Teaching, learning and reflective practice by cometjunkie57

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									Teaching, Learning and Reflective Practice
Presented by Maureen Massam Lecturer, Learning Support Netowrk, Office of the Vice Chancellory, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia 6845 Telephone 9266 2066 Email m.massam@curtin.edu.au Theme Cross-cultural communication/Intergenerational learning Presentation Lecture/discussion


Abstract Reflective practice is a form of expertise and part of our brief in a climate of internationalisation to work toward bridging cultures. It is argued the most profound purpose of teaching is to facilitate others to create the best lives they can. Often we forget our power – our duty – to impact so widely. Reflection will keep us moving along the continuum towards effective practice in our classrooms which will resonate further as our students become lifelong learners. Assessment processes and insightful modifications can be part of a reflective cycle that involves students in their own learning and demonstrate that learning and teaching are cooperative and not monologic. Teaching: research in action Concurrently with rationalisation, globalisation intensifies demands on teachers to produce not only learning outcomes, but also students capable of negotiating an increasingly contingent world. Dawson (2004) provides a model for this process, with the teacher and students as co-producers of an educational product. Cognitive and practical agility is fundamental for all actors in this drama: stakeholders, organisations, learners and teachers, and obviously, the learning experience in this context emerges as dynamic, complex, challenging, needing not only to be theoretically informed, but also to be shaped by practical expertise. One risk in this situation is that in an effort to contain the impact of change and divert imperatives that overwhelm, teachers embrace professional retreat. They no longer see what they do in a wider context of scholarship, but merely as a task to complete with least possible stress. Reflective practice offers a methodology to avoid retreat, wherein teachers regain respect for their power to revitalise their craft, empower themselves and their students. Reflection will keep us moving along the continuum towards agility in our classrooms which will resonate further afield as our students move on and reflect their capacity to learn in future environments. As educators we need to satisfy recruiters, students and public opinion as to the standards we inculcate in our students while we work together toward building the potential for a more harmonious world. Evaluation of ourselves as teachers includes considering how they will remember us, what attitudes we conveyed to: disadvantage, learning, excellence, difference, empathy, the future, the past, to presage. Often we forget this bigger picture and our power, in fact our duty, to impact so widely. Development of students to face recruiters, then the contingent working world, depends on reflective practices that, challenge students’ background, knowledge and experiences, encourage generation of multiple perspectives and formulate students’ ability to reflectively negotiate these for a creative outcome. Reflective practice in teaching is a form of expertise. Often in the pressure to research and produce new thinking from within specialised areas of scholarship teachers forget to link the potential for new thinking to their wider role as teachers and models for students. Teaching seems to have become the poor relation of research; ‘lack of pedagogical development can be traced, at least in part, to historical tensions between teaching and research’ (Bailey et al, 1997, p.155). We spend time refining our writing but we neglect to apply the same impetus to perfecting our craft. To achieve a balance between teaching and scholarship, we must approach teaching like research as reflective practice, and promote teaching as a ‘professional endeavour that merits care and pride’ (Bailey et al, 1997, p.156). We can then approach and absorb the contingency of


pedagogy as a potentially valued component of our research because strategies which come from direct experiences and struggles produce new thinking and the genesis for research about teaching. Thus, in gaining respect for what we do, teachers accept that while teaching lacks the finality and definition of the written word and differs widely in its dynamics and has ambiguity of overt conflicts in the reality of the classrooms, it occupies an equal forum for research representation. For both research and teaching we need ‘technical rationality’ (Schon cited in Bailey et al, 1997, p.156), strict application of content to bounded situations. However, teaching also includes a dimension of indeterminacy which the teacher must render determinate. So the teacher transcends the rules and plans of technical rationality to reflect in action; to solve problems ‘seamlessly’ (Bailey et al, 1997, p.156), and to do this she/he invokes not only past professional experience but also scholarship. For both research and teaching we need an experiential correlative from which thinking is generated and which will be challenged and improved by the outcome of useful research. Reflection The purpose of reflection is to uncover to ourselves habits, blockages, ways of responding, internal dialogue, mental constructs that constitute our daily waking experience. We usually react silently and inwardly according to our own interpretations. Often the rationale of these interactions is untested and never tested against reality. Our experience does not usually include being outside and beyond our internal constructs but reflection provides this perspective. In reflection we will discover the ‘instinctive reasonings’ (Brookfield, 1995, p.29), inner interpretations, and notice when we are uncomfortable, hurt or isolated. Not all our internal conversations circle around feelings of pain and reduction of ourselves. At times we indulge our imagination in lessening the influence of others in the world we have constructed. We denigrate aspects of others; their appearance, their past, their words, ability, wisdom, capability, always adopting a superior position for ourselves. We may seethe at the approval others give to others, wanting such for ourselves. Taken further, this position reflects back to us that we in fact are not good enough to achieve praise, success or standout achievement. In other words, despite a superior inner interaction we are interacting outwardly in a position of low self esteem from which it is difficult to support and motivate others. Reflection allows space, time and honesty to tap into a courageous way to operate in our challenging world. If we do stop our private conversation and decide to listen and interact differently against our usual responses, surprising revelation may occur. It clarifies for us what we must turn from in order to reach for and achieve which is of wider value and relevance. What we imagined, constructed as reality, emerges as myth, a make-up. Reality is in fact friendly, resonant with potential for interacting productively, and its contingencies are responsive to our efforts. From this experience we grow in trust, courage, love, friendliness and openness to further consideration concurrent with events rather than pre-emptive of them. Reflection requires a particular moral and societal stance characterised by openness to unflinchingly look upon and allow the sounds of diversity to penetrate our comfort and security and even to unseat it. It is a shock to discover that much of what we have held


