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ࡱ> qsp#` ubjbj\.\. 1>D>Dk%   8Xl$#%"T48l 8$$%hA(r$$$0[b MYl BR\$0#%Z(d(b(b k~$$[^#%   THE REFLECTIVE PRACTITIONER: A MODEL FOR STAFF DEVELOPMENT? Introduction This article is an attempt to respond to and to develop further Prozeskys call (in the last issue of this journal) for deliberate, effective staff development strategies which achieve high levels of teaching competence (Prozesky 1995:45). My response is made from the perspective of my own position as researcher in the Tertiary Education Studies Unit with a responsibility for facilitating and servicing staff development and curriculum development in the university. In his article, Prozesky makes a case for maximizing academic staff competence (1995:40) which he claims is achievable by a sustained self-driven effort at maximizing and monitoring ones performance (1995:42). Whilst agreeing entirely with these goals, I will suggest in this article, that his suggested method of voluntary self-improvement is likely to fall short in practice, even if his ideal of releasing the creative power in every academic in the form of a voluntary, eager effort at being as good a teacher as possible (1995:44) were achieved across the university. Whilst wishing to retain Prozeskys placement of agency for curriculum development firmly with individual academic staff, I will try to develop a model of staff development which takes into account the nature of educational theory and practice, which includes a facilitative role for academic development personnel such as myself, and which insists that certain stages of the process should be collaborative and participatory, rather than left entirely up to the individual academic. My reason for including the latter element in the model is that I believe that there are limits to what each of us can achieve unaided in a learning process and that in the act of self-reflection, the subject can deceive itself (Habermas, 1974, cited in Boud et al 1985:36). Furthermore, in an intuitive paper entitled How professors develop as teachers, Kugel (1993:315-328) suggests, from experience rather than research, that lecturers commonly move through six stages and two phases in their teaching careers. In phase one, the emphasis of the individual lecturer is in on teaching and in phase two the emphasis moves on to learning. In phase one the lecturer moves from a focus on the self (how will I survive?) to a focus on the discipline (how can I make my subject matter teachable?) to a focus on the student (I taught it well, why didnt they understand it?). In phase two, the lecturers attention moves from understanding the student as receptive to understanding the student as active (how are they learning and what opportunities can I create to enable them to learn better?) and finally to an understanding of the student as independent and of the lecturers role as coach rather than teacher. (Of course students also develop during their time at university, and competent lecturers will know what degree of independence is appropriate for different cohorts of students). Kugel also makes the observation that lecturers can get stuck at any of these stages. If he is correct, then it is conceivable that a lecturer may seek self-improvement only at one stage and take a long time or fail altogether to develop further. Kugels article is useful in two ways: it alerts academic development personnel to be sensitive to the different needs of staff who may be at different stages of development in their teaching careers and it suggests that staff development is more likely to happen in the context of dialogue with others where a space is created for serious reflection on teaching practice. So, given the goal of improving levels of teaching and learning competence in the university, the question which this article seeks to address is what might be an appropriate method of staff development to do so? In my own experience, staff members (who are probably operating at Kugels stages one and two) often turn to staff development personnel for quick-fix solutions to immediate teaching problems. For example, I am often asked questions such as How can I keep the attention of 300 plus students in a mass lecture? It is easy to pass on a box of tricks - in this case one might suggest using an OHP, breaking up the lecture with quick buzz group discussions, giving students a ten point quiz or three evaluative questions at the end of the lecture, and so on. The staff member concerned may then try out one or two of these techniques and particularly if they work, never reflect further. However, I want to argue that the nature of teaching and learning and of educational theory is such that in staff development, one should not simply hand out bundles of educational theory and teaching tips which can then be applied unreflectively to specific teaching practices. The Problematic Nature of Educational Knowledge Educational theory is never pure in the classical scientific sense . Apart from curriculum studies, educational theory is usually applied theory, in that theory derived from the social sciences is applied to specific educational contexts, (hence we have subjects like philosophy of education, educational psychology, sociology of education, history of education, educational management etc.). Furthermore, educational theory can only be validated in specific educational practices. The classroom with its unpredictable human subjects and any number of uncontrollable variables, is the educational laboratory, there is no other. What educationists do is in fact always theoretical practice (done by practitioners) or practical theory (done by researchers). The advancement of educational knowledge therefore depends on linking the findings of research (theory) with its effectiveness in action (practice), and on building theory from effective practice. This means that rather than trying to minimize the differences between the social sciences and the classical natural sciences (as conventional social science attempts to do), one should rather try to build an awareness of these differences into educational research methods and into the education of educational professionals (in this case university lecturers). In the classical natural sciences the stance of the researcher is that of an unbiased outside observer who is able to remove the effects of his/ her observation on the researched system. The researcher attempts to control certain variables within the system and to predict and then test the effect of these variables on the behaviour of the researched phenomena. However, in the social sciences, which deal with human research objects, the experiment takes place between mutually observing individuals. This changes everything, for it means that the researched can choose how to respond to the researcher. In human subjects, stimulus and response cannot be said to operate in a direct cause and effect relationship. Learners