Memories of learning

This is the 7th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

What are your memories of learning? How have your assumptions of learning been shaped?

This post follows closely from the previous reflection on your university story. It is another approach to reflection based on storytelling. In the AdvanceHE guide Reflection for Learning, Marina Harvey and colleagues call these reflectories.

I still think about a conversation I had in 2018 at the International Academic Identities Conference at the University of Hiroshima. It was prompted by a presentation by Susan Carter from the University of Auckland called Pushing Academic Identity Development Further: imagination, creativity and ensoulment.

Carter asked a series of questions which she has published as a reflective exercise in her 2020 book Academic Identity and the Place of Stories:

Review your own childhood learning story: what troubled, bothered or eluded you, and what did you like about learning in your early years at school? … What did you misinterpret at school? What did you really like, understand and enjoy doing? Remember playing as a child: what games did you play, and what did you learn from them? Were the rules well established, or did you and your family or friends make them up or alter them? How did you agree about the rules (or did you)? How do these childhood experiences underpin who you are now?

In response to this prompt, a colleague and I discussed schooling, childhood games, the spaces we occupied, the games we created, and the rules we followed and refused to follow. His memories of learning as a sole child of older parents involved a lot of team sports and board games. This has prompted him to always look for the rules and follow them in order to succeed. My memories were less rule-based and more immersed in imaginary play. With two bothers close in age (my parents had three children under three), playtime was loud and continuous.

We carry these assumptions about rules (and their bendability) into our learning as adults. What can your reflectory teach you?

Carter, Susan. (2020). Academic Identity and the Place of Stories: The personal in the professional. Cham: Palgrave MacMillan.

Postscript – my father read this post and pointed out my Freudian slip – bothers instead of brothers!

What’s your university story?

This is the 6th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching to prompt you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

Did you start an undergraduate degree straight from school, complete in minimum time and go on to further study? Or was your pathway more rocky? If so, you’re in good company. Your classroom has students who are first in family, underachieved at school, have had interrupted education, manage learning difficulties, are studying part-time, and a myriad of other factors that make up a university story. Your story shapes your implicit understandings, and questioning these is Schön’s (1983) definition of reflection.

Another way of framing this question comes from sociologist Pierre Bourdieu: what is your educational capital? Rowlands (2018) defines it as the “various inherited and acquired resources that students bring to bear upon their education” (p 1824). Are you aware of a gap between your education capital and that of your students, or between students in your classroom?

I have previously shared this checklist on white privilege by Peggy McIntosh (1989) which focuses on race, but can be adapted for class, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, age, employment, indeed any social, cultural or symbolic capital.

Here are some of those statements applied to privilege in the university:

  • I will be given curricular materials written by and representing people like me
  • I feel welcome in this institution/ discipline/ department/ classroom
  • I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps professionally
  • My chief worries at university do not concern others’ attitude towards me
  • I can go home from most meetings of organizations/ groups/ teams I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

Take some time to reflect on your responses, your university story and your educational capital. Enjoy your cuppa!

Rowlands, J. (2018) Deepening understandings of Bourdieu’s academic and intellectual capital through a study of academic voice within academic governance. Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), 1823-1836.

Schön, D. A. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Over a cuppa

This is the 4th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching to prompt you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

On my bookshelf is the foundational text Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher (2nd edition) by Stephen D Brookfield, which shares a wealth of practical tools and examples. In a recent interview, Brookfield reflected on 50 (!) years of teaching in higher education:

I began my career feeling as if my responsibility was completely to decentre my own authority and almost remove myself from the classroom … and just let the students get on with it … I was very interested in self-directed learning for a while … As I got a little bit more experienced, I realised that, well, your body is always of significance in the class, you always do have some power, the question is: is that being exercised responsibly and supportively and authoritatively?

… I’m like everyone, I’m in a process of constant evolution.

You may be familiar with Brookfield’s four lenses: “students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, theory, and personal experience” (2017, p. vii). Inspired by a post from the Teche archives (thanks to Lilia Mantai) here are ways of looking through these lenses:

  • the autobiographical lens: write a teaching philosophy, collate a portfolio, watch your lecture recordings or try blogging for reflective learning;
  • your students’ eyes: revisit evaluations, gather informal feedback in a minute paper;
  • your colleagues’ experiences: talk about teaching, join a community of practice, undertake peer review;
  • the theoretical lens: read literature, participate in professional development, sign up for the MOOC on Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching.

Future posts will share other models for reflective practice such as Hatton and Smith’s four levels of reflection, Gibbs’ reflective cycle, the 4R framework and more. We’ll travel deeper to explore Mary Ryan’s work on reflexivity and Marina Harvey’s ecology of reflection. As promised, the posts will include practical resources as well.

Brookfield, S. D. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D., Rudolph, J. and Zhiwei, E. Y. (2019) The power of critical thinking in learning and teaching. An interview with Professor Stephen D. Brookfield. Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching, 2(2), 76-90.