The importance of WHY: Student identities as a framework for reflective teaching

This paper, written with the contribution of several students, starts with the premise that a more reflective pedagogical stance is necessary within community colleges. The domains of reflective teaching are conceptualized using the 6 questions of Journalism, i.e., the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” of teaching. Looking more closely, we can see that each of these domains reflects complex intersections of theory and practice. Focusing on the often overlooked question of “Why?” - i.e., requiring ourselves to provide justifications for our decisions - is key to increasing reflective practices. From a developmental perspective, an understanding of education as a means of developing persons and societies is necessary. The essential question here is “What does learning do?” - for individuals, communities, and society. Using a Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) approach and Stetsenko’s (2014, 2015) concepts of collaborative transformative practices and the transformative activist stance, I argue that we must conceptualize the ways in which our teaching practices position students in relation to social practices, through the use of cultural tools that include concepts, theories, empirical methods, critical analysis, etc. The emphasis on cultural and historical activity requires that we consider the human mind as part of the world, not merely a means of knowing/understanding it. Our job as instructors is not simply to aid students in receiving or even constructing knowledge and/or ways of knowing, but to facilitate their appropriation, transformation, and the creation of cultural tools that will aid them in developing themselves, as persons with political stances, values, and life goals. This development of selves is embedded within acts of contributing to and transforming the social and cultural worlds of which students are a part. Using this CHAT approach to understand development and the “why” of teaching, we can then explore more critically other domains of reflective teaching, including how we conceptualize ourselves as teachers, our students as learners, and the content as reflections of history, culture, and relations of power/oppression. 
Presenter
Dutchess Community College

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