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Reflection and Adult Learning

Reflection and Adult Learning


In this lesson, students will examine critical thinking, Brookfield's Four Lenses, and the continuum of self-reflection and action as it relates to adult learning.

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Source: Globe, Clker,; Thinking Person, Clker,; Microphone, Pixabay,; Green Lens, Clker,; Key, Clker,

Video Transcription

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Hello, there, and welcome. In this lesson, we will focus on reflection, specifically, critical thinking, as well as Brookfield's four lenses and the continuum of self-reflection. Let's get started.

It seems like every time we turn on our television, there's another competition show where contestants get eliminated. I've seen topics including singing, modeling, sports host, cooking, building, just to name a few. In just about all these shows, the judges spend time giving finalists advice and yes, critiquing them. It always seems like if the contestant doesn't reflect and grow from their experiences, they are doomed to fail.

Outside the realm of education, the word "critical" can sometimes have a negative connotation. However, in the context of thinking, learning, and reflection, the word "critical" can lead directly to a teacher and student's growth and development.

When it comes to research on critical thinking, the name to know is Stephen Brookfield. He has been and continues to be the leading adult educator in the field. His work spans decades.

In 2012, he wrote that critical thinking is an important lens to analyze one's learning environments, including the teaching and learning taking place. He went on to explain that it's more than just reflecting, however. The learning takes place when we look critically at what is uncovered and use those insights to take action.

A key characteristic to transformational learning is the ability for critical reflection. It's during that self-reflection and what teachers do with it that enables them to grow from their professional learning and even take the action necessary. According to Stephen Brookfield, in order for teachers to truly reflect critically, they must improve their understanding and awareness of their teaching from multiple perspectives-- four, to be exact.

The four lenses, according to Brookfield, are the autobiographical lens or self-reflection. It's quite common for teachers to think about what went well in a lesson or a unit and what went wrong and use that information going forward. The second lens is students' eye or student review. With all the information and data about our students now available, we are much better equipped to do this.

Thirdly, our colleagues experiences or peer review is much more likely to happen if you are part of a professional learning community. And lastly, theoretical literature or benchmarking can be part of professional development. Brookfield believes that good teachers most likely use the first two lenses and that excellent teachers will look through the first and second lenses, but will also seek mentoring, feedback, and advice from their colleagues.

The final lens is focused on literature and theory relevant to the field that helps teachers to strengthen and grow their academic vocabulary in which to describe and explain one's teaching practice. In today's world, this has never been easier due to our ability to access social media, blogs, and archived articles. The bottom line is that reflection helps us grow and develop and also increases our self-efficacy.

Taking a look at some other work in the field brings us to 1997 and researchers Daudelin and Hall who describe reflective learning as "the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder carefully and persistently its meaning to reflect on the learning that is occurring." In 1997, Daudelin and Hall stated that the skill of self-reflection is extremely important to teachers as it can help in the growth and development of their practice. As recently as 2015, Hall added four developmental stages through which teachers generally experience sequentially in the process of self-reflection. Stages are considered to be a state of mind, a level of self-awareness, and a phase in the self-reflective process.

And so here are the four stages in that continuum. Stage one, unaware. Here, teachers don't even realize that their classroom instruction could be any different than they currently are. Teachers have a limited understanding of their role in their students' learning and they have a limited awareness of instructional practice that is supported by research. I can tell you that as an administrator, this is the population that needs the most guidance and support.

Stage two, conscious. In this stage, teachers have a greater awareness of what they should be doing to benefit their students. They know what best practice is, but it may not be reflected in their classroom instruction. They consider trying new strategies, but may choose to take an easier path or to do what is most comfortable and convenient rather than what is best for student learning.

Stage three is action. In this stage, teachers decide to make a change. They start by consistently integrating their knowledge with classroom instruction and accept responsibility for the success of their students.

They also begin to recognize individual needs. However, teachers may still be missing some of the knowledge it takes to address those needs. Teachers in this stage are ready to learn and welcome the feedback that will improve their practice.

The final stage is called refinement. In it, teachers empower students to take ownership of their learning. This is when that transition from sage on the stage to facilitator of learning happens. Teachers also realize that reflection is a continuum and must be sustained over time.

So it's time to go ahead and summarize this lesson. We began by defining critical thinking and introduced researcher Stephen Brookfield. Then we looked at self-reflection through Brookfield's four lenses. And finally, we introduced the continuum of self-reflection and the four stages, unaware, conscious, action, and refinement.

And now for today's food for thought. Revisit the continuum of self-reflection and ask yourself which stage best represents where you are professionally.

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, check out the Additional Resources section that come with this presentation. The additional resources include hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Reflection and Adult Learning"

(00:00-00:11) Intro

(00:12-00:38) Reality TV

(00:39-01:37) Critical Thinking

(01:38-02:25) Brookfield’s 4 Lenses

(02:26-03:02) Good to Great

(03:03-05:17) Continuum of Self Reflection

(05:18-06:07) Food For Thought/Summary

Additional Resources

Using Brookfield’s Four Lenses to Improve Your Own Teaching

This is an Open Educational Resource from UCD Dublin that includes a digital graphic organizer to use Brookfield's Four Lenses for critical reflection.