to be the way things are and should be is false and contingent upon our own interpretations only. This is where we have to start in order to generate change from our reflection. We need to be able to make accurate modifications of our behaviour to correspond to the objectivity of situations, being less motivated by our internal attitudes, values and other personality traits. We need reflective significant others to encourage and support our process in a dynamic manner. Offsets to reflection One result of absence of reflection is lack of personal empowerment. Unawares, we punish and constrain ourselves first and foremost at the level of our most human opportunity. Personal empowerment cannot ultimately be built upon status, power, wealth, higher degrees, ownership. It must be founded from engagement in personal reflection within the context of achieving an objective of excellence. It is in being committed to personal completion in inner wisdom and freedom that can be expressed in an excellent external and obvious outcome, that we find ourselves empowered. Reflection is offset by false democracy which adopts a stance that all contributions to conversation are of equal value. The challenge for each teacher at the classroom interface, is to translate insights into effective practice and this requires particular conversations – with self and with significant others. Those that reflect back congratulations and praise in lieu of plunging into a riskier area of exploration and genuine observation divert reflection or disenfranchise it and avoid the profound purpose of teaching, to enable others to create the best lives they can. Time is a constraint of reflection. It is difficult to find time to reflect. In the existing situation for teachers in universities and increased workload in shortened semesters, it seems futile or even naïve to suggest teachers ‘slow down, step back and spend more time thinking, reflecting, and talking about their instructional practices and beliefs’ (Serafini, 2002,. p.2). According to Serafini (2002) there are four aspects to reflection: time, distance, dialogue and preferred vision. We need time to think over what has happened and what should happen. It requires cooperation from colleagues for this time to be available. Distance refers to a critical perspective and the capacity to suspend judgement, and to step away from events into the cognitive. A preferred vision needs to be defined so we know what we are working towards; change without direction results in chaos. Finally teachers act to promote reflective learning communities, and take an active role within their social, moral, educational and other roles. Senge (2001), notes that cognitive studies cast light upon our quest for a reflective conversational space. The process is integrative; integrating new ideas with previous experiences, seeking to change existing cognitive structures by allowing ourselves and our students to explore and discover new alternatives. However, the process involves discomfort and cognitive dissonance as we consider underlying dynamics of power and question basic assumptions and practice. We cannot be certain that there will not be some degree of turmoil resulting from change generated in reflection. If what we discover about ourselves, the systems we adhere to, the organisational structure that shelters us suddenly appear to us as counter productive or disenfranchising of the process of learning and personal growth, we may be faced with choices. It may become clear that what we saw as smooth classroom functioning for achieving maximum results


