Exploring the various elements of reflective practice has been a central part of my recent life. Within the last year, my personal life has been strongly influenced by elements from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Brene Brown's research on wholehearted living and vulnerability. Their research (and that of others) has given me tools to be a reflective partner, and I frequently share some of these ideas with my friends. For example, the importance of paying attention to the centers we create for our lives (form which we derive our sense of self worth, wisdom, and more). Or taking care to not block our experience of joy with a feeling of foreboding. Or understanding that "underfunctioning" is a typical anxiety response, not a sign of being broken. Or learning to "choose discomfort over resentment" when considering a request from a friend. And more.
When examining the pedagogical approach of Reggio Emilia teachers, Hall et al discuss the importance of being a reflective practitioner as a teacher, essentially describing the metacognitive layer of teaching, whereby they develop an awareness of their own biases and use that awareness to be a better teacher.
They reference Schön’s seminal works on the "reflective practitioner" as an influence for Reggio teachers, and from a high level his work resonates strongly with me. Professional action is presented as more akin to professional artistry, reflecting a gestalt of understanding and action in response to a complex, ever-changing environment. This covers both when the professional reflects in action (i.e. "moments when a practitioner responds to a problematic situation, drawing intuitively on his or her relevant prior knowledge, tacit understandings and personal theories of teaching and learning,” pg. 113) and when they reflect on action (i.e. “the retrospective evaluation and review by the practitioner of the teaching encounter, undertaken either individually or collaboratively,” pg. 113).
Metacognitive processes are valuable during those two types of moments: during the action itself, and afterwards when we are processing what happened. (Anticipating and planning for action is a combination of the two, since our predictions are based on prior experience.)
Reggio Emilia teachers talk about the deep reserves of trust they build up between the teachers themselves, as well as with the students and the parents, to encourage this kind of personal reflective development. Everyone, it seems, needs encouragement and a reminder that they matter. Teachers remind parents they are the child's first educator (and have tremendous influence at home). Teachers remind students they have rights and the ability to pursue their own projects. And teachers remind themselves that they have the right to be human, that their work matters in the lives of the students, and that any incremental personal breakthrough of reflective awareness they experience will create waves of positive energy through the lives of everyone around them.
At the moment, I'm responding to their summary of Schön’s research, of course. I will need to add it to my reading list for the future and explore his insights (and how they directly apply to the nature of understanding).