An Integrated Model for Practicing Reflective Learning
Castelli, Patricia Ann, Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
Although not practiced consistently or purposely in classroom experiences, reflective learning is not new to higher education. Previous research by Carson and Fisher (2006) uncovered that John Dewey (1933) is considered a key originator in coining this term. In 1962, Thomas Kuhn's groundbreaking The Structure of Scientific Revolutions described how new assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. He further states that "when a shift takes place, a scientist's world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory" (p. 7). Kuhn called this shift a 'scientific revolution' that sounds similar to a term used today--transformation. Through the years, significant research has expanded and formalized the process of reflective learning with related concepts such as critical reflective learning and transformative learning in the field of adult education (Schon, 1983; Brookfield, 1995; Mezirow, 1978, 1990; Mezirow & Taylor, 2009). In addition, many practitioners (Cranton, 2002, 2006; Carson and Fisher, 2006; Fisher-Yoshida, 2009; Fisher-Yoshida & Geller, 2008, 2009; have shown various ways to integrate reflective/transformative learning in their classroom experiences. And although longitudinal studies are few and far between, Taylor (2007) states that reflective learning is gaining momentum with significant increases in promoting and practicing transformative learning in higher education internationally.
The purpose of this paper is to provide an insightful background of the building blocks that have shaped the evolution of reflective/transformative learning, to present an integrated yet simple model to assist instructors in understanding their role (and the students' role) in promoting meaningful reflective learning experiences, and to provide practical and concrete teaching guidance for instructors seeking to learn the basic elements and techniques necessary for practicing reflective learning in their classrooms.
The subject matter presented was developed in several syllabi for global leadership coursework in a graduate college of management. However, once the reader gains sufficient background knowledge of the foundational theories that form the basis for reflective and transformative learning and understands the process and related techniques necessary for promoting reflective learning, instructional activities and exercises can be modified and customized to fit a variety of subjects and fields of study.
Jack Mezirow introduced the concept of transformative learning to the field of adult education in 1978 and defines transformative learning as "an approach to teaching based on promoting change, where educators challenge learners to critically question and assess the integrity of their deeply held assumptions about how they relate to the world around them" (p.xi). Although reflective learning, critical reflective learning and transformative learning are often used interchangeably, transformative learning implies change. But the fact remains that none of these methods of learning necessarily guarantee change.
Transformative learning is a multi-faceted learning theory. There are many foundational learning theories that influenced and shaped transformative learning. Most notable of these include elements from adult learning and instructional design, experiential learning, and the social sciences. Knowledge of these theories provides the context for understanding transformative or reflective learning.
Adult learning theory and instructional design
Although there are a multitude of definitions, Boyd (1980) defines learning by emphasizing the person in whom the change occurs as "the act or process by which behavioral change, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are acquired" (pp.100-101). This is a differentiating factor since there are specific aspects involved with adult learning theory that do not apply to non- adults such as life-centered, experience and self-directing. Knowles, Holton III and Swanson (2005) describe the importance of problem-solving, life-centered, personal experience and a strong need to be self-directing in the adult learning process. Knowles, et al., further state that adult learners tend to become resistant when placed in situations where they are not allowed to be self-directed. This is a critical aspect of reflective learning which is based on independent learning and personal experience.
Wlodkowski (1985, 1999) reinforces Knowles' beliefs concerning the importance of blending personal experience of the learner into the instructional design process. Wlodkowski (1999) believes that all learners possess intrinsic motivation and that the instructor's role is to bring out this motivation by using a variety of strategies aimed at deepening their innate desire to learn. According to Keller (1987), Keller and Kopp (1987), designing motivating instruction for the adult learner must include finding ways to capture the learner's attention, creating relevance, promoting confidence and producing a satisfying learning experience. Castelli (1994, 2006) suggests guidelines for enhancing interest, effort and performance in classroom instruction. These include finding motivating ways to capture the learner's interest by ensuring the instruction is designed to meet their personal needs, creating a safe learning environment by building credibility in the classroom, and finding relevant ways to challenge the learner by assigning projects and tasks designed to derive personal satisfaction from the learning experience.
Gessner (1956) states that one of the chief distinctions between conventional and adult education is to be found in the learning process itself:
In an adult class the student's experience counts for as much as the teacher's knowledge. Both are exchangeable at par. Indeed, in some of the best adult classes …
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Publication information: Article title: An Integrated Model for Practicing Reflective Learning. Contributors: Castelli, Patricia Ann - Author. Journal title: Academy of Educational Leadership Journal. Volume: 15. Issue: S1 Publication date: November 2011. Page number: S15+. © The DreamCatchers Group, LLC 2008. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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