are not entirely determined by their environment, they are more than the products of their social worlds. Human individuals possess a degree of autonomy which allows them to choose how they will respond to the conflicting pressures of their social contexts. Thus human action is always more that the effect of a cause; and in educational experimentation, this applies both to the researcher and to the researched. On the one hand, the researched cannot be said to be determined by their educational environment; and on the other hand, the researcher cannot be said to be immune from and outside of that environment by virtue of his/her scientific method. Thus, particularly in the case of research on human subjects (although I would argue that this applies to all research), one needs to ask the question: to what extent is it possible for the researcher to stand outside of his/her own sets of values and assumptions (ideologies) in order to observe the world correctly? These problems related to the nature of social science research mean that educational knowledge (or for that matter any professional knowledge which involves dealing with people) can never become a system of accumulated certainties; the authority of educational research should always remains open to question. Educational knowledge should never be based on pure observation, nor should it ever be law-like, claiming generalized application; for the knowledge which is produced by educational research is always bound up in specific contexts and here-and-now judgments. The Short-comings of a Positivist Approach to Professional Education In the normative (or traditionalist) paradigm of social science, theory and practice are regarded as separate and unequal domains. Theoretical (preferably scientific) knowledge is accorded a privileged and prescriptive position over practice and professional competence is understood to be the instrumental application of this privileged knowledge to the problems of practice. In this paradigm, professional education means the handing over of a body of rigorous theoretical knowledge to future practitioners which they will then apply instrumentally to well-formed problems in the field. The research which produces new knowledge is separated from the practice which applies it. However, we have noted above that educational theory is not a body of rigorous scientific knowledge, nor should it be separated from the practice which validates it. Furthermore, when professionals of the social sciences operate in the real world, they tend to be confronted with problems which do not present themselves as well-formed structures. In other words, the particular cases which confront professionals are often not in the book. This means that professional practice involves taking complex decisions about human affairs. Practitioners can never be sure of getting it right beforehand because the exercise of professional expertise is always more than the routine application of established general laws. The application of educational knowledge to practice always entails self-conscious analysis and interpretation of a specific situation. The practitioner must re-interpret his/her professional expertise in each new situation. Educational knowledge is therefore developed within and alongside professional practice. Reflecting on Practice Thus, in attempting to formulate a method for staff development, I suggest that the starting point should be the individual lecturers own teaching practice and reflection on that practice. This idea has been widely popularised in Schons influential books The Reflective Practitioner (1983) and Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987) in which he posits the possibility of an epistemology of practice which can be constructed as practitioners make their knowing-in-action explicit to one another. Schon suggests that when this reflection on practice dialogues with relevant theory provided by a theoretician (the staff developer), then new forms of understanding and acting (professional knowledge) can be constructed (Schon, 1987:40). Schon believes that it is only when the theory and the practice of the profession engage in a dialectical relationship, that professional education is enhanced. However, Schons work has been criticized for failing to clarify exactly what he means by reflection (Bengtsson,1995, Eraut, 1995). The word derives from reflectere to bend or turn back on. Boud et al (1985) define reflection as follows: reflection, in the context of learning, is a generic form for those intellectual and affective actions in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciations. It may take place in isolation or in association with others. (1985:19). Eraut attempts to distinguish between reflection in- , on- and for-action. He suggests that there is a continuum from routinised unreflective action, to action which is monitored by reflection, to action which takes place after a deliberate period of deliberation (1995:19). What is critical in the different reflective moments is the role of metacognition, that is the possibility that reflection has a distancing function which results in self-understandings and self-knowledge. In the model which I describe below, I will try to indicate what kinds of reflection are possible at each of the different stages. I also suggest that the achievement of high levels of self-knowledge is best achieved by moving in and out of dialogue with a group. One needs to reflect in isolation, but participating in a group greatly stimulates that reflection, for we can act as mirrors which reflect back to one another images of our own practice. A Model for Staff Development I will propose an initial preparatory stage followed by a four stage cyclical model for staff development, based on the experiential learning and participatory action research (PAR) methods described by Schon (1987), Winter (1987), (1989) and Boud et al (1985), (1993). One could start at any point in the model, but I will describe it in the sequence which I consider the most likely. Preparation Stage: In the preparation stage of the process the staff developer should ensure that a safe social space is created for the participants, where they will be able to be open and honest about their feelings and failings. Brookfield (in Boud et al 1995:29) recommends that the leader first model these qualities before expecting the other participants to do so. He also notes the destructive effect of unequal power relations on the achievement of real listening and learning. He suggests that initially the objects of reflection should be the behaviour, ideas and feelings of the participants that have arisen in critical incidents in practice. Discussion and comparison around these issues should enable lecturers to begin uncover the assumptions which undergird their habitual ways of acting and reasoning in their practice. However, in his book, The Fifth Discipline, Senge (1990) warns that the