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Alfa: Revista de Linguística (São José do Rio Preto)

Print version ISSN 0002-5216On-line version ISSN 1981-5794

Alfa, rev. linguíst. (São José Rio Preto) vol.60 no.1 São Paulo Jan./Apr. 2016 


Schoolteacher represented in pre-service teacher’s reflexive academic writing

Wagner Rodrigues SILVA* 


*UFT - Universidade Federal do Tocantins. Araguaína - TO - Brasil. 77 808-620 -

**PUCV - Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso - Instituto de Literatura y Ciencias del Lenguaje. Vina del Mar - Valparaiso - Chile. 2374631 -


The present paper investigates some representations of Brazilian basic schoolteachers in professional reflexive writing, that is, a differentiated academic writing produced by pre-service teachers as the final assignment during their supervised compulsory pre-service Portuguese teacher training. The focus of attention is given to the clauses where the schoolteachers are construed as the grammar subject of actions. The methodological framework assumed in this research is that of the transdisciplinary approach of Applied Linguistics, which is characterized by the use of theoretical-methodological categories resulting from the many fields of knowledge applied in the construction of the object of study. Schoolteachers are represented as the main social actors accountable for the processes identified, which might ask for a complexification of pre-service teacher’s view as regards the compulsory environment of pre-service teaching. Results indicate the demand for a more useful application of the professional reflexive writing in pre-service teacher education.

Key words: Applied Linguistics; Systemic Functional Linguistics; Language Education; Academic Writing


Neste artigo, investigamos algumas representações de professores brasileiros da escola básica na escrita reflexiva profissional, aqui identificada como uma escrita acadêmica diferenciada, produzida por alunos-mestre como trabalho escrito final durante o estágio supervisionado obrigatório da Licenciatura Plena em Língua Portuguesa. São focalizadas nesta pesquisa as orações em que os professores da escola básica são construídos como sujeito gramatical da ação expressa. O referencial metodológico assumido nesta pesquisa é informado pela abordagem transdisciplinar da Linguística Aplicada, caracterizada pelo uso de categorias teórico-metodológicas originárias de diferentes campos do conhecimento científico em função da construção do objeto de investigação. Os professores da escola básica são representados como principais atores sociais responsáveis pelos processos identificados, o que pode demandar uma complexificação do ponto de vista do aluno-mestre sobre o espaço do estágio obrigatório. Os resultados apontam para uma demanda de usos mais produtivos da escrita reflexiva profissional na formação inicial do professor.

Palavras-Chave: Linguística Aplicada; Linguística Sistêmico-Funcional; Educação Linguística; Escrita acadêmica


In the Brazilian context, the first formal education teachers receive happens at an undergraduate degree level1. These degrees, named Licenciaturas2, cover several school subjects, such as Biology, Geography, History, Mathematics and Portuguese, which are chosen by the candidate according to his/her preference when entering university. After undertaking the compulsory credits/subjects, which takes approximately four years, students (here called pre-service teachers) are awarded the degree of licensed teacher. This degree is the minimum required degree that one may take so as to undertake any teacher role in basic school teaching contexts. When students reach half of their undergraduate program, they are required to attend supervised compulsory pre-service teacher training, a period known as practicum. During the practicum, universities and basic schools develop concurrent activities. This kind of partnership is not common in the Brazilian educational context where a relationship carrying some traces of tenseness and disharmony3 can be observed.

The data set composing this study includes two sets of written texts produced by a group of Brazilian pre-service teachers who have attended their compulsory training focusing on the teaching of Portuguese Language and Literature, an option offered by the Undergraduate programme named Licenciatura em Letras – Habilitação em Língua Portuguesa (BA in Letters – Major in Portuguese). Moreover, this paper investigates the way Brazilian schoolteachers are represented when they are textualized in field notes and, then, retextualized in pre-service teacher training reports. These texts – training reports – result in what we are calling here professional reflexive writing, that is, a distinctive register construed in pre-service teacher education. The reports are the final assignment of the pre-service training written by pre-service teachers.

In the context of language education and teacher training, the present research presents an innovative way of looking at reflexive writing in practicum stages, that is, it uses the tools offered by Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL, henceforth) for analyzing text produced by teachers in training. By innovative we mean professional reflexive writing reports produced in the encounter of basic schools and universities have not yet been given focus in the interface of educational linguistics and SFL, let alone in the Brazilian context of academic writing. Despite the existence of research within the educational linguistics realm of enquiry oriented by genre-based literacy approaches using SFL, these studies do not touch upon the encounters of two distinct institutions. Martin and Rose (2008), Christie and Derewianka (2008), Ryan (2011) and Hewings and North (2006) are some of the studies that have value bearing for the research at hand.While Martin and Rose (2008) look into Literacy Programme activities developed by the Sydney School, Christie and Derewianka (2008) look into children’s writing development from primary to secondary schools, from childhood to adolescence. Ryan (2011) has proposed an “Academic Reflexive Model” to improve reflective writing skills of higher education students, also in the Australian educational context.In England, Hewings and North (2006) have compared conventional academic writing produced by geography and history undergraduate students.

The present paper is further divided into Theoretical and Methodological Framework subdivided into (i) synthesis of the main theoretical concepts and (ii) methodological procedures for this study. These sections are followed by the Reflexive Professional Writing Production Context. In a succeeding section, namely Pre-service teacher training writing is discussed.The next section – Representation of Brazilian Schoolteachers – is subdivided into two subsections offering the findings and discussion of both quantitative and qualitative analysis of this investigation. And, finally some Final Considerations regarding the implications and the ongoing research status is given.

Theoretical and methodological assumptions

A Functional perspective of representation

The institutional social spaces of basic schools and universities are of importance for the present research as they run in parallel with the premises of SFL, that is, language is a linguistic system that is realized within and according to specific contexts of use. The speaker/writer creates meaning on the basis of choices, because it [choice] represents an option on the part of the addresser for the creation of a stretch of language, i.e. the text4. The choices the speaker/writer makes, either consciously or unconsciously, will control the configuration of the lexicogrammatical realization of the register construed from the activity being carried out in combination with the interactional relationship of the social context. In this sense, the text is a result of the contextual factors and internal lexicogrammatical configuration, an operation of words that are exchanged in context and which get their meaning from the socio-semiotic activities where words are construed based on social agents and goals (HALLIDAY, 1989).

