Jason’s reflection on class reflections

Posted by on March 22, 2010 
Filed under Reflections

After reviewing the chart handed out in class entitled The rough guide to reflection. I can see that in my previous posts I have been leaving out the NOW WHAT portion.  I have outlined WHAT HAPPENED and discussed the SO WHAT but I have failed to fully outline the NOW WHAT.  So I want to attempt to fulfill all three general “columns” as applied to last class meetings discussion.

We were discussing classroom environments and successful strategies to encourage courage.  How can we get students to try new things?  A great example was given of a student writing a play for the first time even though her strength was in other forms of writing.  This was viewed as courage in the classroom by a student, and it was an example of just that.

I couldn’t help but feel very saddened by this discussion.   It is really upsetting to me that most classrooms are environments that require individual acts of courage from students to try something new or to, god forbid, fail at something new.  This is exactly the opposite from how I want my students to feel in my classroom.  I caught myself thinking back to a classroom incident from that week in one of my intro classes.  We were discussing beauty norms and I asked the question “what are the societal beliefs and meanings attached to obesity?” and secondly “Do we as a society discriminate against obese individuals”.  I had a number of students that wanted to frame the discussion as a “health” (how much it costs society in terms of health care etc.) issue and I asked “so the four year old that teases the other four year old for being “fat” is concerned with the burdens obesity places on our health care system?

After this questions a female student that had been teased throughout life about her weight “courageously” jumped into the discussion and told numerous stories of how she had been teased and treated unequally because of her weight.  The fact that this took “courage” on her part I see as mostly my fault.  Somewhere along the way I let the classroom culture shift to one of judgment of individuals instead of judgment of ideas.  Yes she still spoke her mind but it was in a confrontational environment instead of an open learning environment.

This illustrates that I still have trouble creating an open classroom culture in my larger classes.  For example my summer classes are usually under 20 students (and meet for 3 hours twice a week), in those classes I have found it easier to get across the message that learning is a process, trying out new writing styles, looking at things from new perspectives, and openly displaying life experiences that frame our way of interpreting the world  should not be considered risky behavior. I think my difficulty creating this kind of environment in my online classes and my larger classes is a great opportunity for SoTL research.


One Response to “Jason’s reflection on class reflections”

  • Darren Cambridge on March 23rd, 2010 10:31 am    

    I don’t envy the challenge you face trying to create a supporting, collaborative environment in courses with high enrollment. There is some interesting research on active learning in large classes that’s worth looking into that might inform your own project.

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