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.