According to Halliday (1989, p.4), “language is understood in its relationship to social structure”. Therefore, language is understood here as a social semiotic process through which discourses and social practices are spread out in different institutional settings, as is the case of the context where compulsory pre-service training takes place. Both discourses and practices are amenable to textually oriented analysis. This is no different when looking into the texts that constitute the data of this research, that is, they are texts characterized by the distinct social practices of the educational settings in which they are immersed. In this sense, when the representation of basic schools teachers is investigated it will, inevitably, also reveal concerns around pre-service teacher education. By dedicating attention to the pedagogical activities carried out in pre-service training it is feasible to elaborate future pedagogical activities for teachers focusing on their workplaces.

In the context of diversified interactive situations of a literate society, pre-service teacher training being an example, written texts “mediate our social lives” and “discourses come to us via texts” (FAIRCLOUGH, 2010, p.549). The set of texts under investigation construe discourses in a complex social space, namely pre-service teacher training, where nebulous boundaries between universities and basic schools meet. According to Van Leeuven (2008, p.6), “[…] discourses are social cognitions, socially specific ways of knowing social practices, they can be, and are, used as resources for representing social practices in text. This means that it is possible to reconstruct discourses from the texts that draw on them.”

Texts are the instantiation of language in context. SFL allows language investigation as it organizes language in a hierarchy of stratification. The stratified notion of language in context put forward by Halliday (1978) may be seen in the representation in the figure below. Context of culture is the broadest category where genre, discourses and language are realized; this is followed by the context of situation, which encompasses the metafunctions of language.

Source: Author’s elaboration.

Figure 1 – Hierarchy of Stratification 

In explaining the difference of the contexts of the hierarchy of stratification, Matthiessen and Halliday (2009, p.88) say that:

Context is a higher-level semiotic system in which language is “embedded”. More specifically, language is embedded in a context of culture or social system and any instantiation of language as text is embedded in its own context of situation. Context is an ecological matrix for both the general system of language and for particular texts. It is realized through language; and being realized through language means that it both creates and is created by language.

The relationship between language and context is characterized by the ‘principle of functional diversification’. Register, the mid-region between text and context, is simultaneously organized by three situational domains, namely, field, tenor, and mode. Field is realized by what is going on in the situation, that is, the social activity being carried out; tenor represents the social interactants of the social activity; and mode is concerned with the channel used to textualize language (MATTHIESSEN; HALLIDAY, 2009). The three register categories are immediately related to the three metafunctions of language: ideational (“grammatical resources for construing our experience of the world around us and inside us” –TRANSITIVITY); interpersonal (“grammatical resources for enacting social roles in general, and speech roles in particular, in dialogic interaction” –MOOD); and textual (grammatical resource for construing “presentation of ideational and interpersonal meaning as information that can be shared by speaker and listener in text unfolding in context” –THEME) (MATTHIESSEN; HALLIDAY, 2009, p.53-54).

As the attention of the present research is dedicated to a comparative analysis between representations of basic schoolteachers in two sets of texts belonging to different genres, the notion of register will be used as it offers theoretical categories for analyzing the contexts in which the texts were instantiated. Taking into consideration the research objective, we will focus on the ideational metafunction of language, more precisely on the TRANSITIVITY system, of the clauses in which pre-service teachers make referent to basic schoolteachers. Matthiessen (2001, p.99) argues that “the clause is a strong candidate for the unit of analysis” and that “detailed lexicogrammatical analysis of […] texts are an important source of insight” for studies of language in context. Bearing this in mind together with the idea that the clause is realized simultaneously by the three metafunctions, our choice in focusing on the ideational one does not exclude reference to and reliance on the other two since they are inextricably crucial to the realization of language in context. As the focus of attention of the present study is given to analazying and discussing the representation of basic school teachers in two set of texts, the ideational metafunction was isolated for investigative purposes as it allows us unpack the realization of participants construed from the configuration of processes within a determined context of situation, as discussed by Matthiessen and Halliday:

TRANSITIVITY is concerned with construing one particular domain of our experience – our experience the flux of “goings-on”, as configurations of a process (of some general type: material, mental, relational), the participants involved in it (Actor, Goal; Senser, Phenomenon; Carrier, Attribute; and so on), and circumstances attendant on it (Cause, Location, Manner (including means and instrument), Accompaniment, and so on) (MATTHIESSEN; HALLIDAY, 2009, p.57).

In line with the ideational strata of meaning, Representation is conceptualized in this study from a socio-semiotic perspective as established in the interface of SFL and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA, henceforth). Representation can be defined, in functional terms, as meaning construed from linguistic choices as a way of construing basic school teachers in and beyond the environment of compulsory supervised pre-service teacher training interactive context, including its discourses and social practices.

Research methodology

This research is situated in the transdisciplinary field of Applied Linguistics. Even though having SFL as the main theory informing the present study, other areas of enquiry are used to establish a dialogue of scientific knowledge in order to complement and shed light on the fuzzy boundaries that may be found during investigation. This complex and complementary methodological approach is justified from the very fact that the texts investigated here are construed in a complex contextual environment. In other words, the texts involve two educational institutions, namely, the university and the basic school and the functional focus is given to the language structure as it is inherently motivated by the discourses and social practices surrounding the compulsory pre-service teacher training academic subject.

In order to have a holistic view over the data, theoretical and methodological categories are used combining knowledge from distinct areas of research that can contribute with complementary angles and perspectives for the complex research paradigm proposed here. Not mutually exclusive, quantitative and qualitative approaches are used. For the quantitative line of enquiry, we employ the computational software known as WordSmith Tools 5.0 (SCOTT, 2008) and for the qualitative approach we rely on, but not solely on, the analytical categories offered by SFL as they offer grounds for describing the ways basic school teachers are represented in the data set of the present research. As an example of how we will blend distinct areas of research to aid qualitative investigation, on the one hand, Education Studies (LÜDKE; BOING, 2012; NÓVOA, 2007) come in to take care of the relationship of the two institutions under investigations, namely, the basic school and the university. On the other hand, studies produced in the field of creative writing (HUNT; SAMPSON, 2006) and literacy (LILLIS; SCOTT, 2007; SILVA, 2013; 2012a; 2012b) are made use of for they are able to characterize the professional reflexive writing under investigation. Such combination of voices and critical review of literature is required for the description ofthe research context for a well-grounded development of the linguistic data analysis.

