Friday, 27 August 2021

The risks of reflection

The benefits of critical reflection are clear in the are shared realities we have as practitioners, having a community of practice, and sharing the learning journey with others who 'know'. But the risks we talk less about. 

Luckily, Dr Stephen Brookfield does a great job about talking about the risks of critical reflection in the University of Liverpool video (2019) that I have linked below.

What I particularly like about this video are Brookfield's four ideas of what we don't realise is happening when we learn, and reflect (2019): 

  • Impostership: "the sense that you get, that I'm a fraud, that I don't really know what I'm doing. Everybody else is moving forward and being successful, but I'm the one person who just won't be able to understand this" (Brookfield, 2019, 2:54). We have to learn to grow comfortable in 'not knowing' and put aside "self-laceration" (4:05) and whakamā
  • Cultural Suicide: "when you start to question [your] assumptions [...] and you share these new insights and this dawning awareness with your friends, with your family, with your colleagues. You let them know that you're changing how you think, and sometimes you're actually changing how you act and behave in front of them" (5:28). What happens is that "people don't break out in spontaneous applause, and pat you on the back they're actually very threatened: because now, you're not the person that they knew" (6:01). Cultural change is not universally welcomed, and we cut ourselves off from our Whānau. 
  • Lost innocence: "that moment when you realize that there is no manual. There is no one book that I can read. There is no one technique that I can practice. There is no one person that I can Shadow, and study, and follow and then imitate, [who] will take care of all my problems" (7:10). We are all going to "have to take responsibility for [our] own learning and [...] actions and that there is not a script" they we can simply follow (7:52). 
  • Incremental fluctuation: "when you're learning critical reflection, and you sort of have a breakthrough moment. And you say, 'Oh, now I understand' [... .] You feel you're really making progress. Then you try something based on this dawning awareness, and maybe it works for a while. But then another bump in the road happens, and you realise "Oh, I've got to go back and rethink this'." (9:09). It is always "two steps forward, one step back. You make progress and then you temporarily regress" (10:00).

Although I find Brookfield's term "cultural suicide" uncomfortable, the idea itself is interesting. I also like that he offers a student-developed way of minimising the risk: 

  1. Firstly, ask the partner what happened while you were away. 
  2. Secondly, acknowledge and thank your partner for their support for you being able to create this learning. 
  3. Thirdly, don't talk about your learning unless your partner asks. 
  4. Fourthly, begin the narrative with a moment of anxiety, not with triumph (your partner will then ally with you from your standpoint of weakness).

All useful advice.


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