development of this reflexivity in professionals as a means to improving their practice may not be so easy. Senge claims that the best ideas never get put into practice because they conflict with the already existing mental models of the practitioners concerned (i.e. with their deeply held images of the way the world works). He claims that we use these mental images not only to make sense of the world, but also to determine our actions (1990:174). Normally, our mental models (or theories-in-use) are tacit and exist below the level of our awareness. They tend to be incomplete, non-systemic and based on unquestioned assumptions. Rather than expose the assumptions on which our mental models are based, Senge, quoting Argyris (1990:182), suggests that we tend to trap ourselves in defensive routines or skilled incompetence which protects us from having to learn and change. As a solution to this impasse, Senge advocates a collective form of team learning which occurs via a process of dialogue. Senge claims that (i)n dialogue, there is free and creative exploration of complex and subtle issues, a deep listening to one another and the suspending of ones own views. (1990:237). He lays down the following conditions for such dialogue to take place: all assumptions are suspended (literally held up for all to see) all participants regard each other as colleagues there is a facilitator who holds the context of the dialogue and ensures that it does not fall into discussion (i.e. the presenting and defending of different views). Senge suggests that it is only in such a context that practitioners will feel sufficiently safe and committed to begin to become aware of their mental models, to understand how they are formed and how they influence their actions and to hold up the assumptions and values on which they are based for scrutiny. He claims that in this way it is possible to expose and deal with our defensive routines and to expose, question and re-make our mental models (1990:241). It is only at this point that educational theory should be introduced, and only that theory which will help participants to theorize their own practice, i.e. to use formal theory as a sounding board to critique, develop and refine their own theories-in-use. From this reflection-on-action individual lecturers should become aware of possibilities for improving their practice. Thus relevant theory is used to interrogate practice and this leads to the first stage of the PAR cycle, planning, in which practice interrogates theory and selects only that theory which is considered by the practitioners to be useful and feasible. Stage 1: Planning In this stage, the reflective practitioners will plan an experiment aimed at improving their teaching practice in some way. Careful planning of the innovation as well as methods of observation will need to be planned. Stage 2: Implementation At this stage, the lecturers implement the plan and simultaneously seek to develop their reflection-in-action, i.e. their ability to notice the effects of their teaching and their ability to intervene constructively and immediately. They will also collect data for the observation phase via simple economical research tools such as student work, tape or video-recordings, informal student response, open-ended interviews with staff and students, and the keeping of interpretive journals. Stage 3: Observation At this stage, the lecturer uses the staff development group to de-brief, to describe the experience using the data gathered, to attend to feelings and to re-evaluate the experience. This is reflection-on-action, similar to that taken during the preparation phase, except that assumptions about practice and theories-in-use have already been made explicit. Stage 4: Conceptualization and Theory-building This stage is one removed from the observation stage and may be characterized by reflection-for-action. Here the reflective practitioner may attempt to write up the experiment as a educational case study. This can in turn be used for further reflection, theory-building and for thinking about further improvements to practice. Here the reflective practitioner may turn again to formal theory, and if necessary re-conceptualize the theory in the light of his/ her experience in practice. The cycle is endless and can be continued by a group of reflective practitioners for as long as they consider it useful and feasible. The model described above using a participatory action research cycle suggests an approach which is ideal for staff development because it is economical in terms of time and resources, it is highly accessible and the focus of the research is the actual teaching-learning practices of the lecturers concerned. In other words, it provides a framework for lecturers to become reflective practitioners (and lifelong learners) and to deliberately set out to improve their own teaching practice. However, a number of questions remain to be answered. Does the PAR method overcome the problems related to the nature of educational knowledge mentioned at the beginning of this paper? And how valid are the findings of this form of research? Reconceptualising the Relationship between Theory and Practice Winter (1989) claims that participatory action research can be a powerful (rigorous and worthwhile) form of professional development and that it is also a valid form of social inquiry - because it holds theory and practice together as indispensable moments of a unified change process (1989:67). How exactly does PAR overcome the separation of theory and practice? Firstly PAR admits that professional knowledge is not certain and law-like, but rather the exercise of professional judgment in choosing between different possible interpretations (and that this process is usually skewed by ideology). The process of self-reflexivity described above is an attempt to force the thinking of the reflective practitioner to bend back on itself - i.e. to become self-conscious of its assumptions, values and ideologies. It is hoped that through the process of self-reflexive dialogue with others, that practitioners will become aware of the fragmented, ambiguous and contradictory nature of their mental models and consciousness. Thus, whilst never entirely free of ideology and social conditioning, at least the reflective practitioner becomes critically aware of his/ her own position, begins to explore the limits of his/ her own professional autonomy and is therefore open to other possibilities and interpretations. The ideology critique involved in reflexivity at least gives the reflective practitioner the confidence that he/ she can become aware of and question the structure of his/ her own thought and so not be completely entrapped by ideology. In the staff development context, I believe that the staff developer can play a crucial but delicate role here as the facilitator and catalyst of this ideology critique process. Secondly, Winter points out that in the PAR process, the