Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Understanding Educational Expeditions

I would just like to make you aware of a new book that has been brought to fruition by Dr Simon Beames from the University of Edinburgh

This is certainly a much needed resource particularly for those of us who organise activities of this nature. Having cited Simon's work in the past and referred to his papers in my lectures, I feel this is the next logical step for gaining contempoary information on a growing area of study and research

Understanding Educational Expeditions explores theory that can be used to inform how educational expeditions are conceptualised, planned, and facilitated. Aiming to bridge theory and practice, each chapter outlines relevant literature, highlights key areas for consideration, and offers suggestions for real-world application. The book will be of interest to researchers, university students, expedition organisers, and outdoor instructors.

The contributors offer a wide range of perspectives through which expeditions for educational purposes can be considered. Eleven accessible chapters examine the following topics:

- The British Youth Expedition: Cultural and Historical Perspectives

- Virtue Ethics and Expeditions

- Interactionism and Expeditions

- The Expedition and Rites of Passage

- Science on Expeditions

- Choices, Values, and Untidy Processes: Personal, Social, and Health Education on Educational Expeditions

- Expeditions and Liberal Arts University Education

- Understanding Heritage Travel: Story, Place, and Technology

- Expeditions for People with Disabilities

- Ethics for Expeditions

- Current Issues

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cycle for Reflection

Graham Gibbs’ (1988) model of reflection provides a structured way of carrying out reflective practice for those who may require guidance on techniques. This model originated from the teaching profession but can be easily transferred for use within of coaching and leadership settings. Gibbs' model incorporates all the core skills of reflection. Arguably it is focused on 'reflection-on-action', but with practice it could be used to focus on reflection in and before action.

Stage 1: Description of the event

Describe in detail the event you are reflecting on.

Include e.g. where were you; who else was there; why were you there; what were you doing; what were other people doing; what was the context of the event; what happened; what was your part in this; what parts did the other people play; what was the result.

Stage 2: Feelings and Thoughts (Self awareness)

At this stage, try to recall and explore those things that were going on inside your head. Include:

How you were feeling when the event started?
What you were thinking about at the time?
How did it make you feel?
How did other people make you feel?
How did you feel about the outcome of the event?
What do you think about it now?

Stage 3: Evaluation

Try to evaluate or make a judgement about what has happened. Consider what was good about the experience and what was bad about the experience or what did or didn’t go so well

Stage 4: Analysis

Break the event down into its component parts so they can be explored separately. You may need to ask more detailed questions about the answers to the last stage. Include:

What went well?
What did you do well?
What did others do well?
What went wrong or did not turn out how it should have done?
In what way did you or others contribute to this?

Stage 5: Conclusion (Synthesis)

This differs from the evaluation stage in that now you have explored the issue from different angles and have a lot of information to base your judgement. It is here that you are likely to develop insight into you own and other people’s behaviour in terms of how they contributed to the outcome of the event. Remember the purpose of reflection is to learn from an experience. Without detailed analysis and honest exploration that occurs during all the previous stages, it is unlikely that all aspects of the event will be taken into account and therefore valuable opportunities for learning can be missed. During this stage you should ask yourself what you could have done differently.

Stage 6: Action Plan 

During this stage you should think yourself forward into encountering the event again and to plan what you would do – would you act differently or would you be likely to do the same?

Here the cycle is tentatively completed and suggests that should the event occur again it will be the focus of another reflective cycle.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frameworks for Reflection

John Dewey identified three characteristics or attitudes of people who are reflective  - open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness. At a basic level models of reflection exist to provide guidance to help us look back over events that have happened and to turn them into learning experiences for the future. In essence models of reflection help us to:

Look at an event - Understand it - Learn from it

There are a variety of strategies to implement reflective practice. Donald Schon refers to ‘reflection-in-action’ as analysis in the present tense (during the performance of a task) and 'reflection-on-action' as  retrospective analysis (after the performance of a task). Killion and Todnem (1991) categorize reflection in three directions:

Firstly, reflection-on-action requires looking back on what one has accomplished and reviewing the actions, thoughts, and product.

Secondly, reflection-in-action. In this activity, the individual is responsible for reflecting while in the act of carrying out the task. If, for example, the student is writing a story and has left out the setting, reflection-in-action could guide the correction of a major component of the story writing.

The final reflective form centres on reflection-for-action. This reflection form expects the participant to review what has been accomplished and identify constructive guidelines to follow to succeed in the given task in the future.

Reflection for action - Before
Strategic Planning
Influential processes which precede efforts to act and set the stage for action
Goal setting increases self-efficacy and intrinsic interest
Self-motivation beliefs increase:
• Commitment
• Self-efficacy
• Outcome expectations
• Intrinsic interest/value
• Goal Orientation

Reflection in action - During
Performance or Volitional Control
Processes that occur action and affect attention and action
Self-observation, self-recording, self-experimentation allows learners to vary aspects of their performance
Self-control processes help learners to focus on tasks and optimize efforts including:
• Self-instruction
• Imagery
• Attention focusing
• Task Strategies

Reflection on action - After
Self-judgment- Self-evaluation & Casual attribution
Self-reaction - Self-satisfaction/affect &Adaptive-defensive response
Processes which occur after performance efforts and influence a person’s response to that experience
Planning and implementing a strategy provides an evaluation metric for learners to attribute successes or failures to, rather than low ability

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Discussing Reflective Practice

Reflection is an activity by which experience is recaptured, thought about and evaluated.. reflection as a learning activity is said to be intentional and purposeful with the aim of changing behaviour.” (Boud et. al, 1985)

Donald Schon, an influential writer on reflection, described reflection in two main ways: reflection in action and reflection on action. Reflection on action is looking back after the event whilst reflection in action is happening during the event. To complicate matters there are different interpretations of reflection on action. Let’s now explore these terms.

