I just browsed a really interesting book on autobiography in education. I plan on finding it at my school’s library or through ILL because the Google Book only gave excerpts from each chapter. I have always been a believer in reflective practice in teacher education since my professors made me do it in college. They were successful in indoctrinating me. 🙂 Seriously, self-reflection exposed a lot of “baggage” about my own experience as a student that, if left unexamined, could have led to some less than desirable outcomes as a teacher. In a nutshell, I was the guy who made good grades but never really thought much about what I was learning. I never made trouble for my teachers, but I never really made a difference in my school. I stood out because of my own talents, but I never really stood up for anything. Seth Godin touches on this in an insightful post. Schooling is about learning the ropes and working the system; whereas, learning is about getting it. I don’t honestly think I got it until I was a sophomore in college.
In many ways, I still don’t get it. However, I am content to know the difference between what I get and what I don’t get. The things I don’t get that I still want to get, I am pursuing. The things I don’t get that I don’t mind if I never get, I am content to drop them. Or at least shelf them until I have a desire to get them again someday.
OK, enough of that. The reason I brought this up at all is because I am really wrestling with the kinds of things my students should be reflecting on, and how they should be reflecting on them. For me, blogs are great but they don’t work for everyone. For me, transparency is OK, but not everyone feels comfortable with it. I want my preservice teachers to have the freedom to admit when they are struggling to find the “teachable moments” in their field experiences, but I want them to look past the schooling game so many of them have played for so long and think about learning. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily want to push every student toward the “deeper experience,” as one of my online students so accurately put it this summer. Some of them may not be at that point in their learning, and it just adds unnecessary pressure when students think they need to uncover the drama in an experience that was probably pretty bland to begin with. Frankly, my K-12 experience was devoid of very many light bulb or a-ha moments, so a dramatic account of my school days would be predominantly fiction.
This gets me back to the scaffolding issue. With a little modeling, some constructive formative feedback along the way and a clear target for the kinds of things they should be looking for in the classrooms in which they observe or teach, I think reflective practice can be, and is, very effective. I know entire dissertations have been written on this topic, so I haven’t even scratched the surface. But it’s a timely thing to be thinking about as I start my classes next week.