Visiting as metaphor – developing a framework for reflective practice

Gillies, D., 2016. Visiting good company: Arendt and the development of the reflective practitioner. Journal of educational administration and history, 48(2), pp.148-159.

 

 

 

Hannah-Arendt by POLISEA – CC BY-NC-SA

This paper offers a critique of the notion of ‘reflective practice’ in the context of initial and early-stage teacher education. Reflective practice is a term which is frequently used throughout the career of a teacher; it is a practice which is encouraged in teacher education programmes on campus and in school experience. It is also a requirement of students and serving teachers if they are to meet the standards for registration, as stipulated by the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS). They are exhorted to: ‘reflect and engage in self-evaluation using the relevant professional standard’ (GTCS 2012a), and for the standard of Career-Long Professional Learning, to ‘develop skills of rigorous and critical self-evaluation, reflection and enquiry’ (GTCS2012b). In spite of this central focus on reflection, aspects of teacher development and practice may leave some students and serving teachers feeling that there is insufficient discussion in their instructional and practical experience of what reflective practice is or how it might be achieved. Neither do systems and cultures best support reflection in context: the current emphasis on the evidence-based, best practice or ‘what works’ agenda supports the technical-rational–instrumentalist emphasis on craft, skills, and a cause and effect approach to practice, which leaves little room for consideration of wider aspects of pedagogical approaches.
Gillies (2016) draws on Arendt’s theory of enlarged thought –a theoretical concept with considerable philosophical pedigree, as it relays back to Kant and Aristole – to offer a conceptual framework which supports a progressive development of reflective practice, especially with regard to early-stage teachers and student teachers. This, to me, seems to be an extremely helpful mechanism in teaching and learning about the practice of reflection, developing experience in the consideration of alternative perspectives (‘visiting,’ loosely, in Arendt’s terms), and coming to judgement, as a key component of reflection, of the value and merits of the perspectives under consideration.
Engaging with these perspectives, in Gillies’ and Arendt’s terms, is the ‘company’ we keep; however, there are caveats. Keeping company of only known perspectives might limit our reflections and leave us in an echo-chamber, where our own biases and beliefs are confirmed and justified. That might be a comfortable environment for some, but for others this is an opportunity for challenging, professional conversations and debate; for contesting accepted beliefs and for ‘enlarging our thoughts,’ in  Arendt’s terms.
Here is Gilles’ framework for reflection, based on the ‘visiting’ metaphor, offered by Hannah Arendt (Gillies, 2016, p157).
gillies

I’d urge you to read the article if you have, like me, wrestled with the disconnect between expectations and support for the development of reflective practice in the early stages of learning about teaching.

P.S. Hannah Arendt was a political theorist known perhaps most widely for her analysis of the origins of totalitarianism. This Open Culture link provides useful insights to her thinking via an interview and further links.

References

GTCS. 2012a. Standards for Registration. Edinburgh: GTCS.

GTCS. 2012b. Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning. Edinburgh: GTCS.

Gillies, D., 2016. Visiting good company: Arendt and the development of the reflective practitioner. Journal of educational administration and history, 48(2), pp.148-159.

 

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About catrionao

I'm a PhD student at Stirling University, studying a school based practice of teacher professional learning. I also do online facilitation for various organisations such as SELMAS and the Strategic Leadership Development Programme.
This entry was posted in Perspectives on Learning, Social Theory, Standards, Teacher Education and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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