The data of this research is composed by two sets of texts that are available for academic activities in a documentation and study center named Centro Interdisciplinar de Memória dos Estágios Supervisionados das Licenciaturas (CIMES), located at Universidade Federal do Tocantins (UFT), Araguaína Campus, Brazil5. These texts were produced during field notes and pre-service training. The data consists of 8 texts for field notes and 8 texts for pre-service teacher training reports. The field notes may be seen as attachments in the final pre-service teacher training report, which is a final assignment that students have to submit in the end of the semester. There were a total of 12 (twelve) reports at CIMES, however, only in 8 (eight) of them the attachment (field notes) were made available. Due to concentrating research effort on the retextualization of field notes into the reports, we have excluded the 4 (four) reports that did not include notes attached.Another criterion was to look only at the most recent documents made available in CIMES.

In a nutshell, the research looks at the training subject in which the pre-service teacher observes Portuguese Language lessons that were taught by basic schoolteachers. In the training subject, the reports focus on school social actors (basic school teacher, students, documentation, to name but a few); whereas during the field notes pre-service teachers need to bring into discussion the performance of schoolteachers as well.

Reflexive professional writing production context

Compulsory pre-service teacher training is organized in two distinct stages of learning. In the first stage, at university, pre-service teachers attend theoretical and practical lessons where academic knowledge is introduced as it can contribute more directly to their practices in the basic schools. During orientation sessions, lessons and pedagogical materials are planned in order to be used by the pre-service teachers in basic schools. Sometimes, during these sessions, there is also space where pre-service teachers can verbally share their experiences lived during their practicum. The practicum is the second stage of learning. The practicum is carried out at a basic school and pre-service teachers observe lessons that are taught in a subject connected to their undergraduate teacher-training program. After observing these lessons for five teaching hours, pre-service teachers have to teach 21 teaching hours, in accordance with the workload of each subject. Pre-service teachers will do their teaching, preferably, in the same group of students they have been observing. The whole process is supervised by the teacher responsible for the compulsory pre-service teacher-training subject.

Figure 2 below represents the organization of the compulsory pre-service teacher-training environment. Such context is subject to analysis from two genres that are seen as tools that mediate learning in the pre-service teacher scenario, namely, field notes and pre-service teacher training reports.Both of these products are characterized as academic literacy events, texts that are commonly a requirement of undergraduate teacher-training program.For the present study, we have only selected the texts that were produced during the first compulsory pre-service training, in which pre-service teachers only observe lessons. During the following three semesters of the undergraduate program, there are subjects that pre-service teachers need to observe as well as teach, but these subjects are out of the scope of this research.

Source: Adapted from Silva (2014, p.55).

Figure 2 – Context of the compulsory pre-service training 

The two learning stages of the compulsory pre-service training are displayed in Figure 2 above together with the main social actors who are involved in the writing interaction triggered in the literacy events aforementioned. The field notes are produced by pre-service teachers during their visits to the basic schools while observing the classes that are being developed by the schoolteachers, being this the first teacher training subject pre-service teachers attend. As for the teacher trainers, s/he is not portrayed in the figure above, as the academic subject investigated here does not supervise observation, which is the main focus of the present study.

In principle, the field notes are firstly written as an aid to help pre-service teachers remember all the experienced lived while observing the classes in basic schools, and later they become an aid in writing the pre-service training report. Usually, the field notes are handwritten during pre-service teacher’s stay at the basic school. Later on, the field notes are formatted and typed, so that they can be presented as short texts respecting a chronological sequence that is identified by the date and number of class observed. When the reports are written, the field notes are attached into the final version of the reports (i.e., a final assignment of the subject). Meaning that these notes do undergo some kind of revision based on the pre-service teacher’s re-writing, but on the other hand, the teacher trainer becomes the pre-service teacher ‘interlocutor’, when these notes have to undergo revision based on the teacher trainer’s comments.

The pre-service teacher reports results in what we call reflexive professional writing. We see such as a type of writing that is used as an instrument of mediation to promote the empowerment of pre-service teacher education. The textual organization of the reports are quite diverse, this is mostly due to compulsory pre-service teacher training at universities not having a systematic structure of the dynamism of such training/contexts. Silva (2012a, p.287) points out to “[…] the lack of consensus among the educators responsible for coordinating and teaching the supervised pre-service training subjects as regards the operationalization of official guidelines concerning the subject.”

Despite not being our objective to investigate the schematic structure of the selected reports, in general terms, a simple internal organization could be observed (SILVA, 2013; 2012a; 2012b). Besides including pre-textual elements, such as, covers, index, acknowledgment and epigraph, references and attachment most of them also included: (i) an introductory section: containing the objectives of his/her compulsory pre-service teacher training; and, the general information about the school, the teacher and the group of students; (ii) a core section: part that reports and discusses the experiences lived in the basic school, the discussion part is, at times, presented in a separate section or in subsections focusing on the school infrastructure and/or contents concerning Portuguese Language Teaching, such as reading, writing and grammar; (iii) a conclusion section: this section explores pre-service teacher’s most relevant aspects of the experiences reported previously as well as discussing contributions of the practicum to their education. All of these sections are identifiable by headings or by paragraph division when in a single section.

Although the social actors directly involved in the compulsory pre-service teacher training as represented in Figure 2, in the set of texts under investigation, the only interactants portrayed are the pre-service teachers and their trainers, while schoolteachers and students are almost not given reference to. Usually basic schools teachers and students do not have access to the pre-service teacher training reports, regardless the fact that all of the reports from the past four years are made available for consultation in the CIMES documentation center. The writers of the reports do not aim at writing this to basic schoolteachers and students since these social actors are not immersed in the academic context and therefore, they do not make use or even visit the services and spaces provided by CIMES. The non-contact that basic schools actors have with the training reports is evidence of the absence of a close cooperation between the two institutions involved in the supervised compulsory pre-service teacher training subject.

