Atsuko Watanabe (Bunkyo University)
Atsuko Watanabe is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Language and Literature at Bunkyo University. She has been teaching at the tertiary level in Japan for about 30 years. She holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Education, University of London (now called University College London Institute of Education) on the topic of reflective practice as a development tool for in-service high school teachers of English in Japan. Her research interests include reflective practice, teacher cognition, researcher reflexivity, and interview methods. Her recent publications include the book, Reflective Practice as Professional Development: Experiences of Teachers of English in Japan (Multilingual Matters) and a chapter in Reflective Practice; Voices from the Field (Routledge) edited by Roger Barnard and Jonathon Ryan.
Reflective practice: Making meaning of one’s experiences
The opportunity to give this talk and thus reflect on my journey as a teacher, led me to conclude that my interest in reflective practice has been shaped through several key chance encounters and events in my life.
When I was in junior high school (and even in high school), I was not a good student. I did not really like most of my teachers as I felt they ignored or constrained my potential instead of developing it. Several fortuitous experiences, however, changed my opinion about teachers. For example, when I lived in the US for one year as a high school exchange student, I had teachers who made me feel I had potential. One was a sewing teacher who encouraged me to pursue this skill, a subject in which I received a dismal grade in Japan. When I returned to Japan for my senior year, my homeroom teacher discouraged me from pursuing a college degree, and so I returned to the U.S. to receive tertiary education, and majored in psychology. I remember I was attracted to the idea of the client-centered approach as put forward by Carl Rogers, and the concept of the counselor as a facilitator. After university, I again returned to Japan and enrolled in Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and was similarly drawn to the perspective of John Fanselow, who believed that a teacher can develop through observing one’s teaching, instead of being directed by a teacher-trainer.
After obtaining an MA in TESOL, I taught part-time at a number of universities, and then as a full-time instructor in the English Language Program (now known as the English for Liberal Arts program) at International Christian University, Tokyo. During one particularly stressful semester, I sat in front of my computer one day and started writing questions to myself, hoping to discover the source of my discomfort. After about 10 rounds of questions and answers, I realized that my unease was due to having recently applied for a tenured position in the program! I was surprised not to have been able to see such an obvious cause for my stress, and appreciated how the simple activity of asking myself questions helped me to gain greater awareness. Later on, I learned that the process of asking questions to oneself in order to elicit new interpretations and understanding, is called reflective practice. Thus, during my sabbatical in 2005, I enrolled in a doctoral programme at the Institute of Education, University of London, to explore reflective practice for Japanese in-service high school teachers of English in Japan, and eventually obtained a Ph.D. in 2014. As a result of my keen interest in and strong desire to engage in pre-service teacher education, I made a decision to leave ICU after 19 years, and am currently teaching pre-service teachers at Bunkyo University.
The topic of my talk is “Reflective practice: Making meaning of one’s experiences.” In this talk, I will discuss how I interpret the concept of reflection, and what it might mean to engage in reflective practice in a Japanese context. I define reflection as the activity of looking back over one’s actions, thoughts, written and spoken ideas, feelings, and interactions, with the goal of making new meaning for oneself -- a special kind of dialogue with the self and with others. I will touch upon how Japanese cultural conventions and concepts, such as hansei and kotodama are situated, when engaging in reflective practice. I will also discuss the experiences of in-service Japanese high school teachers in shaping teacher identity and teacher cognition through their reflective practice. Even though the experiences of these teachers varied, there were some similarities among novice teachers and among more experienced teachers. The novice teachers became aware that their understanding of teaching was based on their perception of teaching as students, whereas the more experienced teachers developed and relied upon a broader teaching repertoire which they could then apply to various teaching contexts. Due to their richer repertoire, they did not necessarily have to change their understanding and interpretation of teaching. Finally, I will close the talk by sharing my concept of teacher development, specifically, that it does not have to entail a drastic change, but rather, to expand upon one’s skills, ideas, and repertoires, already situated in oneself.
Ken Tamai (Kobe City University of Foreign Studies)
Ken Tamai is professor of the Department of International Relations and the graduate program in TESOL at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies. Before he earned Ph.D. at Kobe University he attended the School for International Training for his MA. He claims SIT as a place of his initiation into reflection. He has worked as a supervisor for SIT’s teaching practicum in Japan. His research concern has been on reflective practice, Confucianism as cultural constraints inhibiting Japanese expressiveness, development of listening skills through shadowing. Since he started to work for the KCUFS, he has been holding a number of reflective practice workshops. In 2014 he held the KCUFS Reflective Practice Conference at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies inviting researchers from overseas. Carol Rodgers was invited as a featured speaker. Recently he edited Current Issues and New Thoughts on Reflective Practice with Ian Nakamura and Jo Trelfa as co-editors and published it from KCUFS Research Institute.
My journey with reflection as a means of teaching and researching: The process of shift along with experiential learning, reflective practice and phenomenology
My career in education spans nearly 40 years or so. Borrowing the term from Donald Schon, I identify myself as a reflective practitioner-researcher. That is, my research is grounded in practices and experiences in the classroom, the lifeworld of teachers and learners: a sharp contrast with positivistic researchers who account for teaching in the relation of measured variables.
I can divide my learning processes with reflective practice into three stages. My first encounter, and subsequent shock, with reflection and experiential learning took place at the School for International Training (SIT) in 1990, when I was a high school teacher with no knowledge of the concept of reflection.
The next stage began when I was requested to design the curriculum for a new TESOL graduate program at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies (KCUFS) in 2002 and struggled with teaching reflective practice to enhance in-service teachers' understanding about teaching. The greatest difficulty of teaching reflective practice is that you cannot teach it as a set of knowledge or a fixed subject. It can be taught only through experiential learning process. My role is a designer of appropriate educative experiences and a facilitator for individual learners to critically reflect on their teaching.
The third stage started about five years ago. Having established a basis of teaching reflective practice, my attention has turned towards connecting practice with research. I now have a greater concern about how to guide reflective practice into a sharable qualitative research method accessible to in-service teachers. I have found that the philosophical tradition of phenomenology has had a great impact on my practice, as a teacher, a researcher, and a reflective practitioner. I would like to discuss how these various experiences have shaped my current teaching practices and research concern. Feedback is welcome.
Van Manen (1990) defines phenomenology as the study of lived experience: the study of lifeworld that aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the nature or meaning of our everyday experiences (p.9).
Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany: SUNY.