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Reflexivity is a lifelong tool we should equip our students with and practice daily as parents

and educators. Deeper and more comprehensive than reflection, reflexivity is the art of attending fully to the present moment.

Enjoy the article we have selected for you from The Chronicles of Higher Education. Thoough it was written for university, it is very relevant for schools.

Rita Zgheib, Ed.D

Reflexive Pedagogy

January 28, 2010 bBillie Hara

The Chronicles of Higher Education

Over the past few months, we at ProfHacker have written articles about class/course assessment and how important it is to get students’ input in class evaluationsCertainly, course evaluations contain important information for the instructor and the university, but they rarely measure what the students actually learned in that course.  We can use traditional methods of evaluation to gauge what students have learned, and that helps us (giving tests, assigning grades).  But do these traditional methods of assessment and evaluation of student work help students recognize what they have learned?

Self-reflexivity can help students and educators identify the “what” and the “why” of student learning.  Reflexivity is not to be confused with reflection.  We often reflect on our teaching, and we ask students to reflect on their learning.  Reflection is a wonderful tool.  It is, though, a tool for “after the fact.”  We reflect at the end of an assignment or at the end of a course.  We identify what we learned and how we can possibly do differently next time.

Reflexivity, on the other hand, is to engage in the moment, to understand the thoughts and feelings of an experience while experiencing that experience.  As a self-reflexive professor, for example, I would evaluate my teaching as I’m teaching.  I wouldn’t wait until the end of a course to see how I’d done or to think about changing my pedagogical strategy.  I would ask some hard questions at the end of each lesson to help understand what I was doing and why I was doing it.  Similarly, when we encourage students to be self-reflexive, we are asking them to understand what they are learning as they are learning.  Additionally, self-reflexivity not only allows students to understand what they learned but why they learned it.

This dual understanding becomes key if we want students to retain what they have learned.  I am of the belief that if students can identify and claim information they have learned in a course or in four years of study, they then own that information.  However, students often need to know how to own their educations.  Self-reflexivity can help them do that.  Students can use the self-knowledge gained through this way of teaching/learning as a method to connect their education to their current and future lives.

John Higgins, Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Menlo College, devised “self-reflexive questions” that students and educators and use as they work on particular assignments.  Think about using these questions as you move through a unit in your course.  How might these questions (and the answers) help students “own” the material?

  • What question do you have?
  • What led to the question?
  • How did it connect with your life?
  • How did it connect to authority/power/history?
  • Did you get an answer?
  • Did the answer help and/or hinder?
  • How?
  • Was the answer complete?
  • What leads you to say that?

Higgins also has self-reflexive questions that can be used at the end of a semester:

  • The best of what I have achieved in this course (what I am most proud of) is:
  • What leads me to this response is:
  • One idea or concept from this course that I found invigorating / stimulating / exciting / useful is:
  • What about this concept or idea led me to find it invigorating / stimulating / exciting / useful?
  • One idea or concept from this course that I have struggled with is:
  • How I resolved this struggle / am resolving this struggle is:
  • Something I learned from this course that I would consider a “lesson for life” is:
  • How I arrived at this conclusion was:

The questions seem simple, and they are much like questions you could find on a course evaluation (the first question in each pair, at least).  The second question in each pair is a different matter.  These questions encourage us to think deeper.  To realize the “why” and “how.”  The second questions push us to make meaning of what we have learned.

How do you engage in self-reflexive behavior in your classes?  In your teaching?   Has it been effective?  Please leave comments below.

[Image by Flickr user Envios. Used under the Creative Commons license.]