Independent Study for Reflective Practice in Learning and Teaching

Last week’s session was led by Andrew in Mary’s absence, and used her PowerPoint presentation, ‘The Teaching Artist: Reflective Practice’.  As part of this, we looked at John Connell’s poem, I am learner, in which he stresses the important role the LEARNER plays in their education, and how they make different connections and pick up different threads, depending on their own learning journey and prior experiences.

John Dewey, American educationalist, once said that, ‘If we do not reflect on our experiences, we do not learn from them.’  Speaking as a fairly recent PhD graduate, I know this to be true: I am very conscious that I had learnt a lot from my mistakes between the first, unfinished PhD abandoned when I was 24, and the second, completed one when I was 51.  My whole methodology was very different, much more methodical and generally more focused.  Having recently been a student and experienced doctoral study in the digital age, I believe I have much useful experience to draw upon when it comes to teaching others.  When I’m consulted as a subject librarian, I’m a subject expert with skills in bibliography and research methodology, and this makes me almost what in some colleges would be called a ‘tutor librarian’.  At the same time, I have to remember that my study was a university PhD, and I must not assume that undergraduate performers will adopt the same approaches to their subject as I did (and do).

I looked through and printed out the slides of Mary’s PowerPoint, three to a page, so I could annotate it.  I had resolved to watch Eric Booth’s ‘Making Creative Connections, Active Listening and Reflection; Birkenhead and Stevens’ The Performance Reflective Practice Project (2003) was also cited, as was Zeichner as quoted by P. Warwick in 2007, ‘Reflective Practice: Some Notes on the Development of the notion of Professional Reflection’.  We are invited to consider the five key features of reflective teaching as expounded by Zeichner.  As I write this evening, I’ve watched Booth’s presentation but have yet to look for Birkenhead and Stevens’ project.

The powerpoint invited us to consider what reflective practice means to a teaching artist, and what might go in a reflective journal – plainly, reflection is key, and the journal must record more than just ‘what was done’.  I liked the slide illustrating reflective practice as a cycle – reflecting on action, in action, and for action – in other words, reflecting as the teaching is taking place, reflecting after teaching has taken place,a nd reflecting as a way of preparing for future teaching.

As a class, we talked about the slide quoting Confucius – his three ways of acquiring wisdom, namely by reflection,by imitation (the easy option) or by experience, ‘which is the bitterest’.  There was some debate about this last.  I don’t have a problem with the ‘bitter experience’ option – obviously, teaching and learning will employ all three methods at times.  Did I practise better research study methods a quarter of a century later, because I had reflected on what went wrong, or through ‘bitter experience’?  To be honest, I’d say I had reflected on bitter experience, so these two are clearly linked.  Similarly, there’s a place for imitation.  If someone demonstrates a fruitful methodolology or technique, and the less experienced student imitates it, then the modeling/imitating paradigm is serving a valid purpose.  Blind imitation, no.  Thoughtful imitation, yes of course.

The penultimate slide cites another reference to follow up: Kemmis’, ‘Action Research and the Politics of Reflection’, inBoyd, Keoghand Walber, Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning (1985).  I’ll try to read some of these references later on this week.

Another of our tasks for this week, was to explore the resources in the Reflection in Learning and Teaching area on Moodle, and to read and reflect upon some of them.  In addition to watching Booth’s ‘Making creative connections’, I have also watched John Connell’s ‘I am Learner’ blog podcast about his new learning platform currently in development, ‘CommonLearn’ – classroom learning ‘in the cloud’, and looked at Marcia Jackson’s presentation, ‘The Artist/Teacher Identity in the Classroom’, about professional identity management strategies for the teaching artist.  Her statement that ‘Multiple identity roles such as artist, teacher, mentor and researcher add value to the practice of both artist and pedagogy’ was a great endorsement for the multiple identity that I see myself as embodying.  A good place to stop writing and start reflecting ….!

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3 thoughts on “Independent Study for Reflective Practice in Learning and Teaching”

  1. Karen it’s good to see you starting to delve into the literature for the course and using it and some of the discussions for the group to start the reflective process. As you have said in earlier posts, you wear many hats. All of your different roles whether it is as a researcher, a librarian or a choir mistress, all present opportunities for you to teach and support others. Some of this is done formally, some less formally. Irrespective of the context, start now to select aspects of teaching that you might enquire about and change. For example, I was interested to read about the lecture you give to Scottish Music students. I was interested to read about the approach. In this entry you talked about feeling that you were less reliant on your notes. As you described this, it made me question how active and empowered learners were in your sessions? Can I suggest you ask this question of yourself and reflect and critique your current teaching approaches. What could you change about the way you teach that would radically change your delivery and provide opportunities for more student centred, active learning approaches?

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    1. I hear what you’re saying, Andrew, and I agree that I need to empower my learners and make things interactive where possible. However, I’m now a little confused. When I’m asked to give a “lecture”, I imagine that I’m meant to do most of the talking, whether standing using the powerpoint, or demonstrating at the piano, whereas I see a seminar as more interactive. So I gave a lecture as requested, but I had a student play examples at certain points, and invited comments at other points. Was that wrong? I wasn’t actually asked to lead a discussion for an hour. Maybe the day of the lecture is over?

      I attended the subsequent lecture, a week later, given by someone else, as an opportunity to shadow a much more experienced lecturer. I learned a lot, but the actual format wasn’t so very different from my own.

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  2. Does it have to be that format? What other format might it take? What physical environment would you need? What do your students think? All questions worth exploring by reading literature on student centred learning methods and by getting insights for development and enhancement from student feedback Karen.

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