messy thoughts or #ilta141 session 1

Just started reading Alison’s and Stephen’s new book Engaging Imagination (check out the website too, where you will find loads of additional resources!) when I landed on page 22 where the authors mention briefly reflection as a power relationship between tutor and student, when reflection is used for assessment purposes. A valuable reminder and very timely too. Are our students just capturing stuff to please their tutors, to be strategic as it is happening with other assessment methods or are there ways that enable genuine and authentic engagement in reflection as a learning and development tool, process and establish reflective habits that are important for self-regulation and ongoing development and growth? I guess it is perhaps about what we assess, content or process… and what our criteria are. But also other parameters such as the environment, spaces, communities and ecologies, play a vital role, and most of all the people, I think. The people who come together to learn. But I am also wondering how assessing reflection is  different from any other types of assessment and why reflection is so important in so many professions, actually for all of us?

The purpose of this post was just to share some reflections linked to our first ILTA session… Am I getting carried away? Maybe not… I think this is all very relevant and the above made me think deeper about what we ask our students to do and why. Ok, ILTA stands for Introduction to Learning, Teaching and Assessment and is one of our core PGCAP units (CELT, MMU). I met my group for the first time last Wednesday at 4pm. Before then, I tried to get them talking online but it didn’t happen, unfortunately. I suspect that some might felt disorientated in this new Moodle space, which would surprise me, others might have been unsure responding there as we didn’t know each other? Some perhaps didn’t think that this was needed or were too busy? Also a possibility.  But I am making massive assumptions here and it would actually be very useful to find out what the real reasons of non-visible engagement were…

The purpose of this post is to reflect on the first session and I just noticed something else. Writing has become our default way to reflect. Often we are expected to reflect by capturing our thoughts on paper or on a blog using a writing system. What would Socrates say if he could see us? Dear old Socrates was against the technology of writing and felt that it would pollute the brain and make us lazy… It is not uncommon reception for new ideas…

But do we become lazy in expressing ourselves more creatively and perhaps even more fluently? What works for one, might not work for another? Did we forget, or do we forget that there are other tools beyond writing that can help us learn reflect and learn more generally? 

Alison and Stephen, the authors of the book I mentioned at the start, reminded me that we really need to consider other ways for reflection. Ways that will rattle our imagination and enable us to express meaning, emotions, experiences, successes, challenges and aspirations in a richer and more meaningful way to us personally through which we can create bridges between the known and the unknown, ourselves and others. Not going to get into this further but perhaps we can all think about what would help us develop reflective habits, where can we start and were can it potentially take us to discover gems. Is the model I shared on Day 1, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, valuable when we are just making our first baby steps or does the structure actually get in the way and a more organic and fluid approach would work better? Again it would be lovely to find out what you think. Perhaps you can capture this in your portfolios and share so that we can discuss. BTW, I loved that you embraces the idea of an academic portfolio and am really looking forward to linking conversations up there.

by Sarah Dargie, based on Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, image source: https://chrissinerantzi.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/effb8-reflectivepurpose.jpg

I have used with others audio and images in the past but also drawings, digital stories, comic strips and LEGO and encouraged others to be a bit more curious, experimental and playful. Then there is video as well (I struggle with this!!! and audio!!!, perhaps because I am more conscious of the language I use and the mistakes I make as a non native speaker of English? I have to confess that it usually takes me a looooooooooooong time to create a mini audio or video file (you don’t really want to know how long it takes me!). But perhaps I should just relax into it and say so what? Isn’t the primary point to communicate and share? Anyway, the opportunities are endless, so have a go using different media for reflection and discover what works for you.


Often we just start writing without thinking if we should write. We just do it! Often our fingertips go straight onto a keyboard and we keep even notes digitally. It seems to come more naturally, but does it? Has it just become a habit and we satisfy expectations of others? Is this the easy way? The best way? The way that enables us to communicate our thoughts faster? But what are the implications? Often we also use models to construct and reflect on experiences, perhaps too mechanistically? What about the random, messy, non-linear and chaotic connections we make and experience when reflecting? Can or should we really box everything neatly?

After the above messy thoughts, which were mainly triggered by reading Alison’s and Stephen’s book (the power of reading and the influence on thinking and actions!), I have now decided to share with you key reflective points or questions from our first session in a more visual way.

Fireworks of experiences and ideas = sharing in the open thinking classroom? image source: https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1156/5155164244_0f4591720e_z.jpg

What is out there behind the walls we build? Let’s find out together! image source: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4142/4941725337_83f9447298_z.jpg

Thank you Haleh, my co-facilitator, and all my lovely ILTA students for having an open mind, sharing experiences and experimenting together. Can’t wait to see you all next Wednesday but also connecting via Moodle and your portfolios, to share stories, reflections and engage in learning conversations!

See you all next Wednesday at 4pm! image source https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2934/13889784819_ffb5b3335d_z.jpg

Chrissi
ps: Thank you also for all your value jar contributions. Teaching is only valuable if there is value for learning! Your responses so far can be accessed here.

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