And now some more reflective reading!

This article comes from a Newsletter published by Newcastle University: Newsletter 01.6, specifically written for MEDEV, School of Medical Sciences Education Development, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, NE2 4HH.  I’ll print it out so that I can refer back to it.

Focus: Becoming a reflective practitioner

Reflection and reflective practice are two of the key buzzwords in professional and education practice at present. But what exactly do we mean by these …

http://www.medev.ac.uk/newsletter/article/32/Authors: Prof. David Brigden; Mr Nigel Purcell.

The authors cite S. Atkins and K. Murphy’s ‘Stages in reflective practice’, which go into a little more depth in defining the process of critical incident, reflection and ultimately changed practice:-

1. Self awareness

2. Description

3. Critical Analysis

4. Synthesis

5. Evaluation

Conclusion

 

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Time for some Reading

I did manage to read Paul Warwick’s ‘Reflective Practice: some notes on the development of the notion of professional reflection’, during today’s lunch-break. However, I’ve wasted quite a bit of my free time feeling ill with migraines this past week, so I haven’t read as much as I’d intended.  I’ll write a few thoughts about the Warwick reading and then maybe I’ll find time to look at some of the other materials tomorrow.  (I’ve found the Reflective Practice wiki – the ‘What is reflective practice’ topic looks relevant, though the sheer extent of it is a bit mind-boggling – and I thought I’d also look at the link, ‘Focus: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner’.  If I get through all that, I’ll be doing well!)

So, first to the Warwick article:-

Warwick, P. (2007) Reflective practice: some notes on the development of the notion of professional reflection

Available at  http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/3573.pdf

The e-tivities for this week ask us to consider Zeichner and Liston’s 5 key features of reflective teaching (1996), which Warwick summarises  in his chapter.   These are just two of the more recent educators whose work is summarised, for Warwick begins with J. Dewey’s theories from the early 20th century.  Indeed, the overview examines so many authorities that it is a little overwhelming for the emerging teaching artist!

I found it a little difficult relating some of the more philosophical elements of classroom teaching (eg, “moral purpose”) with the kind of teaching I’ve been involved in.   My problem is that there is little continuity in the kind of teaching I am asked to do:-  one-off guest lectures (eg the Scottish song transformations lecture that I did last week); or the bibliographical skills session that I did for the PGCert students last session; or indeed the initial library catalogue and database training sessions I provide for new students at varying levels.   The only continuity I experience is with my church choir, where I have no curriculum development to worry about, and the ‘institutional and cultural context’ is our Christian faith, discussion of which does not form part of my duties as a choir trainer.  Training a choir of adult volunteers is not quite the same as having responsibility for a class.

A reflective teacher examines, frames, and attempts to solve the dilemmas of classroom practice.  I understand this point.  I need constantly to endeavour to involve and engage the class, and to seek to find ways of getting greater participation wherever possible.   I can understand this in the context of my one-off teaching engagements.  (It’s harder when you’re taking a choir-practice, as you can’t rehearse the sopranos and give the rest of the choir something else to practise while you’re listening to the ladies!  You generally don’t want them singing something else while you’re trying to correct or shape one particular vocal line.  The dilemma here is in trying to convince them not to talk amongst themselves when you’re listening hard to identify where something could be improved or corrected!)

A reflective teacher is aware of and questions the assumptions and values he or she brings to teaching.  I see what Warwick (quoting Zeichner) is saying.  If I’m training a class in information-handling skills, I need to take care not to assume that everyone will search the same way as me, or bring the same level of expertise that I’ve acquired over many years.  I need to be aware that there may be issues, eg, dyslexia or visual impairment, making students have to work much harder or try different approaches to achieve the same results.  Or, in the case of the Scottish musicology lecture I did last week, I need to question and challenge my interpretation of the sources and be open to alternatives, notwithstanding the research I’ve spent many years refining.  Again, however, it’s hard to apply this same ideal to choral training.  The closest parallel I can offer, is that I am conscious of my greater musical experience, and I do instinctively seek constantly to ensure that everyone understands what I’m asking them to do on a practical level.

A teacher is attentive to the institutional and cultural contexts in which he or she teaches.  I can’t help thinking it must be easier to understand your context when you’re delivering a larger part of a formal curriculum.  For me as a librarian, being attentive to the institutional and cultural contexts means being aware that this is a performing arts institution, where performance has a greater emphasis than it did in my own university experience, and where research itself is practice-based.  Hardly a day passes when I don’t remind myself of this, so I do think I’ve got a realistic grasp of this concept.   Certainly, I remembered it when giving the Scottish song lecture.