objectification of the researcher and the researched is overcome. The researcher does not stand outside the research process but rather studies a changing situation from the inside. The notion of a reflective practitioner holds together the functions of both the researcher and the practitioner in one person. The divide between the researcher and researched is thus overcome. In the staff development context, this avoids the threatening imposition of a researcher who sets out to conduct research on a staff members private teaching practice. Thirdly, what exactly does it mean to hold theory and practice together in a dialectical rather than prescriptive relationship? Winter suggests that in PAR, theory and practice are not two distinct entities, but are indispensable moments in a unified change process; each containing elements of the other (1989:67). The preparation stage and observation (reflection-on-action), the third stage of the PAR cycle, provides an opportunity for theory to question practice. Theory is used here to develop further understandings and other possibilities for the improvement of practice. In the first stage, planning, it is practice which questions theory - i.e. it is on the basis of practical experience and knowledge that the reflective practitioners will decide what of theory is practically feasible and useful (some theories may be rejected on the grounds of being impractical). Then again in stage 4, conceptualization (reflection-for-action), the reflective practitioners are in a position to question the original theory and if necessary to reformulate it, develop it further or transform it on the basis of the findings of their practical innovation. Thus innovative practice can give rise to further theoretical work. It becomes no longer possible to reject the findings of practice on the basis of authoritative theory. The theory itself is always open to question and the theories developed through PAR can only be validated in practice. Winter suggests that in professional practice, this mutual questioning between theory and practice is unending. He also suggests that the ability to hold theory and practice together in this dialectical relationship is a mark of genuine professionalism and that PAR is therefore the most appropriate method of improving professional practice and for creating useful educational knowledge. The Problem of Validity Finally, I need to address the issue of the validity of the findings produced by PAR. What assurances do we have that PAR is more than the subjective interpretations and reflections of a group of individuals? What is the cognitive authority of the individual PAR project? Whilst rejecting the logic of the classical natural sciences, we need assurances that the findings of PAR are more than the logic of common sense everyday purposeful action. Winter (1989) makes two points about the validity of the findings of PAR. Firstly, he suggests that in PAR, one should insist on only modest claims for ones findings. One is not looking for final certainty, one is not aiming to address a universal audience and one should not claim generalisability for the results. Winter suggests rather that the research report be written up as an open-ended discussion document, if necessary, with a pluralistic structure, which does not force a synthesis or consensus between the participants. He suggests that the report should allow for a number of possible interpretations and that the final strategy for action should be decided upon collaboratively by the participants of the PAR project. Secondly, Winter suggests that the validity of the findings lies in the extent to which they are able to come up with a practically and theoretically feasible strategy for action. The improvement of professional practice thus becomes his criterion for the validity of the research. Its validity lies in its ability to achieve particularized relevance and effectiveness in practice. And, I would argue, this effectiveness needs to be judged by all the stakeholders involved; i.e. it is only effective if it is effective within the self-understandings of the participants involved in the teaching-learning interaction . Winter reminds us that all educational theories are only possible strategies which have to be tested and validated in practice. He suggests that provided the research has been validated in a particular practice, it will be illuminating and have significance for a wide range of practitioners operating in similar contexts (1989:64). Conclusion Action and research, practice and theory thus find their unity in the professional practice of the reflective practitioner. I hope that the arguments presented in this paper support the conclusion that the most appropriate form of staff and professional development which we should consider in higher education is that of facilitating the development of reflective practitioners. It is reflective practitioners who first become conscious of and transform their own consciousness who will become the key agents of curriculum development and of institutional transformation. _____________________________ REFERENCES: BENGTSSON, J. (1995) What is reflection? On reflection in the teaching profession and teacher education Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice 1 (1) 23 - 32 BOUD, D., KEOGH, R. & D. WALKER (eds.) (1985) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning London: Kogan Page BOUD, D., COHEN, R. And D. WALKER (eds.) (1993) Using Experience for Learning Buckingham: SRHE & OUP ERAUT, M. (1995) Schon Shock: as case for reframing reflection-in-action? Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice 1 (1), 9 - 22. KUGEL, P. (1993) How Professors Develop as Teachers Studies in Higher Education 18 (13) 315 - 328 PROZESKY, M. (1995) Staff Development and Evaluation at South African Universities Journal of Education 20 41 - 45 SENGE P.M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation New York: Doubleday SCHON D. A. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions San Francisco: Jossey-Bass WINTER R. (1987) Action-Research and the Nature of Social Inquiry: Professional Innovation and Educational Work Aldershot, UK: Gower WINTER R. (1989) Learning from Experience: Principles and Practice in Action-Research London: The Falmer Press BOUD, D., COHEN, R. And D. WALKER (eds.) (1993) Using Experience for Learning Buckingham: SRHE & OUP  It is important to make a distinction between the traditional experimental, hypothetical-deductive method of what I have called the classical natural sciences and more recent advances in modern physics in which the observer is recognised as part of the researched system.  This need to judge effectiveness suggests a need to link staff development PAR projects with the type of evaluation which arises from the same paradigm, namely naturalistic and responsive evaluation (e.g.Guba & Lincolns fourth generation evaluation).     