Pre-service teacher training writing

Over the past years, Brazilian undergraduate teacher training programs have been criticized due to their overvaluation of theoretical knowledge and undervaluation of teaching practice demands (LÜDKE; CRUZ, 2005). Because of this sort of critics, a great responsibility falls on the compulsory pre-service teacher training subject, as the subject provides a closer approximation of university and basic schools, which goes in accordance with Lüdke and Boing’s (2012, p.430) claim that “[…] we are convinced that the preparation of teachers-to-be, currently the responsibility of universities, is in fact lacking on the practical side, since universities are more concerned with theoretical training.”

The responsibility mentioned in the paragraph above is not restricted to the situational context of the present research, this is an issue that is widespread worldwide as observed by Nóvoa (2007) in a study carried out in the Portuguese context. In this study, the author highlighted his concern in terms of the need for education that is more centered on practice and practice analysis as a challenge for teacher education. He says:

Teacher education is, sometimes, excessively theoretical, other times, excessively methodological, but there is deficiency in practices, in reflecting about practices, in knowing how to do. It is hopeless to see certain teachers who are genuinely willing to do differently, but just do not know how. They have the body and mind full of theories, books, thesis, authors, but they do not know how all of that becomes practice, how all of that is organized in a coherent practice. This is the reason why, I have for so many years, supported the idea of education – training – that is centered in practices and in the analysis of such practices. (NÓVOA, 2007, p.14, italics added, our translation)6.

The fact that the author points to practice in teacher education is not the most relevant aspect of his idea. Practice that is isolated may also become ineffective. However, the very fact of pointing to the education that offers tools for teachers-in-training to build up the capacity of reflecting and analyzing practices experienced in the workplace (NÓVOA, 2007) should be at the core of any teacher training program. In this context, the uses of reflexive professional writing are taken as a didactic strategy that strengthen the practical work undertaken by pre-service teacher in their undergraduate teacher training programs.

Pre-service teachers produce the written texts under investigation as a linguistic-discursive space. This kind of written allows the pre-service teacher to combine, explicitly or implicitly, academic theories with the pedagogical practices from basic schools. Therefore, these texts are oriented by theoretical and practical knowledge with the utmost aim of reminding, critically discussing and reflecting the teaching/learning situations experienced by pre-service teachers in basic schools. Likewise, these texts are commonly known as “reflexive writing” in research contexts of Applied Linguistics, Education and Psychology, in studies developed by Burton et al. (2009), Gibson (2003), Silva (2013; 2012b) and Hunt and Sampson (2006), for instance.

In the field notes and the pre-service training reports, the focus of attention is given to reflexive professional writing from a linguistic point of view. According to Lillis and Scott (2007, p.19) this kind of writing is “[…] an increasingly common type of writing in university courses related to professional/vocational practice and experience.” In teacher education contexts, the common use of reflexive professional writing can be accounted for if compared to the traditional academic literacy practices. That is, the world represented in writing seems to be distanced from the writer, and the need of academic theoretical voices might silence pre-service teachers from representing in their own words the experiences lived during their compulsory pre-service teacher training in basic schools. Moreover, these might be students’ first steps into the academic field. It is through this kind of writing that pre-service teachers will be able to express their point of views, feelings, emotions and evaluation about the experienced lived during their practicum in the basic school classroom. Within the field of creative writing, Hunt and Sampson (2006, p.4) say that

Reflexivity is a different process and potentially a deeper one. At its heart is a particular kind of ‘engagement with an ‘other’’, whether another person or oneself as ‘other’. Where reflection could be said to involve taking something into oneself – a topic, an event, a relationship – for the purpose of contemplation or examination, reflexivity involves putting something out in order that something new might come into being. It involves creating an internal space, distancing ourselves from ourselves, as it were, so that we are both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ ourselves simultaneously and able to switch back and forth fluidly and playfully from on position to the other, giving ourselves up to the experience of ‘self as other’ whilst also retaining a grounding in our familiar sense of self.

Field notes are the embryonic step into the chain of the literacy events that are generated during the compulsory pre-service teacher training. This process results in what is called here as reflexive professional writing, which can be seen as a hybrid distinctive register construed in pre-service teacher education in the training reports. Such reflexive writing may allow compulsory pre-service teacher training to become a more practical approach to the combination of practice and theory as opposed to the other academic subjects that make use of mere academic writing per se.

As a way of exemplifying what reflexive professional writing is, we reproduce below a sample of training report taken from the data of the present study, in which pre-service teachers highlight some uses of field notes for teacher education both during pre-service teacher training as well as for application in their future workplace while carrying out teaching activities after concluding their undergraduate degrees. Example 1 discusses both the subject matter, in italics in both Portuguese as well as in the English translation,and the function (underlined in both Portuguese and English versions) of text production within teaching workplace. Field notes are seen as a facilitation tool of the teacher’s daily professional activities. In writing notes, pre-service teachers become familiarized with reflecting over their own actions and ideas still during their undergraduate degrees (Os diários são mais que meras anotações, são um meio para refletir a respeito dos aspectos do meio escolar. –The diaries are more than simple notes, they become a means for reflection about aspects of the school environment.). During the compulsory pre-service training, the reflection that the pre-service teacher refers to in example 1 is enabled through the retextualization process, when students (pre-service teachers) retextualize their field notes into their training reports.

In order to exemplify pre-service teacher’s perception regarding the chain of literacy events involved in their training, Example 2 is given below. In this passage, it becomes evident that pre-service teachers make use of training reports as an important tool for thinking/reflecting on the experiences they lived during the practicum in the basic schools (é importante para pensarmos a respeito da prática pedagógica que começaremos a desempenhar dentro de pouco tempo–[Øit] is important to think about the pedagogical practice that we will start to carry out in a very short time).

A rather intriguing aspect to bring into the fore here is that pre-service teachers do not see their experiences in the basic schools as a moment for knowledge exchange with the teacher being observed, but as a moment where their observation will allow them to improve the inefficient pedagogical practices that they are able to detected during their practicum (planejar melhor as aulas e fazer diferente o que foi visto como reprovável durante o período de observação.– to better plan lessons and try to make different what we have seen as unapproving during the observation period). In the Brazilian university context, several times, what is observed is that pre-service teachers use reflexive professional writing as a tool for reproducing the asymmetrical relationship between universities and basic schools. When the student feels that he has the freedom to only criticize basic schools, he puts himself in a prestigious position as he is talking from the university stand.

