After reading Bain et.al.’s article on enhancing reflectivity, I was certainly more aware of descriptive categorisations of reflective styles, although I was a little dubious about the relevance of this to the success of this process of reflection. It seems counter-intutive to prescribe methods of self-reflection.
Reflections on your own teaching, context and self can indeed be categorised. Your expectations, your influences, basic techniques, strategies and methods you avoid, activities and beliefs you lean on to excess, your attitude to students on a personal level, and everything that makes you the teacher you are, is perfectly suitable for reflection and adaptation. Once you’ve reflected, you can easily label your thoughts as pertaining to one area or another. Choosing a prescriptive, categorical framework within which to reflect before you actually do so would influence the areas you were drawn to, and possibly alter your focuses and priorities when reflecting. This is of course the point of a framework to aid reflection, and it could be helpful, but likewise could alter the more natural path your reflections might otherwise have led you down.
Interestingly, the article mentioned prescribing to some learners a self-analysis method, based on reflecting on your own previous written reflections, and others to reflective dialogue, involving a discussion with a researcher. Both are intended as methods of revisiting reflections and exploring new possibilities – but why not do both? Why limit how you choose to explore your beliefs and practices to one strategy? The article was not suggesting one to the exclusion of the other, of course, it was exploring the effectiveness of each, but the idea of choosing a framework in itself does imply eschewing alternative reflective paths.
Another dichotomy presented by this particular framework is between cognitive and experiential conditions of reflection. I believe both are recognisably valuable, and it was interesting to have them pointed out. I’ve seen this course as a mixture of both – it’s the application of learned theory, alongside coordination of accumulated experience, to make a more coherent, adapted set of teaching approaches and beliefs.
I suppose, in hindsight, I’ve seen this reflective module as more of a vehicle for experiential reflection. Analysing incidents in my teaching practice, and considering my feelings and thoughts about them, seems like a good use of a reflective blog. That’s something I hope to keep doing – even just having a blog like this has made me feel much more aware of each moment in class, and how I could handle or guide it differently. Despite this, I’d be hesitant to set that up as a framework for future reflection, because it might not actually be the best way to do it – I don’t know yet. I’d like to try both experiential and cognitive conditions in tandem.
To be fair, Bain et al’s article does specifically say that one condition, experiential or cognitive, did not exclude the other. However, it did mention placing emphasis on one approach or the other, which amounts to a similar thing.
The only way I could be guided by this, or any, framework would be to do as much as possible of everything described – I plan to self-analyse whenever I can, and workshop my reflections with anyone who’ll bother to listen. I also intend to include as much theory-into-practice based reflection as I can, alongside more experiential investigations. At this stage, I don’t truly know how I best reflect, but I strongly suspect that it isn’t through one strategy alone. I look forward to having a clearer idea of this, but that can surely only be after reflection.