ETHICS AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT
The original affective teaching work of King (1984) focused on this inner developmental piece. She used discussion groups, case scenarios that have moral dilemmas in them, and simulation games. In one study (Ondrejka, 1998) of classrooms and what faculty were using for affective teaching, very little evidence was found of ethical or moral developmental strategies. We can accomplish much if we study how nurses are maturing morally in their decision making as they progress through school. We have many issues that concern our practices related to abortions, gene mapping for early disease identification, creating life, Kevorkian ethics and life termination, and much more. Case scenarios offer excellent discussion points for ethical considerations, and these considerations will only grow more as health care becomes more complex. Consider the issues of patient care payers, not having insurance by choice, and the resulting care received, mandating insurance for everyone, and much more.
As a teacher, one holds many assumptions about teaching, the students, how the students learn, and what responsibilities we have in the educational–learning process. Brookfield (1995) states that most teachers teach in the same way they were taught and are likely to focus on those methods that reduced their own humiliation and what affirmed them as students. In some cases, the teacher will emulate an inspiring teaching method to which they had once been exposed. Research (Ondrejka, 1998) has found that effective educators who were using affective teaching methods were not able to articulate any teaching pedagogy or learning theory for their methods even though they believed such teaching had a positive learning effect on their students. Faculty used “experience and reflection” (Davis, 1993) to create an affective learning experience that encompassed aesthetic and intersubjective knowing, and some personal ways of knowing. For example, an instructor might relate a story about his or her first student nurse experience to highlight the instructor's own nervousness and show a new nursing cohort that their trepidation about going into the clinical setting is perfectly natural. Different affective techniques were employed in different settings, but across all three research settings the use of experience and reflection was used more often than any other pedagogy to create an affective learning environment.
Brookfield (1995) suggests there is a difference between generic forms of reflection versus “critical reflection,” in which the latter involves the educator's reflective thinking about his/her assumptions. He argues that “reflection is not, by definition, critical. It is quite possible to teach reflectively while focusing solely on the nuts and bolts of classroom process” (Brookfield, 1995, p. 8). Others (Zeichner & Liston, 1996) would argue that educators couldn't just define their personal teaching preference or style as reflective just because they have periods of thinking about their pedagogical style. Brookfield states reflection needs to be critical and it cannot be called critical until we use it for two distinct reasons:
■ The first is to understand how considerations of power undergird, frame, and distort educational processes and interactions.
■ The second is to question assumptions and practices that seem to make our teaching life easier but actually work against our own best long-term interests. (p. 8)
Brookfield suggests we use four lenses of personal teacher reflection as we evaluate what we are really doing in the classroom. The first is our autobiographies as teachers and learners, which is also supported by Palmer (2007) as a major step to self-reflection. We might write about what led us to become educators and what we originally thought we would be doing. Then I might continue my autobiography about what has happened to me as a teacher and what I am learning about myself related to how I use power in my classes, or how I try to share power. I might then write about my assumptions of students when I started teaching and what I think of them overall today, and what has changed—changed in me to have this difference. The second lens is to use the eyes of the students. This critical reflection was supported by the data found in the research (Ondrejka, 1998) on
classrooms where students were interviewed in affective classrooms and their perspective obtained.
The third lens is to use our colleagues' experiences. In some cases these faculty may observe us in our own classrooms, or have critical discussions about best practices and worst experiences to see what created these outcomes. The challenge with both strategies of utilizing colleague experiences is the need for faculty knowledge of pedagogical strategies from a theoretical perspective as a way to articulate what is happening. After reading this book, I believe many educators will understand the principles behind learning environments and will be able to use the tool created for assessing classroom strategies found in Chapter 6 created just for this purpose (Ondrejka, 1998).
The fourth lens presented by Brookfield is called theoretical literature, which is the thesis of this book for educators. This text will offer the reader a host of theoretical principles that will support any teacher in his or her efforts to go deeper and reflect critically on how it is working for him or her.
It appears Brookfield has articulated four powerful and critical reflections for the teacher to use, which is also integrated in very practical ways into this text. He also suggests additional methods for this work in his book on reflective teaching. However, the real risk for the teacher is to see how this plays out against the questions that must be asked if this is to be called critical reflection. Look at Brookfield's two challenge questions again.