In both writings investigated in the present study, pre-service teachers represent numerous social actors who play a role in the experiences lived during the compulsory teacher-training subject. However, we will devote direct attention to the representation of Brazilian basic schoolteachers as realized in both field notes and training reports. The main objective of this investigation is to demonstrate through a linguistic based analysis what these representations construe in terms of pre-service teacher education. Furthermore, these representations might be indicative of pre-service teacher’s view regarding the social actors involved in the complex context of the compulsory pre-service teacher training, more specifically in what regards schoolteachers as they are the central participants in teaching institutions. According to Lüdke and Boing (2012, p.448), the basic school teacher is to be seen as “[…] a cognizant subject who is able to feel emotions, who acts under tensions in a situation that is structured and yet open in a significant measure.”

In this context, the data analyzed so far in this research proves that the pre-service teachers in focus do possess a more critical view as compared to other research (SILVA; MELO, 2008; SILVA; PEREIRA, 2013, for instance) developed in Brazil, but which focus on single stages of the supervised compulsory training in the same undergraduate degree. Lüdke and Boing (2012, p.448) say that this more critical view owned by pre-service teachers are a “in-situation approach”, that is, it is a view made possible by having access to the complex approach that allows the observer to visualize the network that connects the many social actors interacting within the various social school spaces. The authors claim that

within a reality that is socially and culturally constructed, there is action and interaction between and among several players, and in the center of the stage are the teacher and his or her students. This in-situation approach has sought to unveil how these subjects, by simultaneously taking into consideration the demands and constraints inherent in the situation (programs, curricula, norms, settings and other elements characteristic of the “school form”), but by also being attentive to the undeniable role of creativity and initiative proper to the teacher and his or her students, make up what the researchers call configurations. There are a considerable number of unpredictable aspects in every classroom and there is an important component of creativity and initiative within the teacher’s jurisdiction. He or she acts as an individual, as a member of a community (of a time, of culture, of a métier), having received a given training and making use of resources learned during the training and from others, as an active subject, making his professional way, and seeking fulfillment from his or her work, to which knowledge the contributions of sciences such as sociology and psychology are essential. (LÜDKE; BOING, 2012, p.448)

From a quantitative point of view, pre-service teachers construe the student and the teacher as the main social actors in their writing. This finding can be seen in Table 1 where the ten most recurrent lexical words of the data can be found. For the quantitative analysis presented in this section, we have made use of the analytical tools made available by WordSmith Tools 5.0 (SCOTT, 2008), namely Wordlist. The total number of lexical and grammatical words in field notes was 13,382 and 20,954 in the pre-service training reports.

Table 1 – Most frequent lexical words 

1. Student 403 3.01 331 1.57 734 2.14
2. Teacher 306 2.28 224 1.06 530 1.54
3. Lesson 220 1.65 215 1.03 435 1.27
4. Activity 190 1.41 58 0.27 248 0.72
5. Text 77 0.57 109 0.52 186 0.54
6. School 17 0.13 124 0.59 141 0.41
7. Reading 60 0.44 66 0.31 126 0.37
8. Education 2 0.01 117 0.56 119 0.35
9. Classroom 53 0.40 66 0.31 119 0.34
10. Language 1 0.00 84 0.40 85 0.25

Source: Silva (2014, p, p.65).

An important aspect that was revealed by looking at the number of words in each text is the fact that even though fields notes are shorter texts, the number of occurrences of the student and the teacher are more expressive in these texts as compared to the training reports. Despite these two social actors being of central importance in the context of teaching and learning in accordance with pre-service teachers’ points of view, the repetition of these two lexical items are seen as a less elaborated text as its lexical density becomes lessened (HALLIDAY, 1993). Therefore, field notes function as tools for registering noticeable interactional situations during the lessons observed in the basic schools as well as an aid material for later retextualizing the most relevant situations into pre-service training reports

In the field notes column,the first four participants (1 – 4) are the most frequent items occurring as lexical words when compared to the report column. These words cover general participants who are recognized by diverse pre-service teachers from other undergraduate teaching programs and not only by the undergraduate pre-service teachers from the Portuguese Language and Literature programs.The other six lexical words (5 to 10) are imbued with pre-service teachers’ awareness of the next writing assignment they need to complete, that is, the training reports. This result shows that even though focusing significantly on the student, teacher, lesson and, activity students do take into consideration the whole social semiotic environment involving other social actors such as the ones found in Table 1 from 5 to 10, in doing so pre-service teachers are able to handle the text as regards the social actors responsible for the problems and virtues observed at the basic schools. In these texts, students’ discourse about social actors are directly related to language teaching (i.e. text; reading; language) as well as the social actors that enable articulations with broader issues in the education sphere (i.e. school; education; classroom).

Within this discourse complexity, the uses of education and language are genuine examples of the expressive differences occurring in the retextualization process.The lexical word education besides representing the educational level where the supervised pre-service training takes place (as Basic Education) allowing the writers to expound on the challenges of teaching the mother tongue as well as the other challenges faced among the diverse school subjects. When making use of the lexical word language, students are able to elucidate the issues related to the specificities of teaching the mother tongue stating that what frequently happens is the articulation of the academic literature as an authority argument and a ‘didactization’ tool (MELO; GONÇALVES; SILVA, 2013).

The two sets of texts also underwent a lexical density quantitative analysis. The field notes and pre-service teacher training reports are compiled together in the table below. That is, we have displayed the number of token, types and type/token ratio7 for every set of text (1 to 8) for each genre. The numbers point to the finding that when in the process of retextualization, reflexive professional writing undergoes improvement. Such fact may be evidence to reinforcing the unbalanced relation of the encounter of the two educational institutions tackled in this study.

