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RE: reflective writing

Here is some of my reflection on reflective writing. In my opinion, putting things a bit simplistically but concretely, schools try to teach people (more or less) how to belong (or believe they belong or want to belong) to specific social classes (preferably one of the middle classes, but not necessarily) and (presumably) teaches people how to make themselves qualified for seeking certain kinds of employment. That the employers keep schools as far away from their hiring (and firing and laying off and promotion) processes as possible of course creates a host of impossible dilemmas for the education system, some of which Mike pointed directly to in saying that universities were set up "to be separate."

From a school's point of view, reflective-type activities (writing, some meetings with teachers, advisors, etc.) seem to me to be ways of monitoring this process of integrating a student into their "chosen" class and employment-area track (white collar, blue collar, pink collar, working class, middle class, etc. etc.). How we speak of ourselves, our experiences, our histories - how we outwardly "reflect" - is a very important piece of the puzzle of becoming "part" of any particular social class and seeking particular lines of employment. (Bourdieu's intriguing notion of "habitus" may be useful here.)

By writing a reflective piece to be read by a "teacher-audience" - and perhaps also other students - and now, apparently as part of a computer program to accompany certain college courses, which as Ann explains, motivated her questions - students learn some things about how to be "appropriately" reflective.

A serious teacher, however, may have their own reasons to encourage reflective forms of thinking and writing. As Jay emphasizes, becoming more aware of change, especially institutional and social change, is one likely reason for and consequence of reflective writing, uncomfortable as that may be. Mike's reasons for his end-of the quarter exercise - where the undergraduate students discuss the evolution of their twice-a-week reflective writings about their experiences with the kids and other undergrads in the course - would be interesting to pursue. Other teachers may engage students in this kind of writing to encourage introspective thinking - to focus on personal or even spiritual growth, perhaps.

My undergraduate program at Antioch University Seattle requires "self-assessments" from the students in their Bachelor of Arts Completion program - significant reflective writings that become part of the permanent record of the self-designed degree program and graduation package of each student. Although Antioch explains their reasons for requiring this reflective writing in very general terms - being a good citizen in society and developing one's self and so forth - I think the more specific reasons I mention above capture their essential motivation (that is, of course, if one accepts the idea that we live in a highly class-structured society).

My approach here leads to answering Ann's question about her school's computerized reflective writing system - "is this an unacknowledged case of asking students to adopt a persona?" - with a fairly solid "yes." It does seem to be about adopting a persona - about enculturating a person into some layer of society, or at least giving them some kind of an introduction to it, and adding to their collection of cultural repertoires ways to "appropriately" and "relevantly" discuss with others (superiors and peers) what is happening - I love this word David introduced - "intracranially."

Finally a question to Ann - your comment about Vygotsky intrigues me. What did LSV have to say about reflection?

- Steve

from Ann's Jul 13 post:
When we ask students to reflect on their learning are we imagining that they
really can tell us? Or, is this an unacknowledged case of asking students to
adopt a persona? Shouldn't we examine the activity system in which this
occurs and create opportunities for students to understand what the
situation calls for?

. .. . Obviously, I'm still working on this. . . How can we make sure that
reflection is the social process that Vygotsky (I think) intended?  How can
we keep from slipping back into the language of the individual
learner/knower who reports on his/her internal awareness?

Ann M. Feldman