Strategies for critical reflection

 “some suggested strategies for engaging in critical reflection possibly leading to transformative learning are modelling and peer learning, storytelling and dialogue, coaching, and action learning conversations.” (p. 93)

From reflecting on the above passage, I learned that critical reflection is seen to lead to a transformative learning by way of at least six strategies, namely, modelling and peer learning, storytelling and dialogue, coaching, and action learning conversations.  What catches attention is that “critical reflection” and “transformative learning” is much desired in adult education.  This makes me ask “What is transformative learning and critical thinking and how can the strategies of the passage lead towards them?”

Related readings argued that transformative learning as well as critical thinking has various conceptualizations, models, and sites.  But in general, it is about change which can happen to an individual, group, or a society in either the cognitive, emotional, social level, or a combination of these at least.  The definition that I can relate most is the one which tells that transformative learning is the change in perspective, worldview, and sense of self in a learner where this change would usually be self-reported and brought by educational interventions. Critical thinking would be in the heart of this process of change. By questioning and seeking answers, one can engage in critical thinking.  Teachers I believe are in the best position to intervene in the critical thinking process and employ strategies like the ones mentioned in the passage.

“Peer learning” could be a good technique for transformative learning as learning with peers is often taken as exciting.  For instance, Clark et. al. (1997) revealed that majority of the participants in their study enjoyed learning and interacting with peers as they experience increased intellectual stimulation and understanding.  The success of peer learning, however, often depends on the quality of the contribution of the moderator and the fellow participants and the commonality in interest in the topic.

“Modelling” could also be another good technique for transformative learning. In mathematics, for instance, Cobb and Steffe (1983) concluded that the construction of mathematical knowledge depends so much in how the teacher would model her own construction of mathematical knowledge.  They further argued that there is no substitute for the intimate interaction between the teacher and the student in a constructivist environment which we know correlates well with transformative learning (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-90-481-9729-3_3#page-1).

“Story telling” is a powerful platform to convey ideas that as far as Hollywood is taken advantage and earned millions from.  The most remembered movies have the best and well-told story and it so it seems that the most remembered learning moments have to do with a story being told.  Probably because stories are a natural mode of thinking and telling them actually precede formal education in the presentation of information.  As cited by Egan (2011), Shank and Abelson (1995) even claimed that all knowledge comes in the form of stories.

“Dialogue” is defined as a joint enterprise of talk and that talk builds up over time aiming at a purpose. It is effective when everyone is engaged, teacher does not dominate, pattern of talk is basketball not Ping-Pong, response is built on what others have said, contributions are well-developed sentences, participants are willing to take risks by sharing partial understanding, participants are willing to constructively challenge each other’s ideas, and demonstrates higher levels of thinking. Teachers can make this happen by bringing in rich questioning, higher order thinking questions, link questions to resources and tasks, no hands up questioning, and encourage participants when participants good dialogue (http://oer.educ.cam.ac.uk/wiki/Teaching_ Approaches /Dialogue).

“Coaching” is defined as a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future. I think that coaching in education is not the coach as expert but the coach as facilitator of learning for the improvement of performance (http://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/coaching. html).

“Action learning conversations” are seen as structured conversations in groups of most diverse participants where a model suggests three phrases, namely framing, advancing, and disengaging.  According to the model of Marsick and Maltbia (2006), the framing phase involves the participants with writing a question and background information and the group picks a person with whom to help. Peers ask questions to clarify and eventually questions move beyond facts at which point, the group goes to the second phase.  The second phase is divided into four key segments where while members of the group talk, the person receiving the help listens and writes but does not respond to what he/she hears until the end of each segment where he/she can respond selectively before moving to the next segment.  In the third phase 3, the person being helped will summarize the key discoveries.  It was observed that such protocol have opened the minds and hearts of the participants to the power of reflective practice.

 As a result of the quote and my readings of the techniques, I realized that attaining critical reflection and thus transformative learning is a planned process. Planning is necessary for the protocols of peer learning, dialogue, modelling, and action learning conversations, and coaching because they are not simple.

I also sought what critical reflection meant and I found that as cited by Lucas (2012), it is easier to have it in paper than put it in action and it actually have taken on different definitions varying between individuals and contexts.  Nevertheless, it seems that critical reflection can be attained by adapting techniques such as the ones discussed in the passage.

 As a result of the passage, I am compelled to teach with a purpose “to transform” not just deliver a lesson.  Transformative learning and critical thinking are two powerful words that should be added to my everyday vocabulary in lesson planning.  The strategies mentioned in the passage will be alternate methods in lieu of the lecture type.   

I will try “story-telling” since I have not tried that at all.  I told stories in the past but they were not part of the lesson.  I thought I was not comfortable with it until now that its value is emphasized.  Probably, I will begin with memorizing the autobiographies of great mathematicians.   I will also try “dialogue” by preparing big and rich math questions that students will prepare to discuss next meeting.  This activity will replace the reporting where a student is assigned a topic to present in class.

References

Clark, F., Heller A., Rafman, C. & Walker, J. (1997). Peer Learning: A Popular Model for Seniors Education. Educational Gerontology. Vol. 23 Issue 8. Retrieved from

Marsick J.M. & Maltbia T.E. (2006). Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Acer/Downloads/MarsickMaltbiaAoM%20Unpublished.pdf

Lucas, P. (2012). Critical Reflection – What do We Mean?  Retrieved from http://acen.edu.au/2012conference/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/92_Critical-reflection.pdf

Egan, K. (1985). Teaching as Story-telling: A Non-mechanistic Approach to Planning Teaching. Journal of Curriculum Studies. Vol. 17, Issue 4. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0022027850170405?journalCode=tcus20

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