I had always considered my innate introspective nature sufficient to demonstrate my capability of reflecting and being deep in my observations. This was excluding the inclusion of others in my process of learning. One term that opens a new world to me is ‘frame of structure’ which in the book ‘A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning’ by Moon, Jennifer A. is not only referred to as personal beliefs and opinions, but also as our past reference system of previous experiences of learning.
The book puts the emphasis on the incidence of individual attitude towards learning, as means to complete and enrich the learning process itself. This may appear a constant flux of achievement stages, subordinated to constant external inputs that unravel new learning experiences. The building of knowledge is therefore a stratification of processes, a continuous layering of learning and adapting information, rather than a definite acquisition of sets of tools.
The key to this ongoing growth is personal awareness, brought up as result of reflective practices, which can be recognized unless it is represented consistently with the contexts and requirements of the representation. The representation is a process of learning itself, an additional layer which is added when the learner experiences the ‘tidying up’ of words, representing images, and so on. We can say the notion of constructivism applies to the cycle of different overlapping stages of learning.
What we learn so far can be molded around new information, through assimilation (Piaget, p. 16-17), and we select what we decide to incorporate into our baggage of knowledge through accommodation.
Consistently, the book identifies boundaries of experiential learning that can be internal or external.
Making sense and making meaning belong to two different depths of learning, whereas the former is the early stage of new information acquisition, while the latter stresses the subjective interpretation of the meaningful experience of learning. It is important to notice that, although different learners favor one depth of processing information over the other, the two methodologies serve different purposes. I can identify in the latter, although I recognize in certain situations the choice of this methodology can be inappropriate and energy inefficient.
I have discovered how reflection is not just a relaxing time for one’s brain, but it has the purpose, if willing to do so, to reassess one’s frames of reference, and embed more complex learning material.
According to Perry’s view the dualistic consideration of knowledge, right or wrong, leaves little chance to openness and flexible growth. This made me reflect on how many times I have identified myself through my opinions and perceived others’ as a threat, therefore reducing my possibilities to listen to other views and discarding useful contributions to my learning.
This book has made me revisit the value of open conversations and peer support, and how I should learn from others and use their feedback for my own learning. This would probably expand my knowledge and grant me a wider chance to engage into more fruitful pathways for my personal and professional growth.
As being a greedy learner myself, I have found the explanation of Miller and Pallet (1974) on p. 40 resonating to my experience of learning. I definitely resonate with the ‘cue-seeking’ approach to learning, whereas I constantly look for cues directing me through or framing my own learning process. My approach to learning is mostly deep, occasionally strategic; for example, I am just learning to skim through pages and try to grasp the basic concept of a chapter, rather than spending hours on a few pages and pretending to learn things by heart. This strategic adaptation made me finish reading this book over 4 days only, whereas I had always procrastinated in finishing books all in one go. As my somatic movement teacher used to say, from my complexity I should become more familiar with simplicity, and this is what is meant by ‘unlearning’.
The pages about emotions made me reflected on the great portion of influence and bias they can have on our frame of structures and why, for this reason, receiving a peer input can polish our view further.
In this sense, I have understood better why an academic essay differs from a personal written document. The essay presents a discourse, several points of views, references to past and future, questions one’s opinion, to name a few.
I could clarify the role of a mediator in the learning process, to which extent a mediated material can enhance individual personalities of learners, and not students instead. In addition, the importance of not direct mediation in experiential learning is key, but as a movement teacher is also challenging as I need to find teaching material that provides structures, or better containers, but not answers or methods to instill specific reflective strategies.
On p. 83 it states ‘What we do reflects how we use our understanding and knowledge to serve other purposes’.
Reflection also confers a sense of agency to the same person.
The writing exercises at the end of the book have clearly demonstrated to me the different approaches to writing: descriptive, dialogical and critical. Definitely a skill I am still deeply investigating is writing critically and the significance of ‘standing back’ in a piece of writing.
Reflective writing is a means for generating knowledge (the end product of learning) and for developing the skill of being reflective (how to learn the process of reflection), p. 137.
The book distinguishes experiential learning from experience, attributing the end result of the learning experience to the willingness to learn and unlearn of the subject him/herself.
‘Reflection is the means by which awareness of experience is recognized as knowledge and is made explicit and generalizable to other situations’, p. 158.
Out of this book, I have made two important conclusions to enrich my learning: I should be more open to peer support exchange to gain new knowledge, and I should keep a weekly journal summarizing the relevant activities I have done towards my professional development.
As result, I have taken 2 actions: I have joined a writing peer support group with ‘The Artist’s Way’ community, and I have started my journal that displays ‘what, why, benefits and how’.