Critical reflection is a multi-layered analysis

Critical reflection is a multi-layered analysis that permits teachers to make sense of complex experiences by: a) thinking about their assumptions and biases b) framing problems of practice through multiple professional perspectives c) critiquing their frames of reference from broader social, political, and moral perspectives and d) making commitments and taking action that is informed by such reframing. This assignment walks you through a thought-process that allows you to step outside of a thought-provoking experience, put it into perspective, and react to it in constructive ways. The “scaffolding,” or steps, guide you through this assignment and allow you to practice “deconstructing: an experience – thinking about the “situatedness” of a particular critical incident in the larger system of power- and using that new framework to make a thoughtful and purposeful response. Begin this assignment by reflecting on your experiences in this course or the early field experience. Focus on a critical incident that you observed and/or experienced, specifically, one that evoked a strong personal emotional response that seems worthy of more thought and attention. The incident should be related to the concepts discussed in this course, including your reading assignments, class discussion, or concepts discussed in previous foundation courses. By reflecting on theory and practice, this process should generate deeper questions, known as praxis, as you practice this self-directed reflection essential to being a professional educator. Your Critical Reflection Journal should include the following sections: Description of the Critical Incident Choose a thought-provoking incident, complex and likely to draw you into an exploration of ideas, beliefs, and disposition you have learned about in your classes. Completely describe the critical incident or practice you have selected as the focus for this entry. Your entry should include sufficient detail so that the reader can easily understand your focus. This section should be purely descriptive. Explain what you saw or experienced or the way something worked. The description should be about 2-3 paragraphs in length. Feelings In this section, briefly describe your feelings about the event. Your feelings are emotional responses, whereas your thoughts are cognitive responses. Therefore, do not mix your thoughts and feelings (such as happiness, anger, frustration, etc.). For example, do not write: “I feel that I should have been more concerned.” This sentence describes a thought, not a feeling. Your feelings should be candid and written in short sentences or bullets. Thoughts Describe your initial thoughts and opinions about the description and feelings you provided in sections A and B. Convey what you were thinking at the point in time in which the event occurred. This section should not be a duplicate of your description. Deconstruction Analyze your initial thinking about the critical incident and explore it from multiple perspectives. Your goal is to become more aware of your assumptions and biases and apply theories and concepts you have learned as a teacher education candidate. Focus on diversity and learning and the larger power systems at work in schools to see the experience from a critical perspective. You will need to do two different analyses – one very personal and the other more academic – and then synthesize your thinking across these two analyses. D1. Underlying Assumptions Study your description, feelings, and thoughts for assumptions and biases. Ask yourself what assumptions or biases are embedded in the way you described the event. Remember that finding assumptions or biases is OK. We all have biases and assumptions that are sometimes difficult to recognize or reconcile. In this assumption-checking step, you are NOT required to find every assumption, but find at least two assumptions to focus your thinking for this process’s remainder. D2. Multiple Perspectives Once you have identified your assumptions, reflect on them. It would be best to use what you have learned to consider your assumptions or biases’ soundness or legitimacy. What would the prominent educators whose perspective has been introduced in your courses have to say about the incident and your response? Use what you have learned in class to think about this incident from three different perspectives. Connect each perspective to a specific educator, article, or class experience. In other words, use what you have learned to identify some additional lenses you can use to examine this incident in more detail. Be sure to cite your work. Practicing being a professional and make specific connections to the teachers, theorists, or researchers who share the perspective you are using as a lens. For example, if this event is related to a student that did not speak English, make connections to articles that might explain what this child is experiencing. Your perspective could include what you could say about the incident from the standpoint of social justice, inclusion, poverty, school climate, classroom community, social status, intellectual differences, development, differentiation, language, etc. D3 Further Analysis Consider how sections D1 and D2 fit together. In what ways has your socialization influenced your description, feelings, or thoughts? Consider the influences of your cultural background. How has your socialization – including the culture you grew up in and the things you were exposed to and not exposed to during your childhood, adolescence, college, or professional experiences – influenced your thinking? In what ways did your prior socialization “set you up” to feel the way you did, or think the way you did, or react the way you did? Are your responses and assumptions aligned with the educational perspectives you are learning? In what way does your view of the incident make sense when you look through different lenses or see other possible ways to think about it? Given this time to reflect critically, do you see your assumptions or feeling as valid given what you experienced and the dynamics of your relationships with students, teachers, or community members? What about your entry was inclusive, sensitive, knowledgeable, and professional? What was not so informed? What can you say you have learned from this analysis? Weighing issues from multiple perspectives is complex because you must be willing to question your attitudes towards diverse students and urban schools. Hopefully, you will learn that teaching is not a neutral act. Recognizing your biases early in your profession will promote a healthy and caring classroom conducive to learning. Reframing and Acting Critical reflection involves considering your identity (cultural background, assumptions, or biases), your professional knowledge and skills, your commitments to students and the profession, the context of schooling that influences your teaching and students’ learning. By being deliberate in exploring these many different aspects of any teaching experience, you can usually create space to construct new possibilities. By being reflective, you stop the action long enough to see whether you are really living according to an informed philosophy of education or whether other powerful forces are co-opting our efforts. The last step of this critical reflection process is the most important. It is the proactive step wherein you envision your future. Close your reflection by: Describing what you see as the new possibilities arising from this situation. Articulating at least one guiding principle you plan to keep in mind helps you move towards this new, improved vision of your teaching. Share one concrete action step that you plan to take.

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