Nearly all the paired texts show that pre-service training reports are longer texts when compared to field notes, the only exception being pair number eight. Despite pre-service teachers selecting facts registered in their field notes, they discuss these facts based on their points of views backed up from academic literature, trying to link, in this way, their points of views to the theoretical knowledge gained during their undergraduate teacher training courses.Another relevant aspect of reports being longer is the fact that when retextualizing, pre-service teachers usually have given a much more detailed description of the school and the group of students where the classes were observed. Besides detailing this information, they include considerations concerning the contributions of the compulsory pre-service teacher training for their education, which is never found in the field notes.

The increase of number of tokens in the reports, as may be seen in Table 2 above, does not follow the same proportion of number of types. This is observed in occurrences 2, 3, 6 and 7 in which the type/token ratio becomes smaller in the reports when compared with the numbers observed in the field notes, which might be an indication that reports are less elaborated as they present a higher number of repeated words. Moreover, the total type/token ratio of the paired texts shows a very similar relation in terms of lexical density. The similarity here observed is indicative of the lack of supervision during the process of retextualization,since the field notes are rather simple texts and transfer some of its linguistic features to pre-service training reports.

Table 2 – Lexical density 

N N %
1 Field Notes 1,481 469 31.67
Reports 2,337 857 36.41
2 Field Notes 2,053 694 33.80
Reports 3,860 1,143 29.61
3 Field Notes 1,152 462 40.10
Reports 1,775 684 38.54
4 Field Notes 2,154 682 31.66
Reports 2,539 898 35.37
5 Field Notes 1,272 415 32.63
Reports 1,607 639 39.76
6 Field Notes 1,832 627 34.22
Reports 3,359 1,086 32.33
7 Field Notes 1,187 423 35.64
Reports 3,730 1,230 32.98
8 Field Notes 2,251 660 29.32
Reports 1,747 670 38.35
TOTAL Field Notes 13,382 2,388 17.84
TOTAL Reports 20,954 3,633 17.34

Source: Silva (2014, p, p.68).

Representations of Brazilian schoolteachers

Processes related to the basic schoolteacher as the grammatical subject

A quantitative analysis regarding the total number of process encountered in the data of this ongoing study was carried out in order to have a general picture of how often the basic schoolteacher was construed as the grammatical subject of the clause. For the present study we are looking at the grammatical subject as “the person with whom the message is concerned” (HALLIDAY; MATTHIESSEN, 2004, p.55). To facilitate searching for this participant, WordSmith Tools, in particular Concord Tools (SCOTT, 2008) was applied to investigate the occurrences in the data set. In Table 3, the four types of process identified in the set of texts as well as their frequency are presented8. For a better visualization of the number of occurrences of each process type, we also present the results in a graphic display.

Table 3 – Process types 

PROCESS Material Verbal Relational Mental TOTAL
GENRE N % N % N % N % N %
Field Notes 216 52.4 157 38.1 24 5.8 15 3.6 412 77.1
Reports 57 46.7 20 16.4 31 25.4 14 11.5 122 22.8
TOTAL 273 51.1 177 33.1 55 10.2 29 5.4 534 100

Source: Silva (2014, p.86).

Source: Silva (2014, p.86).

Chart 1 – Process types 

In the results in the table above, material (216 occurrences) and mental (15 occurrences) process are the most and the least recurrent choices, respectively, of process realization in the field notes, however, when compared with the training reports the number of clauses realized by a material process (57 occurrences) falls drastically. Relational process, though, are much more frequent in the training reports (31 occurrences) as compared to fields notes (24 occurrences), and the number of mental clauses is very similar in both genres. Another fact concerns verbal process, on the one hand field notes frequently construe the teacher involved in a verbal clause (157 occurrences), on the other hand, the teacher is much less involved in verbalizing in the training reports (20 occurrences). These numbers point to the inherent purpose of each of the texts, that is, while field notes are devoted to penning down as many of the situations experienced in the practicum as possible, the pre-service training reports will pass through a selection of all of these experiences lived and penned down in the notes in order to retextualize in a more academic fashion his/her former words. A more balanced use of process types as may be seen in the training reports is evidence of the discourse complexity involved in this genre.

These results show that basic schoolteachers are represented as social actors who undertake their occupations by doing (material process) and talking (verbal process). What this suggests is that pre-service teachers’ eye is oriented towards the external performances of the basic schoolteacher in the workplace, that is, towards what pre-service teachers are able to explicitly observe in the teaching context without dedicating too much effort to understanding in between lines.

The clauses given below are rather illustrative examples of these kinds of occurrences found in the data set of the present study. The following four examples were chosen for they contemplate the same topic both in the field notes as well as in the training reports. By doing so, we are able to compare the realization of the representation categories of Brazilian basic schoolteachers, as discussed in the following subsection9.

In Examples 3 and 4 above, the schoolteacher is construed as the agent responsible for the actions carried out in the Portuguese lessons observed. When the teacher takes part in a material clause (passou; busca levar - gave; tries to bring) s/he becomes the Actor of the process, while verbal clauses (pediu - asked) s/he is construed as the Sayer of the verbal process. The element A professora (The teacher) is quite often realized as the Theme of clauses giving evidence to the relevance of this social actor in the texts under investigation.These two examples show how the same experience of the external world may be represented in two distinct ways. In other words, while in the field notes modalizers (apenas, sem nenhuma explicação prévia - only and without any previous explanation, respectively) are used to point to the teacher as the sole responsible for the unproductive teaching activity; in the training reports, pre-service teachers highlight the relevance of reading activities through short literature books, impinging the focus of attention to the more productive didactic procedures instead of those less productive ones. At a later stage of the report, the pre-service teacher presents some suggestions and contributions in what concerns the optimization of the activity that was merely proposed by the teacher, this kind of further reflection characterizes reflexive professional writing.

Taking into consideration the fact that relational clauses serve to characterize and to identify (HALLIDAY; MATTHIESSEN, 2004), the low number of occurrences of relational process in the set of texts here investigated may be evidence of pre-service teachers’ avoidance of directly judging basic school teachers. However, as observed in the occurrences presented above, some traces of judgment may be seen in the example 3 given above.

The construal of mental clauses tend to require an extensive involvement from the writer as the world represented through language is a creation of an event once construed in the writer’s mind and not a mere direct description of the fact experienced. The projected ideas found in the mental clauses, of the data set of reports at hand, are used for enhancing pre-service teacher’s reflexive professional writing.Such uses happen to a lesser extent in the field notes since field notes are recorded during the exact same time as basic schoolteachers are performing their professional duties within the observed classroom. Such finding is likely to be accountable of the expressive number of occurrences of relational and mental clauses in the training reports under investigation.

