My favourite book that has ‘disrupted my thinking’ and changed the direction of travel as a teacher is ‘Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher’, Brookfield, (1995).
You know when a book arrives through the post and you unpack it and flick through it; well, I had read the first two chapters before I knew it and was excitedly telling my daughter all about it while she rolled her eyes!
For me, Brookfield gave me ‘permission to question’. Chapter 2 “Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change” discusses how we need to;
“find lenses that reflect back to us stark and differently highlighted picture of who we are and what we do” (p28)
This stopped me in my tracks and took a little bit of thinking, not so much in the validity of the statement but how can I do this? What other lenses are available? Do I create my own? Do I borrow? What other perspectives are valid? Which aren’t as valid but are worthy? What am I missing? Brookfield goes on to discuