Critically Reflective Teaching
[Though Prof. Stephen Brookfield distributed a set of handouts when he spoke at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College on April 19, 2001, his conversation with the group present ranged across several topics in an order that he adjusted as he detected the interests and experience level of the group, most of whom were faculty developers from several colleges--Mountain Empire, Danville, JSRCC, John Tyler CC, and Piedmont Va. CC, as well as VCU.]
The feelings of "impostership" that can arise during one's career can be eased by a gradually building expertise and trust in one's own confidence. A similar problem may arise for students: Some students exile themselves to "Siberia" in the classroom--close to the door and far from the teacher--because they don't trust the teacher or because they prefer privacy to the glare of the front row.
Our Autobiographies as Learners
How do our own experiences as learners influence our choices when we teach? It may determine our assumptions about whether or not students will be hostile [, whether or not to give students second chances]. Teaching, suggests Brookfield from his experience, means muddling through.
Critical reflection is a deliberate, consistent, systematic effort to uncover assumptions. For instance, prescriptive assumptions surface in mission statements and program documentation [and probably in course objectives]. It may be least easy to uncover paradigmatic assumptions that undergird our practice as teachers or the operation of the institution; it is most easy to notice and question causal assumptions. For instance,
Getting Feedback and Reacting to It
Each of the "four lenses" through which we are likely to view our teaching practices--our own experiences as learners, students, colleagues, and reading the professional literature--helps us reveal the assumptions behind those practices and call them into question.
Sharing Your Experiences with Formative Feedback and Critical Reflection
If there is a college newsletter on teaching, a faculty member could highlight use of a CIQ and telling how it changed his or her teaching. Publication is one way to offer modeling a use of critically reflective teaching. Such reflection is for
Team-teaching is another way to cause assumptions to surface. Brookfield has team-taught courses with colleagues from Trinidad, Vietnam, and a native American and learned differing behaviors that show respect related to discussion. For instance, to some [including some of our American students] not answering shows respect for peers by not placing oneself before the crowd.
Interning can lead the host teacher to be more reflective, especially if feedback from the intern and open discussion after class are part of the experience.
Mentoring can also surface assumptions about teaching, but should it be a reciprocal experience? involve someone you know or a stranger? or maybe getting to know each other [as in a group of potential mentees] and then choosing a partner.
Observing each other's classes can, too.
Experiencing Critical Reflection
Handout #9 of the set Brookfield used for the workshop (with permission to copy) concerned the downside and risks.
Critical reflection isn't just for faculty but for administrators, [staff], and students, too. At a "learning college," performance appraisal includes learning how you've learned[--for each of these groups]. But they may not credit your saying so unless you've built up "deviance credits" ["loyalty points" might be a more plausible term] by participating in and even championing administrative causes so that you can occasionally present a counter-perspective.
"Conversional Obsession" is a tendency to try saving the resistant students but diverting huge energy to the task. The opposite flaw might be called "radical pessimism," giving up. Both of these flaws undermine the transformative impulse. [ Critically reflective teaching, in other words, is a middle way between these tendencies.]
Critical Reflection for Students [or Anyone]
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