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Active, effective practitioners engage in a process of ongoing reflection and learn from this process, Schon, 1983, 1987, as cited in, Boud, D. Critically reflecting on past experience to determine what learning has taken place is most effective when carried out in a community of learners, otherwise the exercise is self-contained and merely confirms ones' beliefs and experiences, Boud, (2001), as cited In Muller, T., (2012). Vygotsky, (1978), cited in, Khan, P., (2006), extends this view of reflective practice when discussing the "internalization", (p1), that takes place following social engagement and is necessary for learning to take place. During this online learning of ours in Module 2, we had the opportunity to compare our teaching styles, share our experiences and discuss the outcomes of our various teaching situations. As a cohort, we engaged in the exploration of the theories of learning and their many applications in practice and we made connections between the readings and our personal professional practices. During this process, I began to realise the importance of drawing on theory, making connections with my experience and taking part in discussions with my peers. Completing this process of reflection was the feedback from tutors.
In this reflection, I will identify what I have learned from this experience and will relate my learning to the reading I have been studying in this Module. I will explicate the connections between what I have learned and my future professional goals.
There are many models that may be used as a framework for reflective practice, and as I became more adept at reflection and completed my weekly learning logs, I discovered I was naturally using a method that closely imitated the model espoused by Gibbs, (1998). Unwittingly, I had created a learning log template, as advocated by, Kahn, P., (2006) for ease of use each week.
ANALYSIS AND RESEARCH
As I progressed in this module, I came to the realization that what at first seemed contradictory interpretations of the prescribed readings by me and some of my peers was in fact a demonstration of our individual experiences allowing us to bring varied insights to the group. I learned a great deal from my cohort with regards to writing styles and critical analysis of readings. Whereas in the past, I tortured myself in trying to know the true meaning of a reading, asking myself what the author meant, now, I know I have been missing the opportunity to employ various situational interpretations. This cognitive process has been enlightening for me. I have learned that in order to identify and develop a theoretical framework, I must view information presented by others from many angles in an effort to ascertain gaps in the research.
Thinking, for me has never been problematic, but I am aware of having significantly developed my critical analysis skills. I have learned to continuously ask questions, dig deeper in to meanings and unpack concepts, in order to construct new knowledge and understanding. My iterant research, together with the suggested readings has given me an ability to identify different writing styles and has enabled me to make connections between readings that will be of great value when I am constructing my own framework for research. Latterly in the course work, I was required to use Concept Maps as a tool to facilitate my learning. I am in the early stages of my development as a Doctoral student, but I had an edifying moment, when I realized that if I am not reading with either a pen or my ipad in my hand - I am not actively learning. An "AHA" moment!
NETWORKING, COLLABORATION AND ENGAGING WITH EQUITY
Early in this collaborative relationship, we established rules and practices as it quickly became apparent that we had different expectations due to our various experiences in module one. For example, initially we were confused as to the best way to work with one common document, which forced us to discuss best practices and resulted in clarity in sharing documents, experiences and comments.
When I realized early on that two (50%) of our group were slow in coming forward to offer meaningful contributions, I was bold in my approach when I volunteered to begin the process of identifying themes in our vignettes as the first step towards completing our analysis assignment. I felt confident to do this because the members of the group quickly became friendly and exchanged many formal and informal messages using a mix of communication tools. I learned that the two individuals who appeared reluctant to participate were unsure of what was expected of them. For the future, I would not be so quick to judge situations such as this, and allow for the differences in understanding in a group situation. Ultimately, our group achieved a successful outcome, but I felt that I bore much of the responsibility at the beginning of the life of the team. Perhaps, I assumed this responsibility, but certainly for future joint learning experiences such as this, I will be more aware of cultural and language implications for my team members. I relate this experience to the social constructivism paradigm as individuals were acting according to their existing social and cultural norms, Manouchehri, A. (2002).
LEADERSHIP AND PERSONAL IMPACT
Influencing policy and driving change is my ultimate goal in pursuing a Doctorate in Education. Mindful of this objective, I am actively making an effort to move from simply restating what I read and discuss to formulation of my own ideas and to support my transformed thinking with the work of others. Dewey, (1993), cited in, Hatton, N., & Smith, D., (1995), posits "reflective action", (p34) as a means of providing carefully considered solutions to problems, and combining this with an open minded attitude to the deliberation of educational practice, (Noffke & Brennan, 1998), cited in, Hatton, N., & Smith, D. (1995), will empower me to exert informed influence over the future of Higher Educational Policy wherever I am practicing.
CONCEPT MAP COMPARISON
My ability to write and express my thoughts, ideas and understanding has grown throughout this Module, although coherence and adhering to the assignment requirements remain a weakness. In feedback my tutor made reference to these flaws in my writing, so I welcomed the use of Concept Maps as a means of representing my knowledge acquisition and providing a visual representation of my understanding which allowed me to conceptualise my thoughts in a way that satisfies my visual style of learning.
I chose to compare my Concept Map with that of my cohort member - Kelli. I was drawn to this graphical representation of Kelli's knowledge, because for me it was clear, concise and complete. Linear and hierarchical in style, this Map was different to my own which was more organic in nature, although the connections we made were similar in that we both named the dominant theorists in connection with each theory and prioritized the role of the teacher, in my view, crucial to any analysis of learning theories and surprisingly, not featured in the Concept Maps produced by many others in the cohort. I especially liked the inclusion of the Instructional Design implications for the many theories of learning depicted in the Map. To be honest, I would use this work of Kelli's as a reference in future. Others were confusing and difficult to interpret - for me, one of the main drawbacks of producing work in such a format.
To date, nothing has moved me from my main area of research which is to design the curriculum of the future! I have a real personal interest in looking to the future, as in my opinion, Education is in the beginnings of a change revolution similar to that experienced by both the Music and Print Media industries. Are we in education prepared for this monumental change - "no" is my answer to that question. I realise that I have identified a huge abstract area, but as we are all at the mercy of policy makers, my motivation to succeed in this Doctorate is to position myself where I am able to have a significant impact on taking education forward. Van Manen, M. (1977), makes the point that a desire for accountability is driving institutional managers to focus on paperwork and processes. I want to be instrumental in redirecting education. The paper by the European Commission, (2006) articulates the importance of competence in the global knowledge societies in which many of us operate, for me this should be the ultimate driving force behind educational evolution.
Identifying learning and exploring experiences in order to form new understandings and engage in improved practice is the essence of reflecting on learning. Reflection must be undertaken in a spirit of willingness to accept the process and to value it as a means of improvement and development, and demands that we are honest with ourselves as practitioners. As such this is a difficult process, possibly intimidating, because we must take responsibility for our learning and our professional practices and know areas in which we must improve, not forgetting the importance of recognizing our successes, Clegg, S., Tan, J., & Saeidi, S. (2002).