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ࡱ> qsp#` ubjbj\.\. 1>D>Dk%   8Xl$#%"T48l 8$$%hA(r$$$0[b MYl BR\$0#%Z(d(b(b k~$$[^#%   THE REFLECTIVE PRACTITIONER: A MODEL FOR STAFF DEVELOPMENT? Introduction This article is an attempt to respond to and to develop further Prozeskys call (in the last issue of this journal) for deliberate, effective staff development strategies which achieve high levels of teaching competence (Prozesky 1995:45). My response is made from the perspective of my own position as researcher in the Tertiary Education Studies Unit with a responsibility for facilitating and servicing staff development and curriculum development in the university. In his article, Prozesky makes a case for maximizing academic staff competence (1995:40) which he claims is achievable by a sustained self-driven effort at maximizing and monitoring ones performance (1995:42). Whilst agreeing entirely with these goals, I will suggest in this article, that his suggested method of voluntary self-improvement is likely to fall short in practice, even if his ideal of releasing the creative power in every academic in the form of a voluntary, eager effort at being as good a teacher as possible (1995:44) were achieved across the university. Whilst wishing to retain Prozeskys placement of agency for curriculum development firmly with individual academic staff, I will try to develop a model of staff development which takes into account the nature of educational theory and practice, which includes a facilitative role for academic development personnel such as myself, and which insists that certain stages of the process should be collaborative and participatory, rather than left entirely up to the individual academic. My reason for including the latter element in the model is that I believe that there are limits to what each of us can achieve unaided in a learning process and that in the act of self-reflection, the subject can deceive itself (Habermas, 1974, cited in Boud et al 1985:36). Furthermore, in an intuitive paper entitled How professors develop as teachers, Kugel (1993:315-328) suggests, from experience rather than research, that lecturers commonly move through six stages and two phases in their teaching careers. In phase one, the emphasis of the individual lecturer is in on teaching and in phase two the emphasis moves on to learning. In phase one the lecturer moves from a focus on the self (how will I survive?) to a focus on the discipline (how can I make my subject matter teachable?) to a focus on the student (I taught it well, why didnt they understand it?). In phase two, the lecturers attention moves from understanding the student as receptive to understanding the student as active (how are they learning and what opportunities can I create to enable them to learn better?) and finally to an understanding of the student as independent and of the lecturers role as coach rather than teacher. (Of course students also develop during their time at university, and competent lecturers will know what degree of independence is appropriate for different cohorts of students). Kugel also makes the observation that lecturers can get stuck at any of these stages. If he is correct, then it is conceivable that a lecturer may seek self-improvement only at one stage and take a long time or fail altogether to develop further. Kugels article is useful in two ways: it alerts academic development personnel to be sensitive to the different needs of staff who may be at different stages of development in their teaching careers and it suggests that staff development is more likely to happen in the context of dialogue with others where a space is created for serious reflection on teaching practice. So, given the goal of improving levels of teaching and learning competence in the university, the question which this article seeks to address is what might be an appropriate method of staff development to do so? In my own experience, staff members (who are probably operating at Kugels stages one and two) often turn to staff development personnel for quick-fix solutions to immediate teaching problems. For example, I am often asked questions such as How can I keep the attention of 300 plus students in a mass lecture? It is easy to pass on a box of tricks - in this case one might suggest using an OHP, breaking up the lecture with quick buzz group discussions, giving students a ten point quiz or three evaluative questions at the end of the lecture, and so on. The staff member concerned may then try out one or two of these techniques and particularly if they work, never reflect further. However, I want to argue that the nature of teaching and learning and of educational theory is such that in staff development, one should not simply hand out bundles of educational theory and teaching tips which can then be applied unreflectively to specific teaching practices. The Problematic Nature of Educational Knowledge Educational theory is never pure in the classical scientific sense . Apart from curriculum studies, educational theory is usually applied theory, in that theory derived from the social sciences is applied to specific educational contexts, (hence we have subjects like philosophy of education, educational psychology, sociology of education, history of education, educational management etc.). Furthermore, educational theory can only be validated in specific educational practices. The classroom with its unpredictable human subjects and any number of uncontrollable variables, is the educational laboratory, there is no other. What educationists do is in fact always theoretical practice (done by practitioners) or practical theory (done by researchers). The advancement of educational knowledge therefore depends on linking the findings of research (theory) with its effectiveness in action (practice), and on building theory from effective practice. This means that rather than trying to minimize the differences between the social sciences and the classical natural sciences (as conventional social science attempts to do), one should rather try to build an awareness of these differences into educational research methods and into the education of educational professionals (in this case university lecturers). In the classical natural sciences the stance of the researcher is that of an unbiased outside observer who is able to remove the effects of his/ her observation on the researched system. The researcher attempts to control certain variables within the system and to predict and then test the effect of these variables on the behaviour of the researched phenomena. However, in the social sciences, which deal with human research objects, the experiment takes place between mutually observing individuals. This changes everything, for it means that the researched can choose how to respond to the researcher. In human subjects, stimulus and response cannot be said to operate in a direct cause and effect relationship. Learners are not entirely