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Sunday, 21 December 2008

Reflections on Meaning

YNWA is still stalled by end of semester term papers. The one paper I am finding almost impossible to write has the following title:

"With reference to published material, evaluate and reflect on your study skills at the start of the module, and produce an action plan showing how you will develop these skills further."

Yes, it is the ole devil reflection again, raining on my parade. I have amused myself with this essay and have written most of it, but now I'm down to the refining process of scoring as high as possible, and am having great difficulty in writing the thing AND getting as high marks as possible while still including sideswipes at the post modernist bullshit that is "the Art of Reflection".

In truth, Reflection can be a valuable tool. It is used in the nursing and other caring professions. These guys are encouraged to write reflective notes on how they feel, especially at the 'sharp' end - Accident and Emergency, Intensive Care Units - the type of job where a person can on a daily basis encounter the kind of stress that others of us have nightmares about. My research into this 'philosophy' of reflection made it quite clear that as a kind of post-traumatic stress aid, reflection can be very valid. BUT, in the same way that just because a pnuematic hammer drill is a useful tool for a miner it does not automatically follow that every profession should have one - I struggle to think how a cake maker or florist could use one, for example, or how a hairdresser would use a chainsaw just because lumberjacks find them useful - the fact that Reflection may be useful for some professions does not automatically make it either a 'truism' or a useful general tool for everyone. Indeed, for some professions, for example, airline pilot, I can see how relying on reflection could be dangerous if it was used as a way of examining, after the fact, how one could have done things better. Indeed, if we are to adopt quasi-Eastern mysticism for professions, I would be far more comfortable if airline pilots, train drivers, and lion tamers would adopt the art of contemplation prior to engaging in their professional acticity, rather than reflection in a pile of smoke and dust after a massive crash.

It's back to the essay now, and my own contemplation on how to eradicate the phrase 'lunatic soft-Left hippy post modernist tyranny' from the thing while still maintaining my sense of disgust. I did, in my research discover one paper however, from a peer reviewed journal where the abstract is beautifully scornful about Reflective Learning, Learning Styles and all that. It reads:

"Many popular educational programmes claim to be 'brain-based', despite pleas from the neuroscience community that these neuromyths do not have a basis in scientific evidence about the brain."... and concludes ."Conclusions: The main conclusions arising from the argument are that teachers should seek independent scientific validation before adopting brain-based products in their classrooms. A more sceptical approach to educational panaceas could contribute to an enhanced professionalism of the field."

As I have learned, I have to fully credit John Geake, 2008 Educational Research, Vol 50(2), Jun 2008. Special issue: Education and neuroscience: Evidence, theory and practical application. pp. 123-133.

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