Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Metablognition

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging recently for a number of reasons: first and foremost, I did some research into blogs as a platform for self-development examining the extent to which they can facilitate reflective thinking; secondly, I also passed a year since I started this blog last month (first post was made on 28th April 2010) and I’ve been ‘reflecting on my reflections’ as it were.

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Image by Mike Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com

One question I’ve been pondering is why do I blog? After much consideration, I can only say there is no definitive reason. The things that prompt or inspire me to write a post vary greatly as does the nature of the posts themselves: it may come from some general thoughts about education and language teaching, it may be a response to another post on another blog, it may be an extension of an ELTchat session or it may be some random event from the wider world that just gets me thinking.

But most of all, my inspiration for blog posts comes from the classroom: reflecting on how lessons went or how I attempted to tackle a problem encountered or a challenging situation is what really helps me as a teacher. Add to that the comments, opinions, advice and support of those who take the time to read my posts and there is a potential for a deep, critical level of reflection.

One interesting thing I discovered in my research was stages that bloggers seem to go through over time and how I could identify the ways I had experienced something similar. First of all, many new teacher-bloggers seem to start by offering descriptive accounts of lessons. There is little in the way of explicit reflection here and this is often used as a criticism of journal and blog writing from a developmental standpoint. However, this can also be seen as a good place for teachers to start as they get used to the idea of writing about lessons and using a blog before later moving into more critical reflection (see Farrell, 1998). I see this in my older posts with accounts of what I did in class stage by stage, mainly focusing on successful moments (see Introducing Myself to New Classes or Pictogloss for examples of what I mean).

One of the most important stages is that of engaging in a community of practice. Blogging is not just about writing your own posts but reading the posts of others as well. This can prompt reflection on our own beliefs and experiences as teachers (see Cecilia’s recent post and comments for a perfect example of this) even if the context is completely different. One study I came across of pre-service English teachers in Hong Kong (Deng & Yuen, 2011) identified an important aspect of critical reflection that emerged as the research took place: blog-reading. When interviewing the participants, the value these teachers attached to being able to read the blogs of others was something that kept coming up again and again even though it wasn’t immediately apparent when analysing the posts and comments themselves. I’ve certainly learned a lot from other people’s blogs reading about their experiences, relating them to my own and getting some ideas for my own blog as well. So thanks to all of you (too numerous to mention) who have provided me with some great reading over the last year or so.

By reading and commenting on others blogs, teachers start to build connections and then feel more comfortable in talking about more difficult moments. They may start by asking for help or advice with challenging classes or students or when entering new territory. My first post like this was the one where I pondered why my ‘difficult’ class were better behaved when a teacher new to the school came to teach them for a day as part of his induction (‘Outdone by the Pink Elephant’). However, I was still not at a level of critical reflection as I was asking for explanations more than offering them.

It is when we start to give our opinions, justify our ideas, diagnose problems and offer solutions and evaluate what we do - both the positive and the negative - that we reach a point of critical reflection (that’s what I at least tried to do with my recent thoughts on our drama performances). Having described some of my experiences this year here on these blog pages and having read the blogs and experiences of others, I feel as though I can go into next year much better prepared to help my students get the most out of the learning experience. This is something I could simply not have achieved by writing a private journal or discussing things in the staffroom at school. There is some suggestion that the public nature of blogs makes it more likely that the teacher will hold back and not truly engage in critical reflection. I find the opposite to be true - being able to reach an audience of like-minded individuals regardless of geographical location, benefitting from their unique perspectives and sharing with them makes me more open and able to reflect on a deeper level.

I teach.

I blog.

I engage.

I reflect.

I grow.

What about you?

References

Deng, L. & Yuen, A.H.K. 2011. Towards a framework for educational uses of blogs. Computers and Education. 56: 441-451.

Farrell, T.S.C. 1998. ESL/EFL teacher development through journal writing. RELC Journal. 29/1: 92-109.

14 comments:

  1. Çocuklar düşe kalka büyür.

    Reflection is good.

