As one listens to educators or reads blogs, too often one hears how the teaching and learning experience is expressed in the first-person as what “I” did or how such-and-such affected “me”. Read through my blog posts and you’ll see that I’m guilty of this too. We just can’t help it – it’s human nature to have a selfish, egocentric view of the world where our experiences seem to only be our own and owned by us alone. It also doesn’t help that traditionally, education was about teaching in isolation and the practice of learning was accomplished on one’s own.
In today’s new world of digital communication, we talk a lot about collaboration and accessing the intelligence of the crowd. Ideally, we try to incorporate more and more communication technologies into the practice of teaching and learning with the goal of removing physical barriers. The purpose is to allow teachers to work with other teachers and students to work with other students in a collaborative environment where we can learn from each other. Yet when it comes to reflecting on our experiences, we continue express our teaching and learning moments as experiences of the self only. While our dialogue concerning the practice of teaching and learning has begun to move from “me” to “we”, our reflections on our teaching and learning experiences are still expressed in the first-person “me”.
Moving beyond this way of expressing oneself is not easy. After all, how can we accurately reflect on the experiences of others when really, we can only truly know our own personal experiences? Firstly, one must actually engage in collaborative teaching and learning experiences so that there is a “we” to refer to in the first place. Secondly, dialoguing with the group to gather the experiences, learning and understanding of others not only helps to inform our own thinking, but helps us to understand the experiences of others. Lastly, sharing experiences of the group instead of the individual involves discussing where the group and the individuals in the group were before a particular learning experience and how the activity changed/informed the group’s thinking.
I don’t profess to have all the answers but I think that raising the question is an important first step. How do you believe we can change the discourse of reflection from one of discussing individual experiences to one of a discussion of group experiences?