Thursday, November 21, 2013

SLLO Reflections: How Do We Reflect?

Reflect: among other definitions, defines to reflect as to think, ponder, or meditate. I know that I do not take enough time to reflect: I'm too busy moving on to the next project, meeting, or activity. At the same time, I know that action doesn't role model positive behavior for the college students and colleagues we work with. How can we expect others to reflect (well), if we don't do it?

I even admit that I started this article while waiting for my car to be serviced at the dealership, and I'm now working on it (a couple of months later) waiting for others to show up to a meeting. Not much time to seriously reflect on life and learning, is it? On the other hand, maybe we can reflect in smaller chunks of time.

What's the point of us reflecting anyway? I do think that some of our learning and integration takes place after some event--not always in the moment. Those of you that work with students regularly (especially those that may have made a poor decision at some point) know what I mean.  I also advocate that in this day and age, we need to know how to think, not just how to perform a specific skill (that may be outdated in a couple of years). But how do we know how to think? It takes practice and challenge.

Marcia Baxter Magolda has researched the area of self-authorship, which includes reflection as a major foundation. Table 1, below, illustrates the journey of self-authorship (from Authoring Your Life, 2009, p. 4). You can see that there is a process of development as we get older and have more experiences.

Trust authorities to decide what to believe, follow others’ visions for how to succeed. External voices (those of others) in the foreground drown out internal voice.
Torn between following others’ versus own visions and expectations
Listening to Internal Voice
Recognize the importance of hearing one’s internal voice and begin work to identify it. Attempt to get internal voice into conversation with external voices.
Cultivating Internal Voice
Use internal voice to sort out beliefs, establish priorities, and put the puzzle of who you are together. Work to reduce reliance on external authorities.
Trust yourself to decide what to believe, follow your vision for how to succeed. Internal voice in the foreground coordinates information from external voices.
Trusting the Internal Voice
Realize that reality is beyond your control, but you can control your reaction to reality; use internal voice to shape reaction.
Building an Internal Foundation
Use internal voice to make internal commitments and build them into a foundation or philosophy of life to guide action.
Securing Internal Commitments
Live out internal commitments in everyday life.
Italics=elements within phases
Table 1: Key Locations in the Journey toward Self-Authorship

In her longitudinal study, Baxter Magolda also explored how good partners helped in that development. The study participants said a good partner “respected their thoughts and feelings, helped them sort through their experiences, and collaborated with them to help them solve their own problems” (p. 12). In student affairs, that’s where advisors and supervisors come into play. They can help others in that reflection and interpretation phase without taking over someone else’s life.

Here are a couple of tips for reflection:
  • Schedule time to do it--have a meeting with yourself.  We are all very busy people, and I know if something doesn't get put on my calendar, it doesn't get done. Even if it is 15-30 minutes a week.
  • Schedule time with others. The last SLLO meeting of the year asked staff to reflect. We provided people with some questions, but they could also go down their own path as needed. We provided paper, markers, snacks, etc. to help people get into their own flow. The staff who attended seemed to like it, and shared some really great ideas and reflections.
  • For some, reviewing the current day and planning for the next day helps them briefly reflect-what did I learn today? What do I intend to learn tomorrow? What resources do I need to learn? What opportunities do I have to help others in their journey?
  • Read. Whether it's The Chronicle of Higher Education, a book, a journal article, or a blog, read something once a week that makes you think. What does this mean to me? My work with students? My own professional or personal development? My future?
  • Cultivate your internal voice. I’m giving you permission to talk to yourself, without others thinking you are crazy.

- Darby Roberts

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