In order to illustrate how relational and mental clauses are construed in the data here analyzed, Examples 5 and 6 are presented in tabular form below. The ideas that pre-service teachers convey in the next two examples (field notes) seem to be rather incisive once these are the textualization of what is happening within the classroom during the practicum.

In the Example 5 above, the possessive relational clause (os alunos e a professora mantivesse um diálogo continuoif the students and the teacher would keep a continuous dialogue) is a projection of what the writer assumes/thinks (Tenho em mente – I have in mind) to be an efficient way of dealing with the activities proposed. Such kind of realization is characterized as basic schoolteacher painted by, in the case here, pre-service teacher. Driving attention to example 6, the mental process percebi (I noticed) allows the projection of another mental clause (que a professora não soube aproveitarthat the teacher was not able to use the opportunity). The pre-service teacher is, then, the Senser of the latter clause. In other words, the internal world of consciousness of the pre-service teacher construed while s/he is observing the teaching situation is externalized in the field notes as s/he is evaluating and exposing his/her personal experiences in how to create a more effective teaching situation. Therefore, the schoolteacher is represented as an agent responsible for the action as projected through the pre-service teacher’s own mental configuration of the experience lived in the classroom.

Representation of schoolteacher as the grammatical subject

The set of texts composing the data of the present study has provided us with macro-categories used for representing schoolteachers, these categories emerged from the types of clauses produced by pre-service teachers writing. The categories are: (i) Teacher as agent, realized in material, verbal and mental clauses; (ii) Teacher painted as, realized in relational clauses. The two macro-categories are presented in Table 4 below together with the corresponding clause number used for exemplification purposes in this paper and the grammatical configuration in which the schoolteacher is represented.

Table 4 – Categories of representations 

Representation Category: Teacher as Agent
Teacher’s Own Actions Action Proposed by Others
Explicit (3, 4, 6, 10) Implicit (7) By PST (8, 10) By Legal Agent (9)
Description of Grammatical Pattern
Teacher is explicitly represented functioning as Actor, Sayer or Senser. The clause is realized in the indicative MOOD and it can be projected by a mental clause. Teacher is implicitly represented in the material or verbal clause, realized in passive constructions. This construction might even be a projection of a mental clause. Teacher is explicitly represented functioning as Actor, Sayer or Senser. The clause is usually modalized and it can also be a projection of a mental clause Teacher is explicitly represented functioning as Actor. The clause is usually modalized. The clause is the projection of a verbal clause. The legal agent can be any official document or author.
Representation Category: Teacher Painted as(something)
By Others By himself (10)
Explicit (5) Implicit (7)
Description of Grammatical Pattern
Teacher represented in a relational clause that is the projection of a mental clause in which the Senser is recorded (active voice). Teacher represented in a relational clause that is a projection of a mental clause in which the grammatical subject is not explicated (passive voice). The teacher is also represented in single relational clause. Teacher is represented in a relational clause accompanied by a reflexive pronoun.

Source: Silva (2014, p.91).

Teacher’s Own Actions Implicit is shown in Example 7 below, which is realized by a clause complex. On a first note, the pre-service teacher uses of a projection (indentificar queidentify) as a way of judging the schoolteacher’s actions as one who does things (estava sendo colocado; era colocado – was being given; was put, respectively) but is not accountable for it explicitly in the clauses. Through the use of projection the author is able to construe passive realizations where the Actor is left implicit to the reader’s comprehension, taking all of the responsibility out of the writer’s hands when s/he judges the way teaching of reading and writing is being taught during his/her in-class observations. This kind of grammatical construction does not foreground the basic school teacher, is found to be typical in the type of texts produced during the practicum, since this type of observation is prone to generate either compliments or criticisms.In the second clause complex, a different construction is observed: the Brazilian schoolteacher is realized in hypotactic constructions as the one accountable for the quality of teaching. However, once more, the pre-service teacher does not appear in this construction as the one who has observed and experienced all of those situations being described. Similar to the first clause complex of Example 7, this type of grammatical pattern emerges quite frequently in order to raise criticisms as regards the educational setting being observed by pre-service teachers, but in the embedded relational clause the Brazilian schoolteacher is painted by pre-service teacher in an implicit way.

Teacher as agent of action proposed by pre-service teacher is presented in Example 8. Based on the teaching situation experienced, the writer links his/her previous reference to the literature in order to suggest didactic procedures that could be followed by the basic schoolteacher as a form of improving students’ education. These suggestions are reinforced by the use of the modal operator deve (should) to form verbal groups in combination with material and verbal process (orientar,incentivar, explicitar – guide, motivate, explain). The basic schoolteacher is here represented as not only doing and saying, but one endowed with consciousness.

Having the Teacher as an agent of actions assigned by legal agents is a feature found in training reports as can be seen in the clause complex of Example 9 below. In this occurrence, the official national curriculum guideline to Portuguese language teaching in Brazil (called PCN) is thematized as the Sayer of the projecting clause. By making use of a legal voice, the writer is able to expose the adoption of a more effective teaching of grammar that is to be employed by the schoolteacher, who, according to the pre-service teacher report, is making use of a traditional grammar approach. In the training reports, theoretical knowledge regarding the school subject focused here is presented in opposition to the pedagogical practices observed, ignoring reasons that might explain certain didactic procedures undertaken in the classroom. The projected hypotactic clause of clause complex, Example 9, is an expansion of the idea of how the PCN’s suggest the teaching of this form of grammar.

A clause complex that can be segmented into four paratactic clauses constitutes Example 10 given below. In these complexes of clauses we are able to identify what we have classified as Teacher painted by him/herself (see Table 4 above). In the second clause of the clause complex, the Carrier (A professoraThe teacher) is an elliptical element which can be retrieved from verbal inflection realized in the relational process mostrava (looked). The reflexive pronoun as seen in the Portuguese construal(se) appearing before the process mostrava (looked) takes any responsibility away from the writer as s/he states that the teacher presented him/herself in such unmotivated way. The schoolteacher is also the Subject of the other clauses in example 10, s/he is explicitly represented as the teacher agent of his/her own actions through the construal of mental and material clauses.

