critically reflective teaching
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Portfolio to Go: 1000+ Reflective Writing Prompts and Provocations for Clinical Learners
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
From Dewey (How We Think [Boston: D.C. Heath,1933]) to Schön (Reflective Practitioner [New York: Basic 1983]), and most recently Palmer and Zajonc (The Heart of Higher Education [New York: Jossey Bass 2010]) and Barbezat and Bush (Contemplative Practices in Higher Education [New York: Jossey Bass, 2013]), reflective practice has a long pedagogical history, especially in clinical training. Reflective practice calls for revisiting one’s past or present experiences in order to analyze, reconsider, and mine the learning in them for use in the future. Reflective practice is increasingly being employed in higher education along with the use of contemplative practices as a means by which to increase student use of critical thinking skills and embodiment of “competence, compassion, collaboration, and a tolerance for ambiguity in the face of uncertainty” (Peterkin, 3).
Portfolio to Go offers a multitude of questions that encourage deep reflection on clinical and personal experiences by students in healthcare training programs. Although some prompts refer specifically to clinical and medical settings (for example, “Describe the hospital corridors at 3 a.m.” ), most deal with far broader settings (“Write a story about the last time you were yelled at” ) and could be used by students in a wide range of disciplines and in classroom or small group settings. Peterkin encourages their use primarily in reflective writing such as journals, critical incident reflections, or stand-alone assignments. He identifies writing as a tool that increases awareness of feelings and thoughts about one’s work, but also as a vehicle that deepens critical thinking, enriches ethical insights in complex situations, and encourages development of one’s professional identity. Inclusion of reflective writing in student portfolios provides professors or future employers a glimpse of personal and professional learning and identity formation over time. Although Peterkin intends the book for students, it would be useful as an educator’s guide to the inclusion of reflective assignments in clinical courses.
In the opinion of this reviewer, the most valuable parts of this book are the chapters that coach and teach students how reflection and storytelling can maximize professional growth. The chapters include how to critically reflect in one’s writing, how to move from reflection to actionable practice, how to form and participate in a reflective writing group, and how to deal with internal criticism. In one chapter, Peterkin differentiates criticism (negative) from critique (positive) by noting that the former finds fault, notes what is missing, and attacks the writer, while the latter identifies strengths, looks for possibilities, and is honest but kind. In the chapter on moving from reflection to action, the author notes simple but profound elements of clinical visits that students often struggle to implement such as asking open-ended questions (“what would you like me to know about you?” or “what is one thing you haven’t asked me, yet?”), listening for patient concerns and fears, noticing metaphors in conversation and using them to expand understanding, and being aware of body language (standing, sitting, touching) and how it impacts relationship.
Educators often find assessing reflective writing and discussions difficult because of the personal and vulnerable nature of reflection. Peterkin offers a very useful rubric (118-120) that provides ways by which to measure levels of participation and reflection.
Portfolios to Go is a helpful volume for any educator interested in exploring the value of reflective practice and in including reflective assignments in a classroom or clinical training program.
Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide to Theory and Practice, Edition: 3
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
In the third edition of Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning, Patricia Cranton provides new insights into the field of transformative learning. Cranton promotes transformative learning, addresses transformative learning theory, and offers strategies for the concept itself. The author examines and promotes transformative learning in multiple contexts: higher education, business industry, government, health professions, nonprofit organizations, and community development. Cranton traces the origin of the concept of transformative learning and then gives a full description of the theory from an integrative perspective. In doing so, she shows the reader that transformative learning takes place both individually and communally.
A minor weakness of the book is its use of specialized psychological terminology; the reader unfamiliar with it may lose focus on the overall purpose of the book as they strive to understand the meaning of particular words and phrases. That said, the book is helpful for understanding transformative learning theory, practice, and strategy. These insights alone aid faculty in developing effective teaching strategies to advance student learning. In addition, the author shows not only the importance of the subject, but how it can be used in real life applications.
This book is valuable because it focuses on the core of what it means to learn. At the forefront of this learning is an acknowledgement of various ways of knowing and the author provides examples of these. I was particularly drawn to the section that discusses dialogue, discourse, and support. This section of the book resonates with me because it fits into my own theory of critical pedagogy. The student should be impacted by learning in such a way that it transforms not only the learner, but the learner’s society as well.
Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning is particularly valuable for helping educators see their role in the learning process. The methodology described throughout the book leads to self-reflection, critical reflection, and thinking about how one’s teaching may fit into contemporary contexts. Furthermore, it converts the process of reflection into active participation in society. Additionally, the book discusses empowerment and the importance of dialogue to this process. This book is valuable in its demonstration of how dialogue is critical to transformative learning and can help the reader see how this affects student self-awareness and consciousness.
Overall, I found this book to be a valuable asset for those interested in social justice and especially for teachers interested in transformative learning.