determined by their environment, they are more than the products of their social worlds. Human individuals possess a degree of autonomy which allows them to choose how they will respond to the conflicting pressures of their social contexts. Thus human action is always more that the effect of a cause; and in educational experimentation, this applies both to the researcher and to the researched. On the one hand, the researched cannot be said to be determined by their educational environment; and on the other hand, the researcher cannot be said to be immune from and outside of that environment by virtue of his/her scientific method. Thus, particularly in the case of research on human subjects (although I would argue that this applies to all research), one needs to ask the question: to what extent is it possible for the researcher to stand outside of his/her own sets of values and assumptions (ideologies) in order to observe the world correctly? These problems related to the nature of social science research mean that educational knowledge (or for that matter any professional knowledge which involves dealing with people) can never become a system of accumulated certainties; the authority of educational research should always remains open to question. Educational knowledge should never be based on pure observation, nor should it ever be law-like, claiming generalized application; for the knowledge which is produced by educational research is always bound up in specific contexts and here-and-now judgments. The Short-comings of a Positivist Approach to Professional Education In the normative (or traditionalist) paradigm of social science, theory and practice are regarded as separate and unequal domains. Theoretical (preferably scientific) knowledge is accorded a privileged and prescriptive position over practice and professional competence is understood to be the instrumental application of this privileged knowledge to the problems of practice. In this paradigm, professional education means the handing over of a body of rigorous theoretical knowledge to future practitioners which they will then apply instrumentally to well-formed problems in the field. The research which produces new knowledge is separated from the practice which applies it. However, we have noted above that educational theory is not a body of rigorous scientific knowledge, nor should it be separated from the practice which validates it. Furthermore, when professionals of the social sciences operate in the real world, they tend to be confronted with problems which do not present themselves as well-formed structures. In other words, the particular cases which confront professionals are often not in the book. This means that professional practice involves taking complex decisions about human affairs. Practitioners can never be sure of getting it right beforehand because the exercise of professional expertise is always more than the routine application of established general laws. The application of educational knowledge to practice always entails self-conscious analysis and interpretation of a specific situation. The practitioner must re-interpret his/her professional expertise in each new situation. Educational knowledge is therefore developed within and alongside professional practice. Reflecting on Practice Thus, in attempting to formulate a method for staff development, I suggest that the starting point should be the individual lecturers own teaching practice and reflection on that practice. This idea has been widely popularised in Schons influential books The Reflective Practitioner (1983) and Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987) in which he posits the possibility of an epistemology of practice which can be constructed as practitioners make their knowing-in-action explicit to one another. Schon suggests that when this reflection on practice dialogues with relevant theory provided by a theoretician (the staff developer), then new forms of understanding and acting (professional knowledge) can be constructed (Schon, 1987:40). Schon believes that it is only when the theory and the practice of the profession engage in a dialectical relationship, that professional education is enhanced. However, Schons work has been criticized for failing to clarify exactly what he means by reflection (Bengtsson,1995, Eraut, 1995). The word derives from reflectere to bend or turn back on. Boud et al (1985) define reflection as follows: reflection, in the context of learning, is a generic form for those intellectual and affective actions in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciations. It may take place in isolation or in association with others. (1985:19). Eraut attempts to distinguish between reflection in- , on- and for-action. He suggests that there is a continuum from routinised unreflective action, to action which is monitored by reflection, to action which takes place after a deliberate period of deliberation (1995:19). What is critical in the different reflective moments is the role of metacognition, that is the possibility that reflection has a distancing function which results in self-understandings and self-knowledge. In the model which I describe below, I will try to indicate what kinds of reflection are possible at each of the different stages. I also suggest that the achievement of high levels of self-knowledge is best achieved by moving in and out of dialogue with a group. One needs to reflect in isolation, but participating in a group greatly stimulates that reflection, for we can act as mirrors which reflect back to one another images of our own practice. A Model for Staff Development I will propose an initial preparatory stage followed by a four stage cyclical model for staff development, based on the experiential learning and participatory action research (PAR) methods described by Schon (1987), Winter (1987), (1989) and Boud et al (1985), (1993). One could start at any point in the model, but I will describe it in the sequence which I consider the most likely. Preparation Stage: In the preparation stage of the process the staff developer should ensure that a safe social space is created for the participants, where they will be able to be open and honest about their feelings and failings. Brookfield (in Boud et al 1995:29) recommends that the leader first model these qualities before expecting the other participants to do so. He also notes the destructive effect of unequal power relations on the achievement of real listening and learning. He suggests that initially the objects of reflection should be the behaviour, ideas and feelings of the participants that have arisen in critical incidents in practice. Discussion and comparison around these issues should enable lecturers to begin uncover the assumptions which undergird their habitual ways of acting and reasoning in their practice. However, in his book, The Fifth Discipline, Senge (1990) warns that the development of this