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  2. Thanks Adam. I don't think kids ever get up and think 'why did I fall?' or 'how can I avoid falling next time?' though :p

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  3. Hi,David
    I am a Public English Teacher in Brazil. I have a blog to write my reflections about Teaching English and so on. I loved your blog! Mainly, Your post "I teach,I blog,I engage,I reflect,I grow!" Me too..."Reflection" is the main point of my career...Thanks for your texts and words.
    Adriana Pavão Wada
    apwada@gmail.com

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  4. I still think it's good to have a phrase for it, though.

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  5. Hi Adriana,

    Thanks for your comment - could you post your blog's address here? I'd like to have a look. :)

    ---------------
    Of course it is Adam! I guess, much like the blogger still building the community of practice, the child may reflect on these things internally before learning how to express him/herself later ;)

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  6. So TRUE!
    The change in types of posts over the year, the reasons why blogging allows you to reflect and grow in a manner that the staffroom does not - you put it all so well!. things I have been thinking about but couldn't put my finger on!
    Thank you!
    (All this only goes to prove how much there is to be learnt by reading other people's blogs!)

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  7. "Being able to reach an audience of like-minded individuals regardless of geographical location, benefitting from their unique perspectives and sharing with them makes me more open and able to reflect on a deeper level."

    That is the butter in a nice french dish. PLN.

    Ahhh... nice reflection. It's fun to imagine what be the "next" evolution for us bloggers out there. Congrats on your blog birthday, btw. I remember when I didn't know what PLN was and was just getting a hold of this whole twitter thing. At that point I stumbled upon a blog of your that lit a fire (prob mentioned it the last time I commented on your blog too--- made quite an impression).

    Been a fun ride, and look 4wrd to the next post. Now subscribed !

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  8. Hi Naomi,

    Thanks for the comments. It's nice to know our posts help each other clarify thoughts and justify opinions, isn't it?

    ----------------------------------
    Hi Brad,

    Ah, I still warm my toes on the embers of that fire from time-to-time. :) Great that you figured out what a PLN was and how you wanted to use it, leading to your own blog (to which I'm also subscribed via RSS ;)).

    Let's see where the road takes us next!

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  9. Hi David,

    Really enjoyed this entry or reflection on blogging. I would also add that sometimes a teacher can blog to give examples to learners or simply to share with others who have the same interests.

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  10. "There is some suggestion that the public nature of blogs makes it more likely that the teacher will hold back and not truly engage in critical reflection. I find the opposite to be true..." I completely agree with you. Though there may be teachers who feel this way, they're not in ones I tend to read most regularly or remember. I truly enjoy the reflection I post myself and those that I read from others because they both help and inspire me to continue doing it.

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  11. Thanks for the comments Ana & Tyson. :)

    I think for many teachers starting to blog, there's a critical level they need to reach to keep themselves going. Once you are there, regularly writing and reading blog posts, the motivation and inspiration almost becomes self-perpetuating!

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  12. I wish I could have written this post ;-) So well-said Dave... the stages, the reason, the evolution... the reflection blogging brings is something difficult to accurately describe (and be understood) by those who don't blog.

    Over the last 8 months or so I have learned much from writing posts, responding to comments, reading posts written by other edubloggers (such as yourself :-))), reading the comments to my blog and other blogs.... The list is endless.

    Yes, they do trigger very serious, deep critical reflection... And at least for me, it has made me change practices and opinions. For the better - I think ;-)

    Thanks for a fantastic post Dave. An absolute MUST read.

    So happy to have you back in action :-)

    X Ceci

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  13. Hi, David
    Sorry, I am so late with the answer...It is because my Post Graduation....I am studying alot! So...My blog is www.englishteachingreflections.blogspot.com,and it will be a pleasure to see around! By the way...I need a original text from Smyth,J. (Teachers work and the politics of reflection and Developing and Sustaining Critical Reflection in Teacher) Do you have any of them? Because I need to read the original and put in my academic paper....
    Thanks
    Adriana Pavão Wada
    Guarulhos/São Paulo/Brasil

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  14. Thanks for the comment Ceci. In a way blogging is like a staffroom conversation only with a greater reach and no chance of being interrupted before you've had your say. ;)

    Even if we don't change our practice, I think it's important to think about what we do and why, justify ourselves and engage in discussion. Just like we are doing now!

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