Thanks A LOT for your great thought-provoking and informative message!
I want to make several comments on your inspirational message:
Your choice of gendered words made me think about masculine hegemony in promoting reflection. You wrote,
“In some ways I think part of the romance of "reflection" is that it is empowering BECAUSE it validates one's ability to just engage in some pure relation with one's own practices and to develop and test one's own theories without a lot of external critical inquiry or external validation for one's perspectives. I've actually seen communities of reflective practice or reflective inquiry use their status as a reflective community as a guard against the need to invite or rely upon external experts or concepts (a kind of "no one knows my practices better than I do" stance).”
Reflection is a very cold disaffectioned term that does not have a sense of value, personality, or caring. Of course, it is not inherently cold but it made cold through its decontextualized and ahistorical use (Kevin, thanks for your idea about ahistoricity of the reflection discourse! I did not think about it before).
Recently, I was teaching my preservice teachers about educational philosophies. I knew that my students do not see much value in learning about educational philosophies. As they told me during the class, they see a discussion of educational philosophy as “bla-bla-bla” for job interviews to get a teaching job. So, before starting a discussion about specific educational philosophies, I asked them if they had choice of two topics 1) “Educational philosophies” and 2) “The most effective pedagogical strategies” which of the topics they would choose to study. As you may guess, 100% of my students chose the second topic. I told my students that they do not need to learn much about the most effective pedagogical strategies because they have already known almost everything about them. To illustrate my point, I offered several teaching dilemmas like “How to make all your students to read the assigned literature”. My students replied, “Made exams and quizzes.” I asked them “How to make your students stop talking during your instruction?” My students generated a very interesting list including “make your students fear you”, “taking points out”, “start dictating notes”. We discussed in details what makes these strategies so effective. After I offered more teaching dilemmas and listed “the most effective pedagogical strategies” that they proposed, I asked them if they want me to run our class according to these “best strategies.” They said “no!” I asked why not if it would be very effective. They said that if I ran our class like this I’d not care about them as learners and people (one student made a point that the listed most effective pedagogical strategies is how Dr. Evil would run his class). So, I asked them what they care about as teachers… and we started a very intense and exciting discussion of educational philosophies.
In my view, the ideological focus on reflection prioritizes technology of teaching over philosophy of teaching: decontextualized and ahistorical efficiency over personalized caring and communal concerns as rooted in immediate and historical situations. The ongoing reflection discourse in educational establishment (e.g., NCATE) seems to be about disciplining minds of (mostly female) teachers rather caring about and nurturing their professional voices. I think that feminist studies and Foucault’s framework can be helpful for analysis of ongoing romance of reflection…
What do you think?
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