“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius
The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection and action planning for many of us. The happy chaos of the holidays is over, and with luck, a little quiet time prevails before the craziness of government last fiscal quarter begins.
One of my favourite books, as an adult educator, is called The Craft of Teaching Adults (Third Edition, Thelma Barer Stein and Michael Kompf, Editors, Irwin Publishing Ltd., 2001). I love this book because it speaks to the reality that training is more than a honed skill; it’s a craft – an art – that must be nourished, like any art, through continuous study, practice and self reflection.
Thinking about what we do, why we do these things, what we might do more of, or what we might do differently, can give us insights about how we learn and how others learn, and can be a powerful tool for professional growth for adult educators.
Self reflection for trainers can:
- Make us aware of what we already know and practice, which can increase confidence and become the basis for future learning. “What do I already know about adult learning? What I have done already in this area? Where do I excel? What needs improving?”
- Help us see any gaps between what we say we believe and what we actually practice, which is a first step to closing those gaps. “How comfortable am I being honest with myself about my own practice? What’s the one thing about adult learning that I really struggle to put into practice? Why is that? How can I achieve better alignment between belief and practice?”
- Reveal the intended and unintended consequences of our actions. “How did my plans work out? What worked and what didn’t? Did the students learn what was anticipated? What happened that I didn’t expect? Why?”
- Signal a need for change, which can lead to further reflection and a plan of action. “What is helping me to grow in my practice? What is hindering my growth? What can I change or influence? What is the one thing I can do right now to be a better trainer?”
- Identify hidden power relationships and equity issues. “Do I always have to be in control? Do I favour certain students over others? How does this affect the learning environment?”
If you are a trainer, now is a great time to start a reflective practitioner journal, make a learning action plan, or commit to checking in with peers and participants regularly for their feedback.
This article is a summary of the paper “Journal Writing for Teachers and Students”, written by Coral Mitchell and Helen Coltrinari, pp. 21-38, from The Craft of Teaching Adults.
For more information about the reflective practitioner, see Donald A. Schön, The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think in Action, 1983. A summary of his work can be seen at Smith, M. K. (2001, 2011). ‘Donald Schön: learning, reflection and change’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm. Retrieved: January 3, 2017].
D+A Training Update
Delaney +Associates’ next IAP2 Foundations program is in Calgary, March 6 – 10, 2017. Click here for our full public training schedule.
By popular demand, D+A is offering its first-ever public Facilitating Engagement workshop. We have delivered this workshop many times over the past several years, to a wide variety of organizations. Our IAP2 participants have been asking for this training to further their public participation skills, notably to facilitate the sophisticated engagement designs of which they are now capable.
We are happy to offer this two-day workshop in Vancouver, June 6 – 7, 2017. Please call our course registrar, Valerie, at 613-837-5890, for more information.