The representation of basic schoolteachers points to a need of complexifying the view construed by universities as regards what is done in basic schools. Such construal is done in a way that students from the Teacher Training Undergraduate Studies (Letras in this case) end up seeing several other actors responsible for teaching and learning in basic education, which leads to a certain pre-judgement of the teacher who is responsible for the classroom. Pre-service teachers need, therefore, to try to comprehend possible reasons for the scenarios observed during practicum. Despite this finding, the present research also demonstrated that this special kind of academic writing, reflexive professional writing, can in fact contribute to training a teacher that is critical and aware of the demands coming from the workplace. When we compared report writing to the field notes, which were produced previously during practicum, it was possible to observe that in the reports students were able to expand their views as regards teaching practices of the subjects that they have observed and are being trained for.

Final considerations

As the grammatical subject of the clause, Brazilian basic schoolteachers are represented in the data analyzed as an agent who is often acting or saying something to ensure a bearable interaction between the social actors involved in the classroom. Such representation was more expressive in the field notes, where pre-service teachers are concerned with recording the maximum amount of information as possible so as to retextualize a substantial training report.

As for the training reports, pre-service teachers seem to complexify their views regarding the classes observed. Other social actors are brought into discussion in the reports reducing schoolteachers’ responsibility in terms of the encountered teaching situation. Brazilian basic schoolteachers are represented in the reports as the agents who are able to decide or reflect on the teaching situation in their workplaces, even if this decision/reflection is construed by an external actor. They are also represented as professionals who are, explicitly or not, subject to evaluation.

On a more practical level, which may be seen as the strongest contribution of this research, we observed that Brazilian schoolteachers are not represented as pre-service teachers’ interlocutors, which suggests a lack of experience exchange. This result gives evidence to the fact that there is a continuous disharmony at play between the educational institutions involved in the compulsory pre-service teacher training program.

Especially construed in the training report, reflexive professional writing is able to trigger an important function on pre-service teacher education, even though its current uses in the academic field still require a more comprehensive application so as to enhance teacher’s critical literacy.

Finally, it is of utmost importance to recall that results presented here belong to an ongoing research. In the next steps, we intend to develop a quantitative analysis of the categories of representation that were discussed here. Also the research will continue to investigate the representation of Brazilian teachers, however, looking at him/her as realized by other grammatical function(s), that is, as a participant target of an action or as a circumstantial element in the construction of the data set of the present research. The language of evaluation, as basic schoolteachers are praised or criticized while being represented, also deserves a closer attention in pre-service teachers’ writing, as is the case of the study at hand.


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1 This paper was presented during the 40 ISFC – International Systemic Functional Linguistics Congress – in Guangzhou, China, 15-19 July 2013. It is part of the Postdoctoral project entitled “Representations of Basic School Teachers in Written Reports of Supervised Pre-service Training in the Licensures: from Grammar to Discourse”, developed by the first author of this paper, at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The project is funded by CAPES Foundation, Ministry of Education of Brazil (BEX 11536/12-8). It also contributes to the scientific investigations developed by the research group “Práticas de Linguagens” – PLES (UFT/CNPq).

2Licenciatura can be translated into Licentiateship, however, due to the many possible translation equivalents assigned to such a term, we are using the general umbrella term Degree. Licenciatura is the degree awarded to “a person who has received a formal attestation of professional competence to practice a certain profession or teach a certain skill or subject” (THE COLLINS ENGLISH DICTIONARY, 2013). The results of the present research took on where Silva (2014) has left off.

3 As a response to such tense and disharmonious relationship, the Brazilian government has created some programs to motivate collaborative work between these two educational institutions. These programs are know as: PIBID (Programa Institucional de Bolsa de Iniciação à Docência) and Prodocência (Programa de Consolidação das Licenciaturas). Groups of pre-service teachers receive scholarships to develop teaching and research activities, within the context of basic schools, under the supervision of a university teacher. As for the former program, schoolteachers and university teachers, who are members of a team, may also receive scholarships. The guiding aim of such programs is the consolidation of pre-service teacher education inside public basic schools in Brazil

4 According to Halliday (1989, p.10), “[…] the text is a product in the sense that it is an output, something that can be record and studied, having a certain construction that can be represented in systemic terms. It is a process in the sense of a continuous process of semantic choice, a movement through the network of meaning potential, with each set of choices constituting the environment for a further set.”

5 Currently, there are approximately 3 thousand written training reports available at CIMES. These documents were produced by pre-service teachers in different undergraduate degrees in Araguaína Campus (Chemistry; English Teaching; Geography; Mathematic; Physics; Portuguese Teaching).

6 “A formação do professor é, por vezes, excessivamente teórica, outras vezes, excessivamente metodológica, mas há um déficit de práticas, de refletir sobre as práticas, de trabalhar sobre as práticas, de saber como fazer. É desesperante ver certos professores que têm genuinamente uma enorme vontade de fazer de outro modo e não sabem como. Têm o corpo e a cabeça cheios de teoria, de livros, de teses, de autores, mas não sabem como aquilo tudo se transforma em prática, como aquilo tudo se organiza numa prática coerente. Por isso, tenho defendido, há muitos anos, a necessidade de uma formação centrada nas práticas e na análise dessas práticas.” (NÓVOA, 2007, p.14, italics added).

7 According to Cheng (2012, p.218), token refers to “each word in a corpus irrespective of whether or not it is repeated”; type refers to “each distinct word in a corpus (a frequency count of type does not include repeats of each distinct word)”; type/token ratio refers to “the proportions of distinct words and total number of words in a corpus”.

8 Besides the four process types identified in Table 3, in the field notes there was one occurrence only of existential process in which schoolteacher is realized as the Existent.

9 Throughout the examples reproduced in this paper, we use some systemic functional linguistic analysis conventions to facilitate data reading. These are: number: paratactic clause; lowercase Greek alphabet: hypotactic clause; = : elaboration; + : extension; x : enhancement; “ : locution; ‘ : idea.

Received: May 2014; Accepted: October 2014

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