reflexivity in professionals as a means to improving their practice may not be so easy. Senge claims that the best ideas never get put into practice because they conflict with the already existing mental models of the practitioners concerned (i.e. with their deeply held images of the way the world works). He claims that we use these mental images not only to make sense of the world, but also to determine our actions (1990:174). Normally, our mental models (or theories-in-use) are tacit and exist below the level of our awareness. They tend to be incomplete, non-systemic and based on unquestioned assumptions. Rather than expose the assumptions on which our mental models are based, Senge, quoting Argyris (1990:182), suggests that we tend to trap ourselves in defensive routines or skilled incompetence which protects us from having to learn and change. As a solution to this impasse, Senge advocates a collective form of team learning which occurs via a process of dialogue. Senge claims that (i)n dialogue, there is free and creative exploration of complex and subtle issues, a deep listening to one another and the suspending of ones own views. (1990:237). He lays down the following conditions for such dialogue to take place: all assumptions are suspended (literally held up for all to see) all participants regard each other as colleagues there is a facilitator who holds the context of the dialogue and ensures that it does not fall into discussion (i.e. the presenting and defending of different views). Senge suggests that it is only in such a context that practitioners will feel sufficiently safe and committed to begin to become aware of their mental models, to understand how they are formed and how they influence their actions and to hold up the assumptions and values on which they are based for scrutiny. He claims that in this way it is possible to expose and deal with our defensive routines and to expose, question and re-make our mental models (1990:241). It is only at this point that educational theory should be introduced, and only that theory which will help participants to theorize their own practice, i.e. to use formal theory as a sounding board to critique, develop and refine their own theories-in-use. From this reflection-on-action individual lecturers should become aware of possibilities for improving their practice. Thus relevant theory is used to interrogate practice and this leads to the first stage of the PAR cycle, planning, in which practice interrogates theory and selects only that theory which is considered by the practitioners to be useful and feasible. Stage 1: Planning In this stage, the reflective practitioners will plan an experiment aimed at improving their teaching practice in some way. Careful planning of the innovation as well as methods of observation will need to be planned. Stage 2: Implementation At this stage, the lecturers implement the plan and simultaneously seek to develop their reflection-in-action, i.e. their ability to notice the effects of their teaching and their ability to intervene constructively and immediately. They will also collect data for the observation phase via simple economical research tools such as student work, tape or video-recordings, informal student response, open-ended interviews with staff and students, and the keeping of interpretive journals. Stage 3: Observation At this stage, the lecturer uses the staff development group to de-brief, to describe the experience using the data gathered, to attend to feelings and to re-evaluate the experience. This is reflection-on-action, similar to that taken during the preparation phase, except that assumptions about practice and theories-in-use have already been made explicit. Stage 4: Conceptualization and Theory-building This stage is one removed from the observation stage and may be characterized by reflection-for-action. Here the reflective practitioner may attempt to write up the experiment as a educational case study. This can in turn be used for further reflection, theory-building and for thinking about further improvements to practice. Here the reflective practitioner may turn again to formal theory, and if necessary re-conceptualize the theory in the light of his/ her experience in practice. The cycle is endless and can be continued by a group of reflective practitioners for as long as they consider it useful and feasible. The model described above using a participatory action research cycle suggests an approach which is ideal for staff development because it is economical in terms of time and resources, it is highly accessible and the focus of the research is the actual teaching-learning practices of the lecturers concerned. In other words, it provides a framework for lecturers to become reflective practitioners (and lifelong learners) and to deliberately set out to improve their own teaching practice. However, a number of questions remain to be answered. Does the PAR method overcome the problems related to the nature of educational knowledge mentioned at the beginning of this paper? And how valid are the findings of this form of research? Reconceptualising the Relationship between Theory and Practice Winter (1989) claims that participatory action research can be a powerful (rigorous and worthwhile) form of professional development and that it is also a valid form of social inquiry - because it holds theory and practice together as indispensable moments of a unified change process (1989:67). How exactly does PAR overcome the separation of theory and practice? Firstly PAR admits that professional knowledge is not certain and law-like, but rather the exercise of professional judgment in choosing between different possible interpretations (and that this process is usually skewed by ideology). The process of self-reflexivity described above is an attempt to force the thinking of the reflective practitioner to bend back on itself - i.e. to become self-conscious of its assumptions, values and ideologies. It is hoped that through the process of self-reflexive dialogue with others, that practitioners will become aware of the fragmented, ambiguous and contradictory nature of their mental models and consciousness. Thus, whilst never entirely free of ideology and social conditioning, at least the reflective practitioner becomes critically aware of his/ her own position, begins to explore the limits of his/ her own professional autonomy and is therefore open to other possibilities and interpretations. The ideology critique involved in reflexivity at least gives the reflective practitioner the confidence that he/ she can become aware of and question the structure of his/ her own thought and so not be completely entrapped by ideology. In the staff development context, I believe that the staff developer can play a crucial but delicate role here as the facilitator and catalyst of this ideology critique process. Secondly, Winter points out that in the PAR process, the objectification of the