Holistic thinking and reflecting

Why is that the reflective brain wakes up at 5.30 in the morning with streams of thoughts and feelings that explode  with a kaleidoscope of clarity? Neuroscience suggests that sleep clarifies our thoughts, with the power of neuro-imaging the scientist have found that the days of studying and staying up late are not what helps us to remember, “Sleep” gathers our thoughts and connects them up.( Neuroscience quote) Time to think, Kleine (1999) suggests we need time to think, although she develops her theory into thinking rounds where people are able to speak and think without interruptions, maybe our brain needs that biological time in which to think, to not make harsh judgement, mistakes. We are encouraged to complete evaluations after each session we teach maybe we should sleep on it before those evaluations are made and analysed. Can we reflect at that moment if students have met the learning outcomes, do they need time for their brain to process the information?

My thoughts are so clear after a goods nights sleep, to catch those clouds of clarity I keep a pen and note pad at the side of my bedside cabinet and catch as if they are dream never to be forgotten. The real challenge is what to do with those thoughts, analyse, compare and contrast, be critical, Action Plan pigeon hole your reflections into a model, a cycle, a box a concrete experiences in which to reflect upon. I wonder do we need concrete experiences in which to reflect? Just the word “concrete” puts a cold process into the “emotional” views of reflection. Education establishments suggest  reflections are a “purpose to help you learn from a particular practical experience” (uefap) and then to make it “better next time” Petty(2009) p341.  Brookfield(1995)) choice of words “it helps us to take informed action” (p1).  Reflection is important and as Brookfield suggests that without the reflective habit “we run the continual risk of making poor decisions” p3

The next question, is our assumptions a concrete experience, or are they based on other view points other experiences. When we reflect we make assumptions, for example my action research project explored Accelerated learning techniques in which to improve students independent learning to support them with the next stage of learning. My assumption was that these methods had worked in primary and within my early years practice so they are bound to work with teenagers in FE. Brookfield (1995) suggests that critical reflective thinking  is about “unearthing our assumptions” p28 and that “sooner or later, however something happens that forces teachers to confront the possibility that they may be working with a assumptions that don’t really fit their situations” p28  For example as the action research project progressed I read an improved my knowledge and understanding of brain based learning and explored neuroscience and education, the subject is fascinating and opened my eyes to how to learn and how not only environmental factor, but biological factors impact upon our learning. Further reading engaged my thirst to understand more, was this reflecting upon the concrete experience or has theory provided me with knowledge in which to have a concrete experience? Wallace (2002) points out that “as professionals we can only judge the worth of theory when we have measured it against our own experience.” (introduction)

Do we need to have a reflective cycle in which to be critical and reflective. Dewey cited in Ruston (2012) discuses a systematic approach to address the “uncertainties and complexities of human action” p25 Brookfield proposes 4 critical lenses, four different perspectives in which to critical reflect upon. Kolbs cycle of reflection, focuses the trainee teacher to reflect upon those concrete experiences  and apply theory, action plan and test it out, however teaching is a passion where does the feeling come into it or the students voice? Why would you change something, without getting the views of the learners? Are we making assumptions based on theoretical underpinning, theory doesn’t know my students. After saying that theory helps us to understand.

My thoughts was so clear at 5.30, I have my notes, driving to work I work through them, repeat the words so I will remember,  a strategy I learnt to help improve my memory. Pen to paper and thy are gone. My brain has gone into work mode and my “to do” list overshadows the real thought the passion to not do better next time, but to create and improve experiences. So if predominately our thoughts are about improvements,  feelings are apart of those reflections. Our emotions are apart of our teaching Rushton (2012) discusses effective teaching and learning is based upon our own “set of values” p4 and reflective practice is at “the heart of all teachers” (l2) Gibbs Improved Kolbs cycle of reflection and added in “Feelings” one example of improvement, however does not necessarily mean that it is “better” . The cycle if one has to use one,does provide a more emotional viewpoint to the reflection. Brookfield (1995)  suggests that we need to be aware of the wider context in which to be critical about  our emotions  because when our feelings are involved we inherently blame ourselves if students do not learn, what did we do wrong, how can we do better, what strategies and theory will engage that student, form within our emotional state, have we met the individual needs of that student? Brookfield continues to discuss how a critical stance in terms of how we teach and reflect keeps us grounded emotionally and breaks down that “innocent view” (p1) of blaming ourselves and that by thinking and reflecting critically we “will survive in the classroom with enough energy and sense of purpose to have some real effect” Susan Wallace (2002) discusses the realities of teaching in the FE sector, she suggests that we need to challenge our assumptions that in FE students are there because they want to, so when we emotionally question why students have not learnt we need to seek the answer within a wider political thought. She continues to propose that “choice or lack of it can cause disruptions and disengagement to education” p5  With  the raise of the participation age, students do not have the choice any more to stay on in education.

Reflection is a natural part of what we do, I reflect upon my life, my experiences and make decisions. So do we need to be modeled by a reflective framework, critical reflection is suggested as being a deeper thinking, a context in which to see the wider picture and not a narrow viewpoint. During an observation with a trainee teacher, we discussed various subjects, it became clear that both the observer and trainee teacher reflections and conversation took on a feminist perspective, there was passion in their voices, however does this provide a narrow pedagogy, or provide diversity to the session? the session explored assumptions and discriminatory practices and how those behaviors can impact upon various groups and individual people that are protected under the Equality Act (2010) Sometimes when you view the world from one perspective you lose sight of the “full or big picture” I have heard feminist disgust at the oppressive nature of E.L.James 50 shades of grey, whereas I see the holistic view of his possessive nature and his attitudes towards women as oppressive and controlling in the beginning, however the love of one woman changed that.

During a safeguarding session I made a decision to add video clips and music of very emotive subjects of child abuse, bullying, neglect and emotional abuse. The videos are highly emotive and made the decisions that this would engage the students, therefore students will have had a positive learning experience. I aware that most of my students are visual or kinesthetic learners. I am also aware of small snippets into students personal history, so I gave the speech that if this information is too sensitive then you are able to leave the room and also we would provide any additional support needed. What I was not aware of was the impact that these video’s had upon students emotions varying from, anger, frustration, throwing objects at the screen, crying, opinions. Emotions were high, the stories moved everyone. Some disclosures were made from bullying and anger towards previous establishment that she had felt did not support her through this anguish. Consequences as a result of abuse, neglect was physically felt in that session that day. Kelly Clarkson “because of you” highlighted the consequences that emotional abuse places upon children. There was no plenary that day no consolidation of learning. Had learning outcomes been met? There was no doubt in my mind they had, however later that evening I questioned my methods, was I right to evoke those emotions. Neuroscience suggests that we we are stressed learning does not take place. However is an highly emotive situation he same as when someone is stressed? Dis I meet everyone’s individual needs? Brookfield (1995) thoughts ran through my head that it is impossible to meet the needs of everyone and that this ignores “pedagogic reality” p24 and can be limiting towards the students not stretching them he suggests that “students who define their need as never staying beyond comfortable ways of thinking” can have consequences.” p21 I was criticized by my lack of compassion in an incident within my own life that exposed my 12 year old daughter to a video that highlighted the consequences to her “Behaviour” I say the word loosely because the behaviour had spiraled out of her control. It is my belief that students do need to be involved, I did take into consideration the effects that the material I presented would have on the learners, however did not expect the enormity of those emotions. Decisions are made in curriculum, schools teach sex education now in primary schools (Government Policy) City and Guilds standards inform us of what is required within the curriculum, however it is the teacher who decides the content.

So how can I improve here, what does the reflective process tell me, what have I learnt from this experience? That I haven’t taken into account the students voice. The next session I planned to inform the students in my current thinking, I explained my dilemma, we explored how the class felt, a concept word map presented various adjective emotions and the student completed their own reflection, except for one students. All students agreed that even though the subject was emotional they do need to be exposed to the wider view of the world. Would I do the same again? Yes, maybe I would involve the students more to let them include the material and involve them more in the construction of the presentation.

This is a blog and half, it is across between my emotive blogging style to an academic thought pattern. Blogging in a social platform in which to express your ideas and feels natural and more spontaneous than an academic form of writing.



Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass.

Wallace, S. (2002) Managing behaviour in Further education. London. Learning Matters, Sage.

Ruston, I. Suter,M.(2012) Reflective Practice for teaching in lifelong learning. Maidenhead. Open University Press.



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