in the time available is experienced by students as manipulation, controlling, unfriendly and not life affirming. Reflective teachers Being a reflective teacher is a conscious, systematic and deliberate process of framing and re framing practice using democratic principles, beliefs, values and expectations. We set out seriously to prioritise thinking and behavioural paradigms by which we will underpin the change to which we commit. We need the support of our colleagues when we admit to a ‘nagging sense of doubt’ (Serafini, 2002, p. 4) as we approach reflection on our practice. We suspend our conclusions to embrace a new process of arriving at decisions regarding our practice, then we act according to our best judgements, realising that knowledge is tentative and open to change and falsification. There has to be a personal conversion and physical about-face. It is crucial to personally translate insights into active change because only when we take a responsible stance towards what we become aware of and design how to act upon it with our own methodology, has change really eventuated. It is important to see what we do from as many angles as possible and not only through the eyes of those who are likely to agree with us and share our assumptions. We need a methodology which throws ‘into sharp relief the contours of our assumptive clusters’ (Brookfield, 1995, P.28). We need books, conversations, practices that will question what we find comfortable and familiar. In the process of reflection we are learning to pause to identify our constructs, reactions, responses and to name and describe them to ourselves. This is to self evaluate and clarify what is constraining and what is positively motivating us. We are then involved in choice to eliminate, develop, alter, bring to life greater awareness and clarity from within our inner being. Awareness can be made explicit through a reflective ruminative process providing a store of experiences to be conveyed to others and drawn on in the future to solve new problems. Only from this fountain of continual living response to experience can true change be laid down in our behaviour and thinking. Students and teachers need to have their sense of self validated as the first stage to bridge cultures and make possible a more harmonious world. We then discover a spiritual transcendent aspect to our living and working wherein we can move freely in a bigger space of operation than before. What we notice, what we feel, our range or responses expands to greater more advanced possibilities and realities. Within this vision, reflection is the holding space of safety in which we have the opportunity to practice being noble, courageous, and excellent. For we evidence in our behaviour what we are motivated by, we walk in the world we discover through our vision and we model to those around us our energy and enthusiasm for what we discover to be possible. Reflection and Listening as cooperative interrogation The practice of self mastery within the creative tension of learning must involve recognition and involvement of those who can illuminate what is unknown and cooperation with those who would come to know. The teacher has power in knowledge, ability to judge and to make infallible statements about what is to be learned. There may be a sense that the teacher is located in a precinct beyond the reach of the student. What is missing in distancing of the source of knowledge from those


wanting to receive is sense of self efficacy. Part of responding to this is to overcome student tentativeness, self blame and low self confidence with ‘effective corrective measures’ (Dawson & Conti-Bekkers, 2002, p.88). It includes expanded academic discourse to encourage articulation of reality and sense of self in it (Dawson & ContiBekkers, 2002, p. 91). We must not deaden the impulse for wholeness and self expansion, but encourage and define it as part of what to expect/demand within whatever setting one is in. Workplaces that incorporate personal efficacy into best practice follow on from educational institutions that formulate and define this as a positive personal right. Teachers may have difficulty encouraging students to reflect on points of view which challenge their fundamental beliefs concerning their expectations The requirements for reflection (Dewey as cited in Serafini, 2002), open-mindedness and whole heartedness may be restricted in students who have little sense of involvement in their own learning and tend to blame external factors for performance rather than intrinsic factors. The teacher must encourage students to realise that learning and teaching is cooperative not monologic and they must find themselves active and articulate within their learning. This approach encourages students to recognise the life lesson that knowledge is continually undergoing construction and transformation and does not remain as a static concept (Lave as cited in Densten and Gray, 2001, p.121) to be learned once only. Senge (2001, p. 396) notes that ‘material should be taught to all students in a way that relates this information to their experience and leads to a better connected associative network’. We must be sensitive to the perceptions of students in order to build trust and negotiate the creative tension required for learning and change. For example, how do we as teachers use power to achieve the results we want? In our quest to achieve a learning outcome vision we may be driven by personal ambition and ignore or fail to question the consequences of our actions. Without reflection we may be convinced by past successes of our invincibility and fail to consider other viewpoints, with possibly disastrous consequences (Densten & Gray, 2001, p.120). Good that we might do, assistance we might give, example we might establish, change we might set in motion, die in the face of our decision to remain invincible. The best leaders/teachers encourage followers/students to feel ‘independent, confident, powerful and capable’ (Densten & Gray, 2001, p.121). Inability to listen because we are too busy constructing and impressing our private meaning, fails to give the dignity or importance which would allow the communication of others to have power. Listening connects inner worlds of speaker/s and listener/s and gives credibility to that most human essence of each of us, our individuality. To be able to engage in critical conversations means to model for students how to hear and examine views differing from their own. Listening says to another, ‘you matter’ and I will make space in my life for hearing you. We purposefully or negligently disenfranchise the other when we are unable to listen. If these challenges are taken seriously and pondered over we may realise that we need to change. How do we need to change? There are many ways we may discover routes to personal change. Perhaps we notice how others are genuinely involved or joyful and welcoming of newness while we note ourselves erecting secret barriers of will, feeling or decision not to follow. We thus refuse opportunities to be involved in something


new which might require effort, commitment, time, risk, discomfort, action outside our comfort zone. It is the frank and fearless hearing and allowing of others and consideration of their points of view that challenge our boundaries and biases and allow personal growth into change. We must adopt transparent strategies to move ourselves and students into dynamic evolution beyond static retreat.

Methodology As has been noted, an important skill is to make scholarship out of events in our classrooms. Propositional knowledge is ‘that which is contained in theories or models – textbook knowledge – knowing that ….’ The experiential domain of knowledge is knowledge gained through direct personal encounters with a subject, person or a thing (Burnard as cited in van der Wey, 2001, p.53). We take time to turn experiential knowledge into propositional knowledge that can be shared and interrogated and reflect the implications experience has for teaching practice. One aspect of this involves using authentic assessment as an integral part of reflection. No single assessment strategy can reveal all aspects of teaching and learning comprehensively, so many approaches are necessary. According to Coppola (2002, p. 449) assessment may be summative in that it results in ratings and certifies a level of competence against some standard. Or assessment may be formative in that it feeds information back to students and teachers during the teaching process so that corrections and improvements can be made. Summative and formative evaluation are complementary goals of assessment. Our rationale is that what is most challenging and problematic in student teacher relationships does not only occur or reveal itself in the teaching events, but lies in the ‘indeterminate zone’ (Bailey et al, 1997, p.157) to negotiate which requires insight, dedication and the reflective stance as fundamental. The indeterminate zone often beyond logic, has to be negotiated. We need expanded conceptual frameworks to capture wider data from assessments and tests to tap into the indeterminate zone and address its contingent nature, if we are going to serve our students well into their future occupations. As assessors in whatever manner, we must begin with a reflective stance; the willingness to question our teaching and take a critical look at our beliefs, theories, and educational practices (Serafini, 2002, p. 3). A reflective stance comes before the use of authentic assessments and takes these assessment requirements beyond hierarchical mandates. Assessment should be part of a ‘reflective cycle’ (Serafini, 2002, p. 3) as opposed to being a separate activity. We as teachers sometimes feel oppressed by the amount of evaluation we embrace or have forced upon us. Serafini suggests having a purpose for using the assessments bigger than previous uses as indications of deficits in students or ourselves. Thus the feeling of oppression may be lifted by an approach wherein we see opportunity and become less deterred from gathering and studying information from our students and peers. Single dimensional assessments as they exist have limited applicability in identifying areas for improvement and designing corrective actions. We need to be able to identify questions and formulate dynamic answers in action. Chindarsi, (2002, p. 6) asks how we can teach students to learn and suggests enhancing students’ metacognition by using explicit how to learn activities. She recommends improvement of metacognitive skills by using generic question stems during lectures, concept maps, and explaining the


lecture process. Ennis, (1981) offers a detailed deconstruction of metacognition in his model of critical thinking; three overlapping circles labelled critical thinking, creative thinking, content knowledge. 1Content knowledge is information and data that comes from the lecturer’s input and from the student’s own reading. 2 Critical thinking involves correctness and requires the following skills to be exercised: ordering and classifying information, comparing and contrasting, problem solving, asking questions of clarification, persistence, exploring a point of view, willingness to explore background knowledge, open-mindedness. This is what Senge (2001) refers to as associative connection of information and clusters of understanding – based on cognitive theories of associative learning. 3 Creative thinking involves originality and flexibility: based on correctness, precision and facts of the content knowledge, processes as many ideas as possible, elaborates on new ideas, filling out on an idea, adding interesting details. Further to this, more individualised, personal and ruminative techniques of focus groups, mentoring, diagnostic sessions, card recording systems, interviews, questionnaires, one to one consultation can be incorporated into the reflective forum. Interviews have dangers and strengths; ideas conveyed by participants cannot readily be verified or validated against the practices of relevant others, but interviews as part of a raft of strategies are useful. Role play, personal stories, planning to achieve outcomes, determining to remove blockages, clarify goals, life balance exercises are further techniques within the context of reflection. Students can use ‘new semester resolutions’ based on strategies developed from the previous semester (Fyfe, 2002, p. 42). We need a range of assessment devices and reflective tools that yield the multiple perspectives generated by the teaching learning environment. We also need to overcome student’s expectations that assessment tools are spoon feeding, extraneous, waste of time and undermine existing student concepts of teaching and learning as an invisible process wherein it is up to the student to work harder, be fiercely independent and effectively a lone ranger. Rather we bring our students within the ambit of a transparent process which they can access and seriously consider, to their benefit. It is from within complexities of multiple perspectives that our students as future employees will be challenged to develop skills and excel in facing and negotiating reflectively and harmoniously, complex and uncertain environments. Reflective assessment facilitates mastery of the indeterminacy of pedagogy as it identifies contradictions, threats or opportunities. Then can be shaped active techniques to deliver holistic pedagogical strategies that deploy our resources toward negotiation of future exigencies. Students are able to see their own agency in teachers’ active responses to multiple differences, conflict and challenge and they are empowered by this. Exigencies will continue to characterise the daily life of each of us and as has been noted, particularly in the globalised world of employment to be faced by students once away from the perhaps more secluded and supportive world of the campus.


Simple Reflective Exercises for Learners Reflective thinking is the practice of controlled thinking which involves: Willingness to take time out just to be thoughtful Willingness to recognise and understand the context in which our assumptions and actions were formed and are formed Willingness to explore implications of and imagine alternatives to our assumptions and behaviours Willingness to uncover, understand and interrogate our own ways of responding and deciding and clarify what we base this upon Willingness to make inspired jumps in our thinking towards rationales and decisions that support changing our actions Willingness to be prepared to open ourselves to a variety of other opinions, interpretations, considerations, triggered by and formulated in communication with others. Reflective thinking paradigms: A cognitive behahavioural theoretical perspective as fundamental Personal potential and capacity to change Personal desire to learn or be taught Reflective thinking, self help, self observation, self evaluation in order to understand, accept and decide about actions and reactions Ideas and actions are interdependent and essential aspects of the learning process A reflective shift Redefinition of purpose for learning. Aims of reflective thinking: To lead to more effective learning To enable competent learning To maximise performance To provide a problem-solving technique To enable the learner to decide upon competent actions to gain improved performance. Process of reflective thinking: The learner reflects on his/her own learning process The learner assesses his/her own capability and professional, family, personal needs The learner contrasts his/her actions with what is required for ideal achievement of academic goals Connections are made in the relationship between attainment of academic goals and present responses to other wants and needs There may be influences uncovered (positive or negative connections) about which to make decisions Reflection can be a personal exercise or spoken out and shared in the company of trusted others Taking time out for reflective thinking when academic pressure builds may be a technique that saves time and stress in the long run. Desired outcomes of reflective thinking: Behavioural change that improves academic performance Ability to act upon inspiration Learner aims for autonomy and action learning


Learner is prepared to change Learner develops flexibility, practicality, and a sustainable total lifestyle. Reflective Steps: Purpose to think in a direction, Communicate findings and articulate resolve to others Ask how to place self in the best learning position, Recognise difference between learning and being taught, Know own purpose for learning Define intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Ask yourself: How do I learn best How might reflection make my learning more effective What are competent actions as opposed to knee-jerk reactions How would I use reflective thinking to solve personal problems Which of my responses can be considered, habitual, guilt-driven, resulting from external pressure, negotiated, respecting self and respecting others What adjustments might I need to consider What are some results of sharing my reflections and decisions with significant others.


Reference List Bailey, J & Saparito, P & Kressel, K & Christensen, E. & Hooijberg, R., (1997), A model for reflective pedagogy. Journal of Management Education. Thousand Oaks: Vol. 21, Iss. 2: p155. Brookfield, S (1995), Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Chindarsi, K & Spafford, H & Miller, J and J,. (2002). How can we teach students how to learn, In A Bunker & G Swan (eds.), Focusing on the Student, Western Australia, Edith Cowan University, p.184. Coppola, B (2002). Writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy, Journal of College Science Teaching, Vol 31, Number 7. Dawson, J (2004, May) The International Classroom. Paper presented at the Internationalisation of the curriculum series, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia. Dawson, J & Conti-Bekkers, G (2002) Supporting International Students’ transition to University, In A Bunker &G Swan (eds.), Focusing on the Student, Western Australia, Edith Cowan University, p.87. Densten, I & Gray, J (2001). Leadership development and reflection: What is the connection?, The International Journal of Educational Management. Bradford: Vol. 15, Iss. 3; p.120. Robert Ennis, R (1981). Rational thinking and Educational Practice in Philosophy of Education, In Soltis J F (ed), 80th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Vol. 1, Chicago. Fyfe , G (2002), Building Practice into Student Learning in Focus on the Student, In A Bunker and G Swan (eds.), Focusing on the Student, Western Australia, Edith Cowan University, p. 37. Senge, P (2001). Schools That Learn, Nicholas Brealey, London Serafini, F (2002), Reflective practice and learning, Primary Voices K – 6. Urbana: Vol. 10, Iss. 4; p 2. van der Wey, D (2001), Exploring multiple serendipitous experiences in a first nations setting as the impetus for meaningful literacy development, Canadian Journal of Native Education, Edmonton: Vol. 25, Iss. 1; p53.


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