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 ….!