01 SES 10 B, Habitus, Culture, and Creativity in Reflection
With the persistent demand for quality provision in education across the globe, the call for reflective teachers remains ever present (Krishnaratne et al., 2013). Reflective practice is widely recognised as an essential tool for supporting the development of teachers, helping to inform change and improve practice (Moon, 2004). Arguments for the use of reflective practice in support of teacher development are well rehearsed in professional and academic arenas, at both a European level, e.g. Italy, Spain and the Netherlands (ET2020 Working Group Schools, 2018), and at an international level, e.g. Australia, Hong Kong and the USA (Bautista and Ortega-Ruíz, 2015).
This paper situates itself in the Kazakhstani context and introduces a theoretical framework for the ‘Self-Reflective Shapes’ approach, a creative solution that was developed by the second author in response to real-life educational challenges and to support the development of a culture of reflection in education professionals across the country. These professionals were specifically teacher-trainers who were undertaking in-service training that was being delivered by a team of UK-based trainers from an English Higher Education institution as part of the country-wide ‘Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools Center of Excellence’ initiative (see Wilson et al., 2013 for further details). Informal unstructured observations during taught sessions (various) by the two authors of this paper highlighted how Kazakhstani teacher-trainers were struggling to engage in the reflective process as part of the programme, merely describing what they had done with educators in a variety of educational settings as opposed to employing ‘analysis, synthesis and evaluation’ to gain a deeper critical understanding of both themselves and their experience (Cole, 2000, p.32).
In response to this challenge, the two authors of this paper constructed a framework which positions the development of professional knowing as a creative practice. Influenced by the thinking of Kolb (2015), Švec (2005), Yip (2006), Schön (1983) and Lew and Schmidt (2011), the framework acknowledges the relationship between knowledge and experience, emphasises the need for professionals to reflect on their own ‘experiences, perspectives, beliefs and claims’ (Shaw et al., 2018, p.2), and recognises how systemic challenges such as policy making, leadership, culture and the heavy standardisation of practice can disrupt the reflective process. Efforts to develop an innovative solution to help Kazakhstani teacher-trainers move beyond uncritical and passive approaches to reified knowledge were facilitated through a critical interrogation of four contrasting traditions of reflection that highlight different ways in which reflective practices have been employed in the pursuit of professional knowledge; these include: i) the Academic tradition, ii) the Social Efficiency tradition, iii) the Developmentalist tradition, and iv) the Social Reconstructivist tradition (Tabachnick and Zeichner, 1991). Through this examination, the authors of this paper argue that reflection can be understood as a creative, embodied act of explicit and tacit professional knowing that involves mind and body, and knowledge and experience.
This position is used to inform the remainder of this paper which focusses on the presentation of ‘Self-Reflective Shapes’, an approach that was offered to Kazakhstani teacher-trainers in support of their self-reflective activity to aid professional development. An explanation of the approach is given, showing how artistic choices, selected questions and ownership over the reflective process can help education professionals to effectively overcome the issues and tensions attributed to participating in an intentional process of thinking and acting (Švec, 2005). Through subsequent practice and discussion, the authors of this paper argue that a ‘Self-Reflective Shapes’ approach to reflection can help to transform, deepen and enrich the knowledge and understanding of professionals in contexts in European and international contexts, not just Kazakhstan.
The authors of this paper frame the problem of professional reflection in two ways, the first being through theoretical means by examining conceptions of professional knowing and reflection that can lead to an over-emphasis of either explicit, well-defined knowledge outcomes or tacit, ill-defined embodied knowledge. Drawing on a suite of diverse reflective traditions, as highlighted by Tabachnick and Zeichner (1991 – see Proposal Information above), the authors of this paper assert that reflection, in many contexts such as Kazakhstan, is focused on developing the freedoms necessary to successfully meet competing educational demands, be they academic, standards-based, developmental or social-transformational in nature. The authors of this paper also frame the problem of professional reflection empirically, not by answering specific research questions but by outlining their professional experiences of closely working with Kazakhstani teacher-trainers. A candid joint-reflection of informal unstructured observations (various) is offered using thick description, acknowledging how many of the practicing teacher-trainers were knowledgeable in their field, were skilled communicators and were already perceived as effective trainers in the Kazakhstani context. The authors’ analysis of their observations recognise how the Kazakhstani teacher-trainers also exhibited pedagogies that prized reified knowledge over understanding and application, and generic ‘best practice’ over personalised and differentiated approaches, meaning that they were struggling to move beyond the well-established culture of passivity and compliance (Wilson et al., 2013; Turner et al., 2017). For example, during peer assessment sessions, a common response to requests for feedback about areas for improvement in their own and other trainers’ work saw teacher-trainers pivot back onto previously mentioned successful features or to re-articulate descriptive success criteria without reference to any specific work. Efforts to probe the teacher-trainers’ thoughts and understanding were constantly greeted with a sea of verbalised positivity which appeared to serve as a protective veneer that avoided the expression of any issues or weaknesses that may have been perceived as ‘failure’ by their peers. This lack of honesty and openness, which Knutsson et al. (2015, p.459) identify as being two reflective ‘learning prerequisites’, meant that only a “surface level” of reflection was shared in both oral and written form with peers and the UK trainers (Ryken and Hamel, 2016), thus limiting the Kazakhstani trainers’ reflection to more of the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ as opposed to the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ (Jasper, 2011).
