Dr. Rob Martinelle, lecturer in Curriculum and Teaching, recently led an informative workshop of 10 Berklee College of Music faculty members, with the focus being on reflective teaching practices. Berklee Associate Professor Dr. Patricia Peknik, who graduated from BU with her PhD in History in 2015, had initially reached out to Dr. Martinelle to introduce these practices to faculty and further discuss theories of reflection.
These teachings, referred to as “reflective processes,” attempt to deviate from the more rigid pedagogical methods, and instead try to improve education and the student experience through educator self-reflection and evaluation. Martinelle explains that personal reflection shouldn’t be thought of as how a mirror functions, but as a window that one can look through to find insight and perspective. It is with this technique that educators can discover ways to more efficiently and effectively serve their students.
A brief example Dr. Martinelle mentions is one that involves a student who is having trouble understanding a concept. Rather than an educator asking themselves what about the student’s learning is preventing them from grasping the topic at hand, they might ask ‘what can I change about the way I’m presenting the information? Maybe my approach isn’t particularly impactful for this student.’
It’s this sort of introspective mentality when it comes to self-assessment that’ll drive the overall improvement of communication between a teacher and their classroom. Martinelle stresses that reflection isn’t solely problem solving, but also problem coping. This is due to the fact that reflection, he says, comes with the assumption that teaching, educating, and learning are all complicated endeavors.
The close to 2 hour session opened with a social activity, which grouped attendees to come up with analogical or metaphorical descriptions of their own teaching styles. One metaphor used was the comparison of teaching to gardening, with the idea being that the knowledge and guidance educators transfer to students is similar to planting a seed and eventually watching it grow. These analogies allowed participants to try and view teaching in a more unorthodox manner, leading them to think outside the box regarding their own methods.
As for what’s next, Dr. Martinelle says he hopes to expand the talk in more engaging ways, perhaps with new exercises. He would also like to extend these sessions to not just educators, but to communities at large. The aim would be to foster more active community involvement that encourages progress through reflection.
“With discussions like these, we’re attempting to understand teaching, rather than evaluate ourselves under a microscope.”