Reflection in action means

To think about what one is doing whilst one is doing it; it is typically stimulated by surprise, by something which puzzled the practitioner concerned.” (Greenwood, 1993)

Reflection in action allows the practitioner to redesign what he/ she is doing whilst he/she is doing it. This is commonly associated with experienced practitioners. However, it is much neglected.

Reflection on action is defined as:

The retrospective contemplation of practice undertaken in order to uncover the knowledge used in practical situations, by analysing and interpreting the information recalled.” (Fitzgerald, 1994: 67)

We can see here that reflection on action involves turning information into knowledge, by conducting a cognitive post mortem.

Alternatively Boyd & Fales suggest reflection on action is:

The process of creating and clarifying the meanings of experiences in terms of self in relation to both self and world. The outcome of this process is changed conceptual perspectives” (Boyd & Fales, 1983: 101)

We see here that Boyd and Fales focus more on self development. Here refection does not only add to our knowledge but challenges the concepts and theories we hold. Furthermore as a result we don’t see more, we see differently.

Atkins and Murphy (1994) take this idea one step further and suggest that for reflection to make a real difference to practice we follow this with a commitment to action as a result.

The problems with these views of reflection on action are that they do not take account of the importance of reflection before action (Killion and Todnem (1991).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Discovering Reflective Practice

It seems to me that the notion of "reflective practice" offers a highly challenging paradigm for learning and a means of enhancing the coaching process. Central to any learning episode needs to be a specific practice event, experienced uniquely and differentially, often by a small number of people. The outcome of which is to likely derive a number of more abstract generalisations that can be applied to future situations.

The acquisition of knowledge through the medium of reflection is not a new concept; Plato argued that to know something required recollection and is therefore a reflective and introspective process. Some consider it a transformation process whereby experience and theory become knowledge. Others take the view that whilst reflection enhances our knowledge it may also confront our ideas and underpinning theories. Reflecting on a situation allows us to develop and view things differently. Bill Taylor, BCU Level 5 Inland Coach, regards reflection to be a potent process in gaining a deeper understanding of the reasoning behind why things do or don’t work. Leberman and Martin state that “reflection is fundamentally important, provides a major contribution to personal growth and therefore affects the transfer of learning” (2004: 174).

Cultivating the capacity to reflect in action (while doing something) and on action (after you have done it) is becoming an important feature of training programmes in many disciplines. Another aspect that is also emerging is recognising how the assistance a mentor can be beneficial in gaining the most from an experience. Indeed, it can be argued that 'real' reflective practice needs another person as mentor or supervisor, who can ask appropriate questions to ensure that the reflection goes somewhere, and does not get bogged down in self-justification, self-indulgence or even self-pity!

Reflective learners are likely to be: more self-aware and self-critical; honest about themselves, and open to criticism and feedback; objective in weighing up evidence; open to, and prepared to try, different approaches; curious to discover other approaches, motivated to improve, and more able to carry through independent learning.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Sequence For Reviewing

"Through reviewing you show that you care about what participants experience, that you value what they have to say, and that you are interested in the progress of each individual..." (Greenaway, 1996)

Authors on reviewing processes have expressed that following a particular reviewing sequence can lead to a greater degree of learning transfer. Here is a structured sequence offered by Dr Roger Greenaway

1. Experience

The first stage is to establish ‘play back’, or ‘relive’ what happened. This stage can serve as a useful reminder of significant incidents. This stage can help set the agenda for later stages, but the main focus of this first stage is on what happened.

Questions that can be asked include:
1) How did the activity go?
2) What did your group achieve in the activity?
3) Was there evidence of any barriers during the activity?
4) What were they based on? (language, gender, age, geography)
5) How were the barriers identified?
6) Did the group take steps to overcome these? How?
7) Did the activity draw out any other issues? How?
8) Was the activity of benefit? How? Why ? Why not?
2. Express

The second stage is a vital one, but tends to be the stage most at risk if review time is limited. This stage recognises that activities (especially new or challenging ones) stimulate the senses and arouse emotions. This stage focuses on the quality of the experience: “What was it like?”, “How did it feel?”

3. Examine

The third stage is more analytical and rational. ‘All talk’ reviews tend to arrive too soon at this stage, especially if reviewers are too impatient to draw out the learning from the activity. If the experience has been a ‘whole person’ experience, it is important to use review methods, which match the fullness of the experience.

4. Explore

The forth stage is the most practical stage. It involves preparing to try out something that has been prompted by earlier stages of the sequence. This stage would usually involve setting targets. Above all, it is important to keep the sense of curiosity and exploration alive.

Lean more about reviewing from Dr Roger Greenaway