Palmer (2007) has put this challenge before us in a very powerful way by stating, “Everything depends on the lenses through which we view the world. By putting on new lenses, we can see things that would otherwise remain invisible” (p. 26).
In examining Brookfield's first challenge question, imagine our teaching style always being framed using a significant power differential as described by Barr (1998) and as previously discussed in Chapter 2:
■ Having one teacher
■ Using one classroom
■ Not adjusting the classroom setting
■ Accepting the 50-minute class lecture period,
■ Conducting courses in 15to 18-week blocks
■ Failing to provide opportunities for reflection and other affective pedagogy
■ Following curriculum designs that are not always focused on learning
Barr is determined to let readers know that most educational settings are teacherfocused and would not be described as learning environments. Palmer (2007) states, “The foundation of any culture lies in the way it answers the question, 'Where do reality and power reside?' For some it is the gods; for some it is nature; for some it is tradition” (p. 20). If tradition is leading our thoughts and educational structures, it will continue to lead to a profound power differential between student and teacher where intersubjective knowing does not exist. The real test of teachercentered power comes from those who respond positively to the statement presented by Barr from the 1860s that states, “He [the teacher] is not responsible for the
success of his students. He is responsible only for the quality of his instruction. His duty begins and ends with himself” (p. 120). This is a critical self-reflection regardless of how the teacher answers the question. However, if this statement rings true for an educator, that educator needs to realize that it is true because there is a need for a large power differential in that classroom and one should not call this a learning-centered environment—it is a teacher-centered environment.
One way to address any internal struggle regarding these concepts is to take small steps in order to maintain some sense of balance as you enter the classroom. Here are some suggestions for lowering the power differential between the students and the instructor that begins with easy steps and then moves to more challenging methods:
■ Bring in more diverse opinions or have a panel of speakers come in to debate the various views so the students get to hear a variety of views.
■ Open the course with a syllabus negotiation so the students are invested and clear about what will be expected of them. Be willing to adjust quiz dates, tests, papers, and readings to support the student's best level of learning in that class.
■ Team-teach a class and use each other as collegial sounding boards to develop critical reflection in your teaching.
■ Ask students after 3 weeks of classes what is working and what is not working for them, and then make as many adjustments as you can to make this a better learning environment.
■ Find a faculty mentor and ask for time to present your issues and to get feedback on what the mentor is hearing, but make sure this mentor understands the two critical questions suggested by Brookfield on critical reflection.
■ Any time you run into a conflict with a student, check out your foundational concern and see if it is really a stated part of the curriculum or if is it an unspoken curriculum objective. If it is the latter, remember you have not partnered with the students to achieve this, so it is your problem and not theirs.
■ If you are having difficulty negotiating an issue or negotiating a make-up, hold the student in the highest regard, and make your decision from this place of higher ground. It will give you consistency and reduce the power issues.
■ Remember that rules are meant to address what is expected. Not everything happens as one might expect, and that may require a different level of thinking.
■ Use immediacy and care pedagogy to really move into the deeper levels of learner-centered environments. Do this only after you have some experience with success in the previous strategies for creating learner-centered classrooms.
■ Use a Gestalt method such as, one step back–two steps back, but wait to do the two-steps-back process until you are doing well with deep inner awareness. (This method will be presented in another chapter.)
It is not an easy process to be critically reflective and Barr (1998) gives us a reality check by stating, “I suppose the lecture is not defended as the ideal educational [learning] form, but I can tell you that it is vigorously defended nonetheless” (p. 20). The question is this: what are you willing to do to change this in your classrooms?
The second challenge question by Brookfield (1995) is “to question assumptions and practices that seem to make our teaching lives easier but actually work against our own best long-term interests” (p. 8). The development of our assumptions and beliefs regarding what is going on is difficult to change even when we are open to change. Your brain can make up what is not there, skip what it does not want to see, or just be highly selective about anything that our brain wants to see as its reality. The more we study what is our reality, the more we will begin to see that our best option in the classroom is to create a shared reality and know that it is still created in that moment.