But just this week, while beginning the Reflective Practice Masters of Adult Education program at St. Francis Xavier University, I realized that the deep thinker that I was, the guy who used to spend hours sitting back and pondering his own behaviour, interactions, feelings, and the meaning of life, is no longer me.
A self-evaluation system that I used this afternoon, called the Kolb Learning Style Inventory, confirmed that I’m no longer the deep thinker that I used to be and that my weakest learning style is reflection. According to the Kolb test, I now learn best by doing.
I have to admit that I was shocked at the result. But it made sense: I’ve become so busy doing (developing my teaching practice and building my business) that, for years, I’ve had little time for reflection.
The booklet that comes with the Kolb Learning Style Inventory says we should learn to use other learning styles because over-reliance on one learning style can cause us to miss out on important experiences and ideas. For example, you might be a strong task-oriented person and a hard worker, but you will struggle to be successful in your work if poor reflective learning skills prevent you from learning from your mistakes.
When I chose the StFX program, I didn’t fully understand the meaning of “reflective practice.” I chose StFX because colleagues raved about it and for other reasons: The program involved no online learning (which I hate), it required no statistics prerequisite (I can’t do math), and it provided a three-week in-person foundations component (I crave human interaction). The program’s administrative staff and faculty also demonstrated extremely personable service over the phone and spent time explaining the program to me. This sealed the deal.
Indeed, “reflective practice” had nothing to do with me choosing this program.
So I lucked out by enrolling—especially because, at the time, I didn’t realize that I’d lost the deeper reflective side of myself, a side that I loved and nurtured as a younger man, a side that I thought made me special.
I lucked out because self reflection, and honing our self-reflection skills, is what this program is all about.
We’ve been spending some time every day reflecting on lessons, ourselves, our backgrounds, and more. Each day, we use a variety of creative ways to reflect and learn from our experiences. On Friday, for example, we were given plain paper masks and asked to decorate them in ways that represented how we were feeling about our learning at that point. We lost ourselves decorating each of our own metaphorical masks with colourful feathers, magazine clippings, paint and string.
It was an effective way to reflect on how we were feeling as we focused on the simple task of making our masks; all other thoughts disappeared. I painted my mask black and peppered it with colourful question marks. The black symbolized the clarity and calm I feel as I get back in touch with the self-reflective man I used to be and move self-assuredly forward as my research topic steadily comes into focus. The question marks symbolized all the fantastic questions I’m asking of myself and the world and all the answers that are coming in reply.
I hope that the next time I take the Kolb Learning Style Inventory I’ll find that reflection is one of my strengths and I no longer have to rely on learning by doing.
Have you taken the Kolb Inventory? I recommend that you do.