Re: Reflection and CHAT

From: Jayson Seaman (
Date: Sun Mar 21 2004 - 07:55:13 PST

I appreciate Elina's addition that reflection is itself a constructive
and situated activity. I too am looking at reflection but in the context
of facilitated, small group activities. I have only completed a pilot
study and therefore I only have preliminary ideas at this point, but some
of my own "reflections" lead me down the road Elina points to, and where
I will focus my inquiry as the study unfolds. I can't offer any
particular theoretical insights at this point, but hope that some of my
musings on my own data raise relevant questions.

I appreciate the recognition that reflection reciprocates with action and
I am finding it hard to consider reflection outside the action that
brackets it. One thing I was struck by in my pilot study (and have yet to
figure out) is how little, at times, participants' actions represented
what was previously discussed during collaborative reflection sessions.
In my mind I had pictured a pretty clear correspondence between what was
uttered and ostensibly agreed upon and how people acted subsequently, but
this was rarely the case. However, over time, conscious activity began to
adhere to the verbal agreements (which were rarely explicit, but arose as
people struggled to unify their language--a process guided in large part
by the facilitator) made during reflection sessions, but not without
work--i.e., people explicilty pointing out how certain actions were "in"
or "out of bounds".

Public, structured reflection sessions seem to be (in my construction of
my data) almost a literal "coming to terms." The sessions seem to serve
to interpret previous action and map out domains for future action (even
through discussing past action). The "terms" in this case can easily be
located amidst an institutional narrative that is authored largely by the
facilitator, although subject to variations and emergences of new "micro"
cultural symbols--and perhaps also the site of resistance. I'm
considering the "coming" part to be the achievement of intersubjectivity
around the meanings certain actions hold, so therefore it is hard to say
that the reflection sessions are the source of the meaning, because the
sessions require the fodder of previous and subsequent action.

In the mapping out of domains for future action, what seems to be most
discussed in reflection sessions are not the points of agreement, but the
points of disagreement among the consensual--albeit tacit--meanings that
have arisen. The exploration of these "border areas" seems to be what
animates many of the reflection sessions later in the group's time
together. One of the participants used the term "recalibration" to
describe his experience and this is, perhaps, the best way I can think to
describe it.

Thanks for raising this interesting topic--in fact, it will largely be
the focus of my efforts at the CHAT mini-course in San Diego! As a
relative newcomer to CHAT, I am still struggling to situate my analysis
in CHAT terms, but this discussion helps considerably.

Jayson Seaman

On Sun, 21 Mar 2004 00:25:01 -0500 "Lampert-Shepel, Elina"
<> writes:
> Dear Carol et al,
> I’ve been following the discussion with a great interest, and
> enjoying the food for thought being served for breakfast as much as
> for dinner…J I wasn’t even counting the calories…J One of the
> major reasons is that I am on the verge of defending my proposal for
> the doctoral cross-cultural qualitative study on teachers’
> reflective actions in Dewey schools, one in Russia and one in the
> United States. I do not address the relationship between reflection
> and the process of change (in the self of a teacher? In the
> community? etc.) directly, but more interested in the
> demystification of the process of reflection as a higher mental
> function and documentation of toolkit of mediational means teachers
> use in their reflective process.
> I believe that CHAT and especially Learning Activity Theory can be a
> powerful theoretical framework in the study on reflection in teacher
> education as it provides the grounds to study reflection as action
> in teachers’ professional Learning Activity. Here some of my
> initial ideas on the subject of discussion:
> Ø It seems to me that the term reflection has lost its meaning
> in teacher education literature. The words reflection, reflectivity,
> reflexivity has been used interchangeably, though they come from
> different philosophies and focus on different issues. I consider
> reflection as a dialectical, socially constructed and culturally
> mediated metacognitive activity of meaning making through a
> continuous exploration of the experience by the agent of the action.
> As far as I know, there were initial studies on reflection as a
> higher mental function done by Zak and Boris Elkonin, but both were
> done with children .
> Ø My previous studies with Vygotskian teachers in Russia,
> Piagetian teachers in England and teachers in US Dewey schools
> (Tanner, 1997) made me interested in how mediateional meand of
> reflective action changed the discourse and the meaning of
> reflection. If the argument is toward conceptualization of practice,
> buiding theory of practice, then, it seems to me that the conscious
> choice of meadiational means and understanding the difference of
> reflective process when using metaphor vs narrative vs symbol, etc.
> can be very handy. I think that mediational means of reflection are
> multiple and they are inherently situated culturally,
> institutionally, and historically; they can be construed as the
> carriers of social, historical, and cultural transformations.
> Mediational means serve to transform the flow of the reflective
> action, changing too, the action itself and participants’
> interactions.
> Ø Here are some of my references on the subject...
> Lampert -Shepel, E. (1999) Reflective thinking in educational
> praxis: analysis of multiple perspectives. Educational Foundations,
> 13(3), 69-88
> Lampert-Shepel, E. (1995). Teacher self-identification in culture
> from Vygotsky’s developmental perspective. Anthropology and
> Education Quarterly, 26.
> Here are some ideas before the sleep…J
> What do you think?

With regards,

Jayson Seaman
Orford, NH

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