Stages Of Self Reflection Essay

Reflective essay

I came from Peru with a completely different perspective of my race and social class. Back home I was used to being part of the dominant majority, as my skin color was considered “white” to most, compare to the skin color of the Peruvian indigenous population.  Both of my last names gave me an inherited privilege and the clothes I wore, where I lived, and where I went to school made me part of the dominant class.  When I arrived at Trinity, and through my first weeks attending the Color & Money seminar, I realized that I quickly transitioned from the dominant class and race to a minority. The Color & Money seminar not only made me much more aware about race and social class, but it also helped to walk through the path of discovering the new connotations that my race had at Trinity.

As I read Tatum’s book I could identify myself with the racial identity development theory, and could see how I was going through each of those stages.  I could see my self-going through the encounter stage, as I learned to identify my self as part of the Hispanic minority, and yet, not feel part of the Hispanic community on campus.  Most of the Hispanic community at Trinity is going through their own identity process, where they are trying to figure out what being a Latino means, but I have already figured that out. Being Hispanic is part of my personality, is rooted into my soul, and because I have lived my whole life in a South American country, surrounded by the Hispanic culture, I know that being Hispanic is much more than J.Lo, reggeton music and speaking Spanish. In fact, my live back home was part of an Americanized bubble that prevented me from having the kind of Hispanic experience that makes you want to listen to Celia Cruz every day, 24/7.  This seminar made me realize that although I cannot identify my self with them, I am still haunted by the stereotypes that the Hispanic community has. Through the interviews performed, I realized that most of the interactions at Trinity are determined by first impressions, which are usually highly influenced by the stereotype and pre-concepts of a certain race or social class.  It was not until I participated in this seminar that I realized all the privileges I had back home, and how very intertwined they were with the “white American culture”.

The different material offered to us in class made me more conscious about the implications that race and social class have in America. As we read Steven’s book, I realized that education is highly linked with social class, which is also linked to race. Coming from Peru, I thought that America, “the land of opportunities”, lived up to its nickname. However, I came to realize, that while meritocracy is indeed applied, it takes much more effort and merit for minority students to triumph academically and in every aspect of life in general than it takes to white people. It was not until the role was inverted and I was part of the minority group that I came to understand that all the privileges that I had back home, were entailed with my race and social class.  With the readings that we had assigned in this seminar I understood that race and social class are highly linked, and that therefore, peer interactions are based on social class as much as they are on race.

As Abreu explained in his letter, racism is present on campus, and not necessarily or exclusively as an attack among students, but as the reaction towards the people from Hartford. From the racially constructed term, locals, to racist acts from campus security officials, Trinity is still displaying racism through its corridors. However, even the racist acts are still encapsulated to stereotypes. Abreu explain and asks for a change in the mentality of people. He says “ignorance” is what drives people to commit racial acts. After being part of this seminar, I strongly agree with him. I believe that while students may come with these pre-conceptions from home, there is no indication that they cannot change them with education at school. I believe that this school has the potential to broaden students’ horizons, in regards with racial matters; that it has the capacity to disregards the stereotypes that there are in society.  However, I do not agree with promoting more cross-cultural, diverse events is the solution, but rather having more seminars like Color & Money, which encourage open dialogue about racial matters is. I believe that peaceful, subtle actions should be taken to change this situation, instead of aggressive, forced actions like “diversity events”.

After taking part of this seminar, and after experiencing being part of the minority group, my views on race and social class has changed radically. I now believe that merit should be the main way of progressing both socially and economically, and that race should not cluster people in a specific context or be a barrier that prevents people to progress.  I have also come to understand that every person is going through their own racial identity development process, and that each person has its own insecurities, advantages and disadvantages that come with their race and social class. Therefore, I have learned to be very delicate and accurate when talking about race and social class to avoid offending anyone. Finally, this seminar has taught me that racial and socio-economic differences are not reason to separate people and that the only way to progress into a race-blind, social-class-blind society, is through education.

Promoting reflection is a goal endorsed by many faculty. They believe that students need to develop skills that will enable them to look at a piece of work they produce or an aspect of their professional practice and make accurate judgments about it. It’s not an easy skill to acquire, and practice is essential to its development. If teachers are giving students opportunities to reflect, they need to be able to assess how well students are reflecting and provide feedback that deepens the students’ skills.

The concept of reflection isn’t all that easy to define, even though interest in promoting it is now widespread. David Kember and a group of collaborators reviewed the literature on reflection and consequently proposed these definitions. “Reflection operates through a careful reexamination and evaluation of experience, beliefs, and knowledge.” “Reflection most commonly involves looking back or reviewing past actions, though competent professionals can develop the ability to reflect while carrying out their practice.” (p. 370)

Most commonly teachers promote student reflection via written assignments. They use assignments like journals and have students respond to case studies or take part in online discussions. Kember and his collaborators have a developed a scheme that can be used to assess the level of reflection seen in these kinds of written work. They point out that this is not a precise measure but can provide guidelines that will prevent purely subjective assessment of the work. They also recommend that these levels are best applied to a whole paper rather than to individual sections of it. They identify four levels of reflection, described in detail in their article and highlighted below.

1. Habitual action — “In professional practice, habitual action occurs when a procedure is followed without significant thought about it.” (p. 373) In the case of students it occurs when a student offers an answer without attempting to understand it. Students exemplify this level when they plug-and-chug a formula or follow the steps in a lab manual without any consideration of what they are doing or why. In writing, at this level students look for material that answers the question. Sometimes they plagiarize that answer; more often they paraphrase or summarize it, but without any real understanding. When asked, they cannot explain what they have written.

2. Understanding — In this case, there is an attempt to understand the topic or concept. Although students may search for underlying meaning, at this level, there is still no reflection. “The concepts are understood as theory without being related to personal experiences or real-life applications.” (p. 373) Most students begin at this level. In their writing they rely heavily on what the textbook or teacher has said. They will report that content accurately and with understanding but do not add any personal response to it.

3. Reflection — At this level, students not only have accurate understanding, they reflect on that understanding and are able to relate it to personal experiences, or they can make practical applications. If students are writing about professional experiences, those experiences “will be considered and successfully discussed in relationship to what has been taught. There will be personal insights that go beyond book theory.” (p. 374)

4. Critical reflection — This highest level of reflection implies the transformation of a perspective. “Many of our actions are governed by a set of beliefs and values that have been almost unconsciously assimilated from our experiences and environment. To undergo a change in perspective requires us to recognize and change these presumptions.” (p. 374) Teachers should not expect this level of reflection early or often as students are developing reflective skills. Even professionals don’t change what they believe on a weekly basis. Education does cause transformative changes in students more often because early on students don’t have ingrained concepts about a field or knowledge domain. But critical reflection is a process that generally takes place over time. Students start by recognizing their beliefs and accompanying assumptions. Something (new information, new experiences) disrupts that belief system, thereby forcing students to reconstruct or reform it.

Reference: Kember, D., McKay, J., Sinclair, K., and Wong, F. K. Y. (2008). A four-category scheme for coding and assessing the level of reflection in written work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33 (4), 363-379.

Reprinted from How Reflective Is That Reflection? The Teaching Professor, 25.6 (2011): 5.

Posted in Teaching and Learning
Tagged with student reflection, student reflection exercises

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