In proposing acts of professional knowing as creative practice, the authors of this paper hope to foster critical debate in the field of education about the intentions and environments of reflection. It is clear that teachers across the globe work in complex contexts of competing freedoms and constraints; it is also the case that they face increasing pressures from the growing availability and power of data and research and its associated reified knowledge. The authors of this paper argue that informed discussions about the complex intentions of educational acts and their impact on individuals has always been a necessary precursor to professional development. Thus, it is argued that there has never been a more vital time to empower teachers across the globe to make informed judgements about how to foster student understanding, to cultivate sensitive, differentiated and stimulating learning environments, and to disrupt the injustices inherent in the constraints of educational contexts. Having presented a framework that positions reflection as a creative act of professional knowing, and having outlined ‘Self-Reflective Shapes’ as one practice-led approach that may offer the potential to support the development of such practice, further research is now required into teachers’ application and experiences of using this approach in European and international contexts, its utility in different educational environments across the globe, and on the impact of this approach on student attainment outcomes as well as on the more personal, social and emotional aspects of development.
Bautista, A., & Ortega-Ruíz, R. (2015). Teacher professional development: international perspectives and approaches. Psychology, Society and Education, 7(3), 240-251. Cole, M. (2000). Learning through reflective practice: a professional approach to effective continuing professional development among healthcare professionals. Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 5(1), 23–38. ET2020 Working Group Schools (2018). European ideas for better learning: the governance of school education systems. Retrieved from: https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/downloads/Governance/2018-wgs6-Full-Final-Output.pdf Jasper, M. (2011). Professional Development, Reflection and Decision-making (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Knutsson, S., Jarling, A., & Thorén A-B. (2015). ‘It has given me tools to meet patients’ needs’: students’ experiences of learning caring science in reflection seminars. Reflective Practice: international and multidisciplinary perspectives, 16(4), 459–471. Kolb, D. (2015). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey: Pearson Education Ltd. Krishnaratne, S., White, H., & Carpenter, E. (2013). Quality education for all children? What works in education in developing countries. New Delhi, India: International Initiative for IMsPAct Evaluation. Lew, D. N. M., & Schmidt, H. G. (2011). Self-Reflection and Academic Performance: Is There a Relationship? Advances in Health Sciences Education, 16(4), 529–545. Moon, J. (2004). A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge. Ryken, A. E., & Hamel, F. L. (2016). Looking Again at “Surface-Level” Reflections: Framing a Competence View of Early Teacher Thinking. Teacher Education Quarterly, Fall, 31–53. Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Boston: Arena Publishing. Shaw, S., Kuvalja, M., & Suto, I. (2018). An exploration of the nature and assessment of student reflection. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 25, 2-8. Retrieved from https://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/Images/475804-research-matters-25-spring-2018.pdf Švec, V. (2005) Pedagogické znalosti učitele: Teorie a praxe. Praha: ASPI. Tabachnick, R., & Zeichner, K. M. (1991). Reflections on Reflective Teaching. In R. Tabachnick, & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Issues and Practices in Inquiry-Oriented Teacher Education (pp. 1–9). London: Falmer Press. Turner, F., Brownhill, S. and Wilson, E. (2017). The transfer of content knowledge in a cascade model of professional development. Teacher Development, 21(2), 175-191. Wilson, E., Turner, F., Brownhill, S. & Sharimova, A. (2013). System-Wide Transformation of Teaching Practice in Kazakhstan; Monitoring and Evaluating Changes in the Early stages of an Intervention Programme. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, 10-13 September, Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul. Yip, K-s. (2006) Self-reflection in Reflective Practice: A Note of Caution. British Journal of Social Work, 36, 777–788.
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