How Have You Been? On Existential Reflection and Thoughtful Teaching
In this chapter, Gert Biesta returns to the seminal work of Donald Schön on the nature and purpose of reflection amongst the professions. He argues that when asked to reflect on their practice, students of teaching too often simply report on what they already know about what they do rather than be open to reflection as a means of ‘shifting their perceptions and understandings’. In order to effect this change towards what he regards as the goal of more thoughtful teaching, he argues that instead of being asked ‘What have you learned?’ students should be asked to look more closely at the situations within which they find themselves. In order to achieve that, however, Biesta suggests that students be asked why they are asked to reflect, what will they reflect with and what will they reflect about? These questions situate the student teacher deeply within ‘the real situations of education’ so that the distinction between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action can be developed. Such a focus on practice, he argues, will enable students to develop an awareness of their embeddedness in what they are doing in the sense of being ‘in conversation with the situation’, an important step towards developing the ‘‘feel’ for the practice’ that such ‘existential reflection’ enables. The significance of the student’s adopting or being aware of appropriate overarching theories which can shed light on purpose and the perspective one is adopting (or might adopt alternatively), as well as providing conceptual resources for the task of becoming a more thoughtful, more aware practitioner, is stressed.
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