Both the hooks and Brookfield readings looked at how critical reflection changes teaching and learning practices. I don’t know if anything I’ve read this past week changes much for me – I have always been hypercritical of my own work (sometimes to my own detriment). I recognize that being hypercritical and reflecting critically are two different things though.
If we look at Friere’s work, and his dialogue between objectivity and subjectivity (within the first chapter in Pedagogy of the Oppressed) – as teachers we should strive for that middle ground. I think the only vehicle that gets us into that middle ground is the ability to reflect and think about other perspectives. The subjectivity of experience and the objectivity of best practices make us the best we can be. I have often played devil’s advocate, mainly in an attempt to think about potential arguments against my position. In essence this is negotiating that middle ground between objectivity and subjectivity. The mere act of thinking about how one could do something better is critical (unless of course you’re so full of hubris that you think you couldn’t do it better).
This week we read chapter 13 in bell hooks “Teaching to Transgress” and chapter 8 in Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher”.
There wasn’t a ton of new ideas in hooks chapter, not for me anyways. I was always drawn to passion. That fire, the heat of someone else’s excitement… always a great moment to engage in. hooks is entirely correct in that passion in the classroom (for a subject) is rarely recognized, and almost never sanctioned. Of course they want to have engaged students, but don’t want to loosen the morals that were set in stone at the educational institution’s formation some hundred years ago. Perhaps that’s why I feel an affinity for online spaces – where the tradition is a little less formal, and a little more conversational.
The portion of the chapter that dealt with the eros of teaching strikes me as something that could be dug into far further – does the power structure between teacher and student make the relationship between the two manipulative in either direction?
Brookfield’s chapter dealt more with listening – it seems like good listening and facilitation skills can help people learn and discover their own way.
This week we read chapter 7 in bell hooks “Teaching to Transgress” and chapter 12 in Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher”.
I felt, for once, that hooks’ book was tougher to get through than Brookfield’s – maybe it was because we’re in the middle of testing some changes to undergraduate education at my institution; one of which is the start of a learning portfolio program. This program really values critical reflection, which aligns perfectly with what Brookfield is talking about in his chapter. The sorts of strategies – well considered – are intriguing to examine and imagine how that might take place in my institution. It was also interesting to read Brookfield write about the Devil’s Advocate approach to critical thinking – which is something I do quite often in workshops that I deliver. Often I off-handedly mention the downside to some technology. I know some people I have worked with don’t like my approach – in fact I question it sometimes too – but I feel it would be intellectually dishonest for me not to mention the potential problems.
I often struggle because I deliver training that is very guided, and I often wonder if it stifles creativity, askance views of commonly used technology, dictates a way of thinking around technology’s role in the classroom… lots of questions. I don’t really have time, or to be honest, energy to break down what I do to really investigate these things. It would be too much, because there’s too many ways for it to go wrong. Without having me as a knowledge expert, I sabotage much of what I do because I speak from authority. How can someone call me with confidence and ask me how to fix something if they don’t trust that I know more about the system than they do?
These crises of faith (an odd statement when dealing primarily with technology) come far too frequently. Maybe it’s time to do something else? I guess I’ll continue to struggle.
Brookfield provides some guidance, and I recognize that the answers to my questions will only come from within. It’s useful to know that others struggle with this – some constantly, some persistently. And those struggles ultimately come from the responsibility that we take on ourselves, the roles we assume and feel we need to play. In some senses, it seems like an easy out to say that the system forces us into these roles.
This week I read chapter 6 in bell hooks’ “Teaching to Trangress” and chapter 11 in Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher”.
hooks takes some great pains to discuss the “authority of experience” – something that many teachers use to justify bad teaching even when faced with evidence that their practice is harmful. She struggled with it in a way that I won’t be able to fully understand, but I can appreciate; she struggled with the authority of experience to make her voice heard. I’ve been thinking about the neoliberal policies of education, how education is no longer really about critical thinking but about learning a trade, getting a better job, improving your wealth, and those changes fall on the system of government that we live in – one that values neoliberal economics over people. Neoliberalism values the sort of anecdotal stories that reaffirm it’s position – things like the wealthy are job creators (when in fact most people are self employed or work for small businesses), things are too big to fail, unions are corrupt and so on and so on ad nauseum. I recognize these talking point for what they are, but I respect that they are coming from a place of inequality. Why are unions bad? Well, not everyone is part of one, so there’s a privilege that is extended to those who are in the union, and excludes those who are not. This sort of class privilege is something that isn’t really covered explicitly. It was interesting to see hooks’ self identified growth from an academic who relied on authority of experience, to one who took the experience and internalized it, and found ways to explain it in other’s theories, research and work.
In Brookfield’s chapter he discusses the four risks of critical reflection – the imposter syndrome, cultural suicide, loss of innocence and finally recovering from a failed experiment. I don’t have much to add – except that these are all things that when developing a workshop or course that one has to consider. You will feel all these things, go through each of these risks and will be affected by your process for coping with these ideas. I suspect that in the process of developing a workshop around the idea of class in the classroom one would have to be aware of these potential feelings, adn try some strategies that Brookfield suggests would be useful to diminish the effect of these risks.
This week I read chapters 3 and 4 from bell hooks’ “Teaching to Transgress” and chapter 3 from Stephen Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher”. bell hooks dealt with multicultural teaching and a conversation with herself examining her readings of and influence by Paolo Friere. Brookfield wrote about using autobiography as a starting point for questioning your own assumptions.
Both authors used these chapters to inform me about themselves, as any good reflective process starts with. We have to know ourselves to know our limits, reasoning, purpose and shortcomings.
hooks touched on an interesting point, one that I have heard before, in that she questions herself about Friere’s use of sexist language (and moreso his staunch lack of revision in subsequent editions). She says “I never wish to see a critique of the blind spot overshadow anyone’s…capacity to learn from the insights. ” It’s an interesting position to take. The twenty year old me is outraged with the inconsistencies of such a position, but the forty year old me understands that we all are (too) human and everything has weaknesses and blind spots. It’s a bit of a difficult reconciliation, and certainly speaks to me because I missed the male pronouns in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In my defense, I did read Pedagogy of Hope first, and returned to it more than Friere’s Oppressed. I vaguely recall from the introduction of Hope that there was some mention and explanation – which would’ve occurred after hooks would’ve published this book. Maybe I just internalized and accepted that Friere and I were speaking as one?
The sessions so far have all pointed that you need to know yourself (as much as one can know themselves at their current age), identify your potential blind spots, expose them. I guess going forward it will deal with strategies to minimize their effect on the class.