researcher and the researched is overcome. The researcher does not stand outside the research process but rather studies a changing situation from the inside. The notion of a reflective practitioner holds together the functions of both the researcher and the practitioner in one person. The divide between the researcher and researched is thus overcome. In the staff development context, this avoids the threatening imposition of a researcher who sets out to conduct research on a staff members private teaching practice. Thirdly, what exactly does it mean to hold theory and practice together in a dialectical rather than prescriptive relationship? Winter suggests that in PAR, theory and practice are not two distinct entities, but are indispensable moments in a unified change process; each containing elements of the other (1989:67). The preparation stage and observation (reflection-on-action), the third stage of the PAR cycle, provides an opportunity for theory to question practice. Theory is used here to develop further understandings and other possibilities for the improvement of practice. In the first stage, planning, it is practice which questions theory - i.e. it is on the basis of practical experience and knowledge that the reflective practitioners will decide what of theory is practically feasible and useful (some theories may be rejected on the grounds of being impractical). Then again in stage 4, conceptualization (reflection-for-action), the reflective practitioners are in a position to question the original theory and if necessary to reformulate it, develop it further or transform it on the basis of the findings of their practical innovation. Thus innovative practice can give rise to further theoretical work. It becomes no longer possible to reject the findings of practice on the basis of authoritative theory. The theory itself is always open to question and the theories developed through PAR can only be validated in practice. Winter suggests that in professional practice, this mutual questioning between theory and practice is unending. He also suggests that the ability to hold theory and practice together in this dialectical relationship is a mark of genuine professionalism and that PAR is therefore the most appropriate method of improving professional practice and for creating useful educational knowledge. The Problem of Validity Finally, I need to address the issue of the validity of the findings produced by PAR. What assurances do we have that PAR is more than the subjective interpretations and reflections of a group of individuals? What is the cognitive authority of the individual PAR project? Whilst rejecting the logic of the classical natural sciences, we need assurances that the findings of PAR are more than the logic of common sense everyday purposeful action. Winter (1989) makes two points about the validity of the findings of PAR. Firstly, he suggests that in PAR, one should insist on only modest claims for ones findings. One is not looking for final certainty, one is not aiming to address a universal audience and one should not claim generalisability for the results. Winter suggests rather that the research report be written up as an open-ended discussion document, if necessary, with a pluralistic structure, which does not force a synthesis or consensus between the participants. He suggests that the report should allow for a number of possible interpretations and that the final strategy for action should be decided upon collaboratively by the participants of the PAR project. Secondly, Winter suggests that the validity of the findings lies in the extent to which they are able to come up with a practically and theoretically feasible strategy for action. The improvement of professional practice thus becomes his criterion for the validity of the research. Its validity lies in its ability to achieve particularized relevance and effectiveness in practice. And, I would argue, this effectiveness needs to be judged by all the stakeholders involved; i.e. it is only effective if it is effective within the self-understandings of the participants involved in the teaching-learning interaction . Winter reminds us that all educational theories are only possible strategies which have to be tested and validated in practice. He suggests that provided the research has been validated in a particular practice, it will be illuminating and have significance for a wide range of practitioners operating in similar contexts (1989:64). Conclusion Action and research, practice and theory thus find their unity in the professional practice of the reflective practitioner. I hope that the arguments presented in this paper support the conclusion that the most appropriate form of staff and professional development which we should consider in higher education is that of facilitating the development of reflective practitioners. It is reflective practitioners who first become conscious of and transform their own consciousness who will become the key agents of curriculum development and of institutional transformation. _____________________________ REFERENCES: BENGTSSON, J. (1995) What is reflection? On reflection in the teaching profession and teacher education Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice 1 (1) 23 - 32 BOUD, D., KEOGH, R. & D. WALKER (eds.) (1985) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning London: Kogan Page BOUD, D., COHEN, R. And D. WALKER (eds.) (1993) Using Experience for Learning Buckingham: SRHE & OUP ERAUT, M. (1995) Schon Shock: as case for reframing reflection-in-action? Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice 1 (1), 9 - 22. KUGEL, P. (1993) How Professors Develop as Teachers Studies in Higher Education 18 (13) 315 - 328 PROZESKY, M. (1995) Staff Development and Evaluation at South African Universities Journal of Education 20 41 - 45 SENGE P.M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation New York: Doubleday SCHON D. A. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions San Francisco: Jossey-Bass WINTER R. (1987) Action-Research and the Nature of Social Inquiry: Professional Innovation and Educational Work Aldershot, UK: Gower WINTER R. (1989) Learning from Experience: Principles and Practice in Action-Research London: The Falmer Press BOUD, D., COHEN, R. And D. WALKER (eds.) (1993) Using Experience for Learning Buckingham: SRHE & OUP  It is important to make a distinction between the traditional experimental, hypothetical-deductive method of what I have called the classical natural sciences and more recent advances in modern physics in which the observer is recognised as part of the researched system.  This need to judge effectiveness suggests a need to link staff development PAR projects with the type of evaluation which arises from the same paradigm, namely naturalistic and responsive evaluation (e.g.Guba & Lincolns fourth generation evaluation).     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