Saturday, April 9, 2016

Getting Engaged

The premise of Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers by Alison James and Stephen D. Brookfield, one of the new CETL books available in the library, is that reflective thinking is essential for learning, and engagement is essential for reflection.
The authors begin with “Three Axioms of Student Engagement” (pp. 6-7):
  1. Student learning is deepest when the content or skills being learned are personally meaningful, and this happens when students see connections and applications of learning. 
  2. Student learning “sticks” more when the same content or skills are learned through multiple methods.
  3. The most memorable critical incidents students experience in their learning are those when they are required to “come at” their learning in a new way, when they are “jerked out” of the humdrum by some unexpected challenge or unanticipated task.  We naturally remember the surprising rather that the routine, the unpredictable rather than the expected.
The rest of the book explains why and how to get students involved in the following 14 reflection-encouraging activities:
  • Check the assumptions that inform their actions and judgments;
  • Seek to open themselves to new and unfamiliar perspectives;
  • Attempt intersubjective understanding and perspective taking—trying to understand how another person reasons, understands content, or views knowledge;
  • Make their intuitions and “gut” feelings the focus of study;
  • Study the effects of their actions with a view to changing them;
  • Look for blind spots and omissions in their thinking;
  • Identify what is justified and well grounded in their thinking;
  • Accept and experiment with multiple learning modalities;
  • Value emotional dimensions of their learning as much as the purely cognitive;
  • Try to upend their  habitual ways of understanding something;
  • Connect their thinking conducted in one domain to thinking in another;
  • Become more aware of their habitual epistematic cognition—the typical ways they judge something to be true;
  • Apply reflective protocols in contextually appropriate ways;
  • Alternate cognitive analysis with an acceptance of an unregulated, unmediated flow of emotions, impulses, intuitions, and images.
What sorts of activities have you tried to encourage student reflection and engage them in multiple ways of knowing your subject matter?  Any creative teaching tips to share?

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