• From practice to theory and back again •
Recognition of the value of informal education as it relates to the more formal methods often used in programs may prompt practitioners to raise the bar according to perceived capacity. An expectation that the learner would apply the skills and confidence used in the accumulation of informal learning would prompt this. An inclination to place more value on formal education may result in lower expectations when working with participants in literacy programs. Practitioners may assume that a lack of successful formal learning in the traditional pattern is indicative of a lower level of capacity, or they may question the applicability and transference of skills used to gain knowledge in this manner. A parallel within the research community would be the valuing of academic research as opposed to that of practitioners’. These are just two examples of the power of bias, values and beliefs as they relate to a single facet of one area of concern for practitioners and researchers. Thus, self-awareness of personal biases as they relate to practice and research aids in developing and maintaining “good practice.”
However, bias and the underlying beliefs and values that support it will not always be wholly recognized or acknowledged. Belief and value systems run deep and may be so ingrained—individually, institutionally, societally—that they are unquestionable, part of the fabric of the everyday. To address bias and determine beliefs and values that affect research, critical thinking, critical reflection1 and self-examination are useful methodological tools for researchers and practitioners. As tools, they can be used to continually inform the research process by providing a means of revealing and addressing bias.
Of course the concept of “know thyself ” is not new to the field of education and students of philosophy will confirm this. Socrates, the Greek philosopher (469-399 BC), believed to be the father of this teaching, is “famous for the Socratic method of teaching a pupil his lesson by actually questioning them” (February 12, 2002). So too should practitioners and researchers question methods, beliefs, values, theories and other foundations of practice and research. This leads me to another aspect of the journey.
1 The terms critical thinking and critical reflection as defined in this paper suggest deliberate and substantial use of intellectual or emotional/spiritual reasonings respectively.
|Previous Page||Table of Contents||Next Page|