A teacher takes part in curriculum development and is involved in school change efforts.  As subject librarians, we were involved in the curriculum reform process, but because my teaching role is in a ‘one-off’ capacity, in reality I have less involvement in curriculum development than the average part-time, hourly-paid lecturer.  I truly don’t want to seem negative about this, but I would currently struggle to discern a way in which my occasional contributions could be considered in any way to be developing the curriculum.

A teacher takes responsibility for his or her own professional development.  At last, here’s something where I can proudly state that I do, both as a librarian and as a teacher, seek any available opportunity for CPD.  After all, that’s what I’m doing in attending this credit-bearing course.

The RMA Presentation

The Glasgow end of the Bass Culture Research Project is doing a presentation for this week’s Royal Musical Association meeting at Glasgow Uni.  After the team-leader introduces the project, we’re each talking for ten minutes about an aspect of the project that we find interesting.  This is presenting, not teaching – it can be attended by RMA members or staff and students at the University, but it’s not part of a curriculum.

I’m puzzled, now.  The format is essentially, a progress report focusing on the interesting bits.  I don’t need anything written down apart from key names and dates.  Discussion may well arise after we’ve each presented.  But I can’t see a way of making an individual progress report anything other than me, talking.  Really not a flipped classroom opportunity!

BY WAY OF EXPLANATION

I’m feeling guilty.  I fully meant to do more reading before now. However, I’ve had five migraines in nine days.  I never let them stop me doing a day’s work, but sometimes I’m forced to stop reading or sitting in front of a screen too long at night!  Maybe tomorrow I’ll get back to reading…

 

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 ….!

Have renewed passport – can travel!

But in my case, it’s just needed for photographic ID, so that I can fly down to Cambridge for the IAML(UK and Ireland) Annual Study Weekend for music librarians – and whizz back in time for church on Sunday.  My choir always does a special evening service on Palm Sunday – and their confidence depends on the final rehearsal after morning worship.  You’ll deduce that I simply have to be back in Glasgow in time to play for both services!

Having sorted out the passport, I can now book the flights – well, tomorrow, anyway.  And tonight I need to finalise and distribute the order of service to all my choir members, so excuse me … I’d better get on with it!

Reflective Reading

Perhaps typically for a librarian-scholar, my immediate concern was that I should keep a bibliography of any reading I do for this Teaching Artist course.  How and where to keep it, of course, is an interesting question.

I use Mendeley for my bibliographic records, as a rule. And I use Diigo for saving weblinks, appropriately annotated with keywords.  If everything I read is online, then I could use Diigo for the lot – using a specific folder to keep them all together.  It’s not exactly a bibliography, but it would do.   Whichever method I choose, readings made accessible va the VLN are in ‘secure storage’, inaccessible to people not connected with the Teaching Artist course.  But that’s understandable.

The problem is, Mendeley doesn’t record bibliographic data for all websites.  It works magnificently with Copac (the union online catalogue of all British university and national library holdings), but less systematically with other websites.  I could, of course, get round this with bibliographic data entered ‘manually’, ie by me.  However, I can’t share my Mendeley list with more than a very few associates, unless I want paid access to it.  I don’t really want to subscribe just for the privilege of sharing my bibliography!

I could also keep a bibliography on this very blog, of course.  That would be accessible to anyone, and I can copy and paste from it as I require.  Maybe that’s the best answer for now.  Additionally, anything I put in Diigo can be tagged “Teaching artist”, going in a specific folder as appropriate.  That would aid keyword retrieval.

So, what have I read so far?  I followed Andrew’s suggestion to look at Eric Booth’s website this evening – I’m impressed by the results of El Sistema music teaching, even though that’s not the kind of teaching I do.  I sat up and looked when I got to comments about children learning national melodies and ethnomusicologists transcribing them so as to record a repertoire.  (That’s interesting, considering my interests in historic song-collection.)  There’s a lot of admirable work in the El Sistema movement – it’s really very impressive.

The other piece I’ve read this evening was Gregor P. Kennedy et al, ‘First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives?’, in Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (2008), 24.1, pp.108-122.  In a nutshell, the authors found Marc Prensky’s 2001 paper on Digital Natives (the generation believed to be familar and competent with all forms of digital technology and learning) – and Prensky’s subsequent writings – to be an over-simplification of the status quo, with students more likely to use a few basic technologies for ‘living’, and some – but not all – technologies for ‘learning’.  It follows, then, that we shouldn’t assume students to be uniformly competent with all digital technologies.  I can well imagine that if a digitally cautious tutor is hesitant in recommending digital resources to a class, then the uptake is not necessarily going to be that enthusiastic.

It’s quite late – I’ll add these two readings to my Resources page, then sign off for the night!

I'm a musicologist disguised as a librarian. I've been writing this blog as part of my PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.