A large part of the methodology for this project is based on participants’ reflections. As we work through the different stages of the project, we punctuate our journeys with questions that will make us stop and take stock of where we are now and how far we have come. By doing this we can see how the project is influencing our thinking. This is a good way of verifying our research- showing individual journeys, and illustrating general trends towards the way we will be at the end of it all. Was it worthwhile, has it had any impact on us, has it changed us for the better? The answers to all these questions will, we hope be ‘yes.’
It is my job to collate these reflections, and I feel a bit like the BFG wandering around not with a dream catcher, but with a reflections catcher, ready to file them neatly into an especially prepared page on our project wiki. Here they will be kept safe and secure until they are analysed, anonomised and summarised. We have received a few, but I must say they are not pouring in. These reflections are difficult to extract, and I wonder if it is not just because people are incredibly busy at this time of year.
I think it is because they are really hard to write. “Just spend fifteen to twenty minutes at the most” I heard myself saying to one wary participant. But as I found when I wrote my own reflection, this is quite impossible to do. What we decide to include, and what to leave out is a very difficult decision. Students in a recent focus group recognised this sort of dilemma. They talked about how during teaching practice, they were asked for reflections on their own pedagogical practice. Some of them were quite blunt about their approach:
“We only write in things that will make us look good”, they said, “ like ‘we spent too much time planning our lessons’, or something like that. We would never write ‘that lesson was so crap I came home and cried!’” They know that their tutor is going to read their reflections, and that whatever they wrote would be judged. They saved what they really thought for their conversations on facebook – with peers whom they trusted, who would not judge them, who would recognise their sentiments because they might be in a similar situation.
These reflections are not for public consumption, and unlike the case of the students, no-one is judging their content, and yet I still find them hard to do. Is there anyone else out there who is struggling with similar thoughts?