Programme saturation is defined as employing a number of actions and activities in a programme of study to aid students learning one or more concepts. One reason for engaging in this practice is to enable student teachers’ learning. Specifically, it enabled and encouraged their reflective capabilities.
Examples of reflective capabilities include the ability to examine, frame and attempt to solve dilemmas of classrooms and schools. Questioning personal assumptions and values held about teaching. Attending to the institutional and cultural context, taking part in curriculum development and being involved in school change (Zeichner & Liston, 1996). Reflective capabilities also include the teacher employing and developing cognitive skills as a means of improving their practice. Recalling, considering and evaluating teaching experiences as a means of improving those in the future (Farrell, 2001). It also includes the use of ones’ intuition, initiative, values and experience during teaching, and exercising judgement about the use of various teaching and research skills (Minott, 2009).
There are five programme saturation strategies used to enable and encourage student teachers reflective capabilities. These are:
1. The idea of reflection being prominently featured in the philosophical statement which guides the programme
2. Lecturers talking about and modelling elements of reflective teaching
3. Developing and implementing a reflective approach to student observational practicum and debriefing exercise
4. Reflective teaching being a core curriculum module in the programme
5. Teaching activities utilizing elements of reflective teaching
The study I carried out showed firstly, that the saturation of programmes influenced directly and indirectly what the students learned about being and becoming reflective practitioners. Among many things, it made them more self-aware, which is a critical aspect of reflective teaching.
Secondly, while the use of the individual saturation actions and activities listed above enabled and encouraged student teachers’ reflective capabilities, it is their combined use which resulted in the total saturation of any programme with the idea of reflection and reflective teaching. This is so because, by definition, to achieve saturation requires a process of providing a large number of products or pouring in a large quantity of liquid.
Thirdly, while the practice of programme saturation enabled student teachers to develop their reflective capabilities, it goes further than this by providing the opportunity for teacher educators to offer authentic learning experiences, to demonstrate various aspects of reflective teaching, and to open dialogue about reflective pedagogy.
I would, therefore, encourage teacher educators to use programme saturation as a means of enabling and encouraging student teachers’ reflective capabilities and ultimately their learning.