Critical reflection follow-up post 5

Thanks for your discussion on student feedback questionnaires. I found that a very thought-provoking piece.

Your useful summary of the issues in student feedback questionnaires (SFQ) neatly ties an important thread into this discussion. Brookfield noted that “there is no manual” (Laureate, 2011). It’s possible to take one side regarding SFQ, or another, or maintain an ambivalent position. The ultimate judge in the matter is the individual. External pressures may influence one’s feeling, but there is no arbitrator higher than the sovereignty owned by the individual. In many of the discussions on the doctoral path, a common theme is the recognition that doctoral candidates will develop “autonomous initiative” (QAA, 2011, p. 32). The lack of manual for reflection is, in my opinion, a crucial recognition that in all doctoral study candidates development of their own knowledge base, theoretical control, technical skill and above all, their belief in their own integrity.

Personally, I would have been more content if this Ed.D. course did not focus so much on reflection. One’s “sense of plausibility” (Prabhu, 1990) is a function of the interaction of many diverse aspects. Arguably, theoretical control (the topic of module 4, which starts for me tomorrow) may be the most important aspect. The more a student becomes aware of possible theoretical biases and subsequently their own biases, and the more that student is made to be accountable for decisions they take during their studies, the better the depth and quality their output will be. Reflection may or may not be a structured part of this. My sense is that because higher education as a discipline is still very young, the course designers felt a need to incorporate a particular brand of reflection that superficially appears to promote deeper learning. Constantinou (2009) is a rarity in that her doctoral dissertation provides some evidence for the value of reflection, yet her literature review shows many strong arguments against the practice.

Maybe I’m what Dewey would call a “dullard”, that person whose mind is always thinking, yet whose thoughts do not amount to much (Dewey, 1910, p. 2). I’m far more excited by realising change in my own thoughts after recognising a link between, for example, a new theory and an existing one. I’ll give an example to close my involvement in this week course; (It’s Wednesday afternoon here). Does this example constitute reflection or just thinking?

Lyn’s situation was high in my mind this morning when I read about Bakhtin’s notion of ‘chromotope’ (Bakhtin, 1981). Bakhtin was influenced by Einstein’s ‘space-time’ theory, and using that as a spur, he considered the idea that ‘chromo’/ ‘time’ and ‘topos’/ ‘space’ could be a device that helps readers understand those literary devices that manipulate notions of time and space during a novel. Blommaert (2015) expanded this concept in sociology to explain senses of identity. I would like to apply that to Lyn’s situation, and by extension, to us all.

In this room (with apologies to Kal), we are professional and experienced teachers. Our time-spaces are varied, but most of us will identify as middle-aged, mid-career and professional. Our notions of time-identity are connected to our beliefs about our positions related to our lives. This is a part of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. Our space-identity, likewise, is bound to those locations that we deem suitable for our professional and private identities. It would be unthinkable for me, for example, to attend a primary school sports event as an observer without any connection to that school. Or I wouldn’t join a dance rave (at my age) in my business suit. Our time-space identities present limitations on our activities as well. Yet, we are also students. The ‘distant’ part of our studies presents spatial problems unique to us that on-campus students do not have. Likewise, our age, our ‘time-identity’ plays havoc with our subconscious internalisations of student-hood. Living a professional life as an online student is problematic. Bakhtin’s concept may offer one explanation as to why that is so.

Jim

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. (M. Holquist, Ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Blommaert, J., & De Fina, A. (2015). Chronotopic identities: On the timespace organization of who we are. Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies 153, 153, 1–28.

Constantinou, H. (2009). Reflection in Education: An Exploration of EFL Teachers’ Conceptions of Reflective Practice in the UAE. University of Exeter.

Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. The Problem of Training Thought. Boston: D. C. Heath and Co. doi:10.1037/10903-000

Laureate. (2011). Critically reflective practices. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Prabhu, N. S. (1990). There is no best method-Why? TESOL Quarterly, 24(2), 161–176. doi:10.2307/3586897

QAA. (2011). Doctoral degree characteristics. Retrieved from http://www.qaa.ac.uk

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About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a private university.
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