User Generated Education

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The Maker as a Reflective Practitioner

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This coming year, I am doing several keynotes and workshops on the reflecting on the making process. Two elements from my training as an educator lead me to really embrace this topic:

  1. Background in Experiential Education
  2. Studying the Reflective Practitioner During Graduate School

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing.” Experiential learning is distinct from rote or didactic learning, in which the learner plays a comparatively passive role. The general concept of learning through experience is ancient. Around 350 BCE, Aristotle wrote in the Nichomachean Ethics “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiential_learning)

Experiential education is a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities. (http://www.aee.org/what-is-ee)

There are several elements of experiential learning that are relevant to this discussion. First is that learning starts with an experience. This permits learners to have a direct and sensory experience interacting with the instructional materials. This often permits deeper and more significant learning. Second is that there is a huge reflective component to experiential learning. A saying from this field is that if there is no reflection on the experience, then learning is left to change.

The Reflective Practitioner

During several of my graduate courses, the idea of the reflective practitioner was introduced through studying the works of Donald Schon and Stephen Brookfield. Donald Schon explains the characteristics of the reflective practitioner:

The reflective practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behavior. He carries out an experiment which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation. (http://infed.org/mobi/donald-schon-learning-reflection-change/)

Stephen Brookfield describes reflective practice as:

Reflective practice has its roots in the Enlightenment idea that we can stand outside of ourselves and come to a clearer understanding of what we do and who we are by freeing ourselves of distorted ways of reasoning and acting.  There are also elements of constructivist phenomenology in here, in the understanding that identity and experience are culturally and personally sculpted rather than existing in some kind of objectively discoverable limbo. (http://elearning.olc4tpd.com/enrol/index.php?id=5)

A recent research study published via Harvard Business Review concluded that:

  • Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection-that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.
  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning. (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7498.html)

Reflection in the Maker Process

The maker movement and maker education are becoming very popular in school and after school settings, libraries, and community centers. If making is to go beyond something that is just fun to do while doing it, then reflection can and should be used to help insure that the knowledge, skills, dispositions, attitudes, and values learned through individual making sessions are transferred to other settings.

Here is the slide deck I started for use during my presentations this year:

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 2, 2016 at 12:21 am

2 Responses

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  1. I am passionate about experiential learning; it was my area of expertise as a high school teacher in an alternative classroom and years later as a district level experiential learning consultant. In my alternative program, journaling and reflecting on learning started with Outward Bound when the school year started. These experiences which served as important metaphors later. Additionally, each student worked (for credit) every afternoon in a workplace in a career sector they were interested in (e.g. Law office, hospital, apprenticeship). Each Friday they returned to class and we reflected on what happened. During the week, I visited them in the workplace and together, student, employer and teacher,we reflected on the skills and knowledge they were practising through application. Regardless, whether it was a placement the student liked or disliked, there was learning going on. The learning stuck and became the basis for next steps in their next placement. Cooperative education (what we call it) aka experiential learning for revealing to participants that they are strong, capable individuals. Regardless, the reflective component is a critical part of the process. The workplace provides authentic experiential learning that engages the learner in ways that are very different from the classroom.
    Thanks for your post – it brought back a lot of memories.

    jeancourtney413

    February 2, 2016 at 12:54 am

    • Thanks, Jean – I learned about experiential education through my work as an instructor in an Outward Bound type program It is such a powerful model. I wish it was used more in more traditional education.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      February 2, 2016 at 2:26 pm


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