“Reject the myth that we learn from experience, and accept the reality that we learn by reflecting on experience.” – Kent W. Seibert
For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the role of reflection in learning – especially in learning how to be an effective practitioner in workplace learning. The Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals course spent the week on the topic of blogging, which is a form of public reflection for many bloggers. And, to prepare for an upcoming class, I’ve been re-reading Educating the Reflective Practitioner, Donald Schon’s seminal work on the subject.
Schon says: “The paradox of learning a really new competence is this: that a student cannot at first understand what he needs to learn, can learn it only by educating himself, and can educate himself only by beginning to do what he does not yet understand.” By this he means that we have to “do” in order to have the context for thinking about the underpinning knowledge base for what we do. Proficient practice does not generally come from learning a body of knowledge and applying that to the act of practice; proficiency comes from learning through practice and feedback. Schon talks about professional practice as a form of artistry, and he explains that artistry is learned by doing, reflecting, and receiving coaching from experts, all in the midst of “practicing” – framing problems, doing projects, improvising solutions, and applying the science of the profession. I’m wondering if we do a good job nurturing the artistry in instructional design, learning strategy formation, and other creative endeavors in our own profession.
When we educate learning professionals, we share with them a body of knowledge that is important for them to know. But to be really effective we must also collaborate with them in a design-studio type setting to coach them through initial attempts to apply that knowledge. I’m afraid we don’t do enough of that. I can do something about that in my own little corner of the world. I will be looking at the instructional design courses I teach to make room for as much design-studio practice and critique as is possible given the nature of the course. As I supervise design projects, I will work to become more effective at asking good coaching questions and passing on the underpinning theory and research that tells us how a particular approach or technique works. In both instances, I think I can help to promote and guide (and give time for) effective reflection activities that transform practitioners to artists. At the same time, I can use more deliberate reflection to improve my own artistry!
But there are a lot of people in our field who work relatively independently. And even those who work in a larger group don’t always get the opportunity to work with each other rather than just beside one another. In a fast-paced world where little real time is left over for reflection-on-action and communication with supervisors and peers can be fleeting and not focused on learning, the tools of web 2.0 might be a powerful learning space. Blogging, especially, provides an outlet for all that’s going on inside our heads, and comments we receive can move our thinking forward. As I have become more attuned to some of the cyberspace conversations going on in our field, I can see examples of relative strangers feeding off each other’s ideas and launching their work in new directions. (Myself included; I’ve been both jarred and energized by comments to my online musings. If I had never posted my thoughts, I would never have gotten feedback on them.) I’ve heard cases of inside-the-enterprise blog spaces being a ground for fertile thinking within a company as well. The use of web 2.0 to enable learning 2.0 can be fulfilled at least partially by using cyberspace as a cosmic commons for all of our reflections on what’s working and what isn’t. That’s kind-of a scary thought, actually, but exciting a well.
So what are you thinking about this week?
By the way, that opening quote is my response to Michele Martin’s challenge to write a quote post. Those of you who know me know that I am forever looking for just the perfect quote to make a point, so narrowing down to one is asking a lot. 🙂