Making Sense of Teaching in Difficult Times
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
The ten chapters in this volume first appeared as a special issue of Teaching in Higher Education (2013). Each author is situated in particular classroom and institutional contexts ranging from South Africa to Australia, from Denmark to China and Canada, from the United Kingdom to the United States. Their expertise is far reaching. Although none of the contributors are in the areas of theology or religious studies, the questions raised and addressed in this volume center on strategies for effective teaching and learning. Collectively, these chapters supply a snapshot of the challenges and promises facing instructors of higher education. As a result, there are several potentially relevant sites for reflection and application.
Grouped thematically, student-centered chapters highlight raising awareness of White Privilege (chapter 1) and of global citizenship through on-campus threshold-crossing experiences (chapter 3), undergraduate research (chapter 4), and social justice (chapter 8). More instructor-centered chapters confront the role of self-reflective practices (chapter 2), and of online education (chapter 10). Curricular chapters focus on inter-disciplinarity in an engineering curriculum (chapter 5), on the impact of problem-based learning on Chinese students undertaking higher education outside of their homeland (chapter 6), and on assessment practices (chapter 9). Of all of the chapters in this volume, “Reframing teaching relationships: from student-centered to subject-centered teaching,” would be the most suitable starting point for the reader of the Wabash Center’s online reviews. Although this chapter is situated at the center of the volume (chapter 7), it serves as the organizing chapter because it tackles an issue raised more specifically in the other chapters. Employing frame theory, the authors respond to questions of self-identity and the teaching relationship by advocating subject-centered learning.
The strength of the volume rests with the particular contribution of each individual chapter. Offering a specific perspective in a local context, each author works within cleanly defined theoretical boundaries and approaches, and presents an argument worthy of further consideration and discussion. Despite this strength, however, the overall coherence of the volume suffers from the lack of a formal, introductory chapter and a final, concluding chapter. An additional chapter at the fore could justify the order of presentation of the collection (thematically topically, or through some other means) and facilitate the act of reading by explaining criteria for selection and inclusion; a closing chapter might indicate possible applications of the issues in other contexts and introduce new approaches or questions moving forward. The lack of these critical organizing chapters at the opening and closing of the volume requires the reader to determine the contours of coherence across the chapters and to impose frameworks for interpretation.
The University of Chicago made news recently because of a letter sent by its Dean of Students to inform its incoming class of freshmen that the University, given its commitment to “freedom of inquiry and expression,” does not support “trigger warnings,” cancel controversial speakers, or condone creation of “safe spaces.” ...
Teaching the Historical Jesus: Issues and Exegesis
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
This collection highlights the depth and breadth of interest in the historical Jesus across various forms of higher education. Editor Zev Garber has done an outstanding job of assembling high quality scholar-teachers to explicate their framework for understanding Jesus in his social-historical setting. What makes the volume noteworthy for a faculty teaching theology and religion, however, is the reflection on how to teach this important subject in ways that are pertinently positioned for a variety of student audiences. Taken as a whole, the volume answers Rudolf Bultmann’s question, “Can there be exegesis without presuppositions?” with a resounding “no.” Each contributor clearly presents their own position, the background of their institutional context, and assumptions that surround the teaching of their group of students.
The collection is made up of twenty shorter essays and full comment on each cannot be made here. The first part of the volume examines teaching and student engagement from a variety of institutional contexts – primarily undergraduate, but including a rabbinical school and a Christian seminary. Further marks of delineation are private versus public; Protestant, Jewish, Catholic; and even a public community college. Some contributors function both in academia as well as in the training of religious leaders, formally or informally. Pedagogy is presented and explained, along with reflection on student questions, reactions, and participation in the learning process. The underlying purpose in doing this teaching work is to increase fruitful interfaith dialogue. The second section examines specific issues in teaching the historical Jesus – often these are difficulties encountered, with solutions suggested (for example, the use of art or cinema; the nature of Judaism and Jesus; the extended turn toward later Christian terms and theology; the use of gospel materials in reconstruction; clarity on the “parting of the ways”). The final section consists of four technically positioned essays about Jesus’s Jewish background and his roles within local, pan-Mediterranean, and larger political contexts of his society (who was Jesus among other males, the Pharisees, and political seditionists?).
If readers of Reflective Teaching believe that good teaching is enhanced by “good conversations about teaching,” then this volume is a gold mine. Garber has directed the contributors to be transparent about themselves, their contexts, and their students. This allows us to contrast them to our own pedagogies, experiences, expectations, and accomplishments or difficulties. In addition, we can be reminded that our own contexts may be busy and focused to the extent that we are unaware of or inattentive to the differing contexts and perspectives of colleagues that both warrant our notice and our conversation – thus increasing our respect, tolerance, civility, and openness to dialogue. And because much of the discussion in this book revolves around students, we have an opportunity to see the variety of perspectives that we might one day engage in the classroom ourselves. I highly recommend this book for those who teach early Christianity or introductory courses in which the historical Jesus is a significant subject of inquiry.