Brookfield (2006, p. 12) “Simply having experiences does not imply that they are reflected on, understood or analyzed critically. Individual experiences can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined and constraining.”
Brookfield (2006, p.11) believes that the starting point for dealing with teachers’ problems should be teachers’ own experiences. He posits that, “The experiences of teachers can teach them important lessons however, they may not be inherently enriching, and they are not always or automatically conscious of the value of learning from their own experiences”. It is also a concern of Brookfield (2006) that, “We may limit or constrain ourselves as teachers in how we view the world, that our own engrained experiences may lead us into bad habits such as bigotry and stereotyping”.
This problem is further exemplified when groups of teachers, with various backgrounds, pool their individual experiences and further re-enforce those prejudices. What I have learnt is that as educators, we need to trust our inner voices and accept more responsibility that our own instincts, intuitions, and insights might possess as much validity if not more than those of external opinions in our particular field of expertise.
What I believe Brookfield is referring to in his quote is single loop and double loop thinking. Argyris and Schön (1996) differentiate between single loop and double loop whereas, “Single-loop learners are subjected to externalize problems by attributing them to forces and situations that are beyond their control, and may focus on alternative strategies as the treatment for problems that are perceived as dysfunctional”. Single-loop learning emphases learning something for the first time, where you learn how it is done and practice it to perfection over time. Further, single loop is the repeated attempt to answer the same problem, but ignores the question of why the problem arose in the first place. According to Argyris (1991) the problem is externalized, and by doing so, brings their “Own learning to a grinding halt”.
Double-loop learning and reflection however, focuses on the root causes of a problem and the positive changes that we need to make as individuals or educators in our attitudes, values, beliefs, stereotyping and biases (Bauman, 2002). When we listen to our inner voice and learn to reflect and change our underlying norms, beliefs, and principles we then have the capacity to understand how others have been influenced by racial discrimination’s. Argyris (1991) posits that individuals “Must learn how the very way they go about defining and solving problems can be a source of the problems in its own right”.
By engaging in reflection, we as teachers can deal with the uncertainties and unexpected situations in the classroom. Reflection encourages us to critically appraise ourselves in our own current beliefs, attitudes and biases, and also those relationships with our students and peers in the school environment.
Day (2001) points out that reflection is a necessity for all educators in maintaining their effectiveness and writes: “Without routinely engaging in reflective practice, it is unlikely that we will be able to understand the effects of our motivations, prejudices, and aspirations upon the ways in which we create, manage, receive, sift, and evaluate knowledge; and as importantly, the ways in which we are influencing the lives, directions, and achievements of those whom we nurture and teach”(Day, 2001).
As an educator, what this means for me is that I will need to trust my inner voice and accept more responsibility of my own instincts, intuitions, and insights as they do possess as much validity if not more than those of external opinions in my particular field of expertise. Through double loop thinking and reflection I can develop new perspectives, new ways of looking at my own actions, and form a new awareness or understanding of my own behaviours and effectiveness in my own teachings.
In double loop learning, our assumptions and underlying current views are questioned and our behaviors are tested openly. The usefulness in the strategy of double-loop learning for the development of effective educators is its potential to extract tacit (difficult to communicate) knowledge from students, and convert it to explicit (easily communicated) knowledge. In theory, the end result of double loop thinking should result in increased effectiveness in one’s own decision-making and a better acceptance of one’s failures and mistakes.
Double-loop learning is different than single-loop learning where single loop involves changing methods and improving inefficiencies to obtain established objectives or “Doing things right”. Double-loop learning involves changing the objectives themselves or “Doing the right things”. As a current supervisor, I spend most of my time collaborating between what my managers focus on which is how we are “Doing things right”, rather than focusing on why we are “Doing the right things”. As leaders we want to challenge the status quo and encourage our staff to take calculated risks and trust their intuitions in creating new innovation. Also being in a middle management role and supervising mostly trade’s staff, I find that upper management is mostly focused on the end result of getting the end objective done. My job is to ensure the end result is completed; however, it is the means of how staff reaches those goals which is important to me. In the interest of double loop learning, this means challenging my staff to think beyond just accepting status quo in terms of how we get things done and reaching out as to why we do how we do things. This is achieved by using feedback from past actions to question their assumptions of underlying current views, and seeking alternatives in order to dramatically improve the way things are done.
I come from a trade’s background (metal fabrication) and I can relate to how the real world is much more diverse than that of the safe, structured school environment. I also realized very early in my career that most of the concepts I had learnt in my apprenticeship would have to be modified and learnt in different ways in the real work environment. I was fortunate enough to have a good role model for an instructor that explained why certain elements of the trade had to be done in a certain way. As I move into an instructor role in the future, I will be mindful of the experiences I went through when I first started out. I will incorporate double loop thinking and reflection into my lessons, enabling students to not only learn something new, but to ask why certain process need to be done a certain way, and to also encourage them to trust their own intuitions and judgments based on their own experiences.
To assist our students in practicing double loop learning, we can re-examine previously taught concepts while introducing additional variables. We also need to encourage our students to examine why things happen the way they do and not just memorize how to perform a skill-set. If students don’t understand why they are doing things a certain way or why things work the way they do, they will be unable to adapt their practice in the real work environment in a safe, effective manner.
I also believe as educators it is very important to encourage students to ‘think outside the box’ focusing on a growth mindset and moving all students towards double loop thinking and reflection; trusting our intuitions and our own judgments gained from our own experiences.
We have to move away from the bias thinking of what is status quo, to a place where we think outside the box and ask ourselves, ‘How can we improve the way we do things for the better of ourselves as educators and for the success of our students?’ We as educators need to question more deeply at all times and trust our own judgments and our own instincts from our own experiences.
Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://www.ncsu.edu/park_scholarships/pdf/chris_argyris_learning.pdf
Bensimon, E. (2005). Closing the achievement gap in higher education: An organizational learning perspective. New Directions for Higher Education, no. 131, Fall 2005. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.deanza.edu/equityoffice/Bensimon_Closing%20the%20Achievement%20Gap%20in%20Higher%20Education.pdf
Brookfield, S. (2006). The skillful teacher; on technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 12-16.
Cartwright, S. (2002). Double-loop learning: A concept and process for leadership educators. Journal of Leadership, (pp. 68 – 71). Retrieved from http://www.leadershipeducators.org/Resources/Documents/jole/2002_summer/JOLE_1_1_Cartright.pdf
Crimer, A., Crimer, S, Vekli, G. (2013). How does reflection help teachers to become effective teachers. International J. Education Research 2013 Vol. 1 Issue 4, ISSN;2306-7063. Retrieved from http://ijsse.com/ijer/sites/default/files/papers/2013/v1i4/Paper-1.pdf
Farrell, T. (1998). Reflective Teaching. The principles and practices. Retrieved from http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/E-USIA/forum/vols/vol36/no4/p10.htm
Smith, M. (2001). Donald schon: Learning reflection and change. Infed. Retrieved from http://infed.org/mobi/donald-schon-learning-reflection-change/