- When: Yesterday, today, tomorrow, now and later
- Who: I, others, you and we
- Why: Good, crap, better, change, new
- What: Messy, thinking, analysing, connecting, learning, acting
- How: Conversations with self and others, together
The above popped into my head when I started thinking what reflection means to me. The bullet points capture well why I reflect and what I get out of it. We don’t just learn through experiences. Learning is not an automated or mechanical process. Cowan (2003) suggests that “we learn from what we take from that experience. “ (p. 192). For me, every experience is an opportunity to stop for a little or a bit, listen to internal and external voices, evaluate, refine and adjust, learn and experiment again. Cowen reminds us that “active experimentation” is both a valuable and (currently) somewhat neglected component of […] personal and professional development” (p. 193) and I am wondering why we prefer to play it safe (or not play at all actually!!!)… Is it dangerous to experiment and for whom? Should we not become active experimenters and include our students in such exciting and stimulating activities?
Reflection is an integral part of my practice as an academic developer. I reflect in- and on-action as Schön (1987) and for-action (Cowan, 2003). I love to capture my messy and (sometimes) complex and ill-defined explorative reflective stories in a variety of ways and engage even deeper with them through this creative and critical process. For a while now, I capture my reflections online. Some people think that reflections are better kept private. I am noot sure about this. If I focus on what I am taking from an experience it won’t harm anybody. But, this is something that needs to be learnt and it is too easy to blame others for our shortcomings… I have done a few gaffes myself… Models by Kolb (1984) and Gibbs (1988) can be extremely useful when scaffolding and developing reflection. I see sharing reflections as a window to connect with others, experiences, thoughts, ideas and emotions and learn through conversations. Basically it is an opportunity to turn monologues into dialogues. Yes, learning is conversational. We learn so much more from each other and together! Of course we need time and space for ourselves to think and switch-off from the world for a while but not for ever, not for long. When will we recognise this and do something about it?
Writing my reflections down and creating visual stories enable me to re-live my experiences, emotional ups and downs (and in this sense it is therapeutic too). Yes emotions distort our experiences (Moon, 2004), thoughts and ideas but they do help us learn, un-learn and re-learn through deep reflection, analysis and trying to make sense of what we feel and why. This is why I reflect and have embedded reflection organically in my practice. Making reflection an add-on won’t work. Well, I don’t think it can work in the long-term. However, an add-on can be the start leading to full integration in practice when it is recognised to be a useful learning activity. Biggs (1999) notes that “a reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original.” (p. 6) Therefore, deep and critical reflection as well as reflexivity (Giddens, 1999) are vital if we want to grow as professionals in our ever changing globalised world. It is a way to keep in touch and question who we are, what we do and how, but also who we want to become and why. Roebuck (2007) referring to Prpic (2005) states that “It is proposed that reflexive practice, which incorporates deep or quality reflective practice, can be described as a process of inquiry which facilitates appreciation and understanding of contextualised views (outside of the learner’s own experience), a deeper learning experience, the development of ideas, and consideration of or actual change.” (p. 79) Reflexivity will indeed help us step-outside ourselves, our identity and become more objective, tolerant and inclusive towards anything and anybody we think and feel is alien.
Biggs, J. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: Open University Press.
Cowan, J. (2003) Learning from experience, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 192-211.
Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing. A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods, Birmingham: SCED.
Kolb, D. A. (1987) Experiential Learning, Experience as a source for learning and development, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Moon, J. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning. Theory and Practice, Oxon: Routledge.
Prpic, J. (2005). Managing academic change through reflexive practice: A quest for new views. Research and Development in Higher Education, 28, pp. 399-406.
Roebuck, J. (2007) Reflexive practice: To enhance student learning, Designing for Effective Learning, Journal of Learning Design. Vol. 2, No. 1, available at http://www.pedagogy.ir/images/pdf/reflective-practice.pdf [accessed 30 November 2011]
Schön D.A. (1987) ‘Educating the Reflective Practitioner’ , San Francisco Jossey Bass.