“Reflecting on what we do leads to more informed and perhaps
better practice.” (Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p. 50)
This quote, for me, does not necessarily awaken a great epiphany or provoke a stunning leap of mind-expanding learning. In fact, initially it seemed quite obvious to me, striking as a sort of commonsensical truth that any individual with the slightest shred of intelligence would realize on their own. What caught my attention, however, was (ironically reflecting on the quote further) realizing that reflecting on what we do on a regular basis is a rarity among human beings in general. It is easy for me to say, “Well, obviously!” but the process will not run its course on its own. I must intentionally decide to initiate it and carry it out to completion.
What I have realized, having pondered the simple quote further, is that unless we actually take the time to reflect on what we do as adult educators, we become guilty of a disturbing number of negative clichés. Lines such as, “Cannot teach an old dog new tricks,” and “Stuck in a rut,” and “Your own worst enemy” came to mind. It is far too easy to be that “old dog” rooted in my methods simply because that it is how I have always done it. And unless I proactively make time, I will indeed become “my own worst enemy,” being the only one stopping me from improving.
Another cliché that came to mind was “Walking a mile in another’s shoes.” This, I believe, is what the quote truly aims at when it refers to “reflecting on what we do,” because unless there is a context against which to reflect upon, the act itself may be futile and fruitless. There have been many times in my life when I have looked back on previous actions and, gazing through the context of someone else’s perspective, realized how misinterpretations or unintentional offenses could have occurred where there were none intended. Being constantly aware of the potential worldviews and differing abilities to receive and absorb information and undergo experiential transformation among students comes largely from regular reflection on past experience.
This quote has certainly inspired me to schedule regular time for personal reflection. I do not know, of course, where my future will lead. If I end up in a classroom setting as an instructor, I will have to make time for marking, for lesson planning, and for dialoguing with students. If I become a corporate trainer, I will have to carve out time for preparing seminars and workshops, for designing presentations and reading client feedback. In any of the positions the future holds for me, I now know that I will also need to make the proper time for personally reflecting on what I do in the role I am in for the sake of informing, adjusting, and bettering myself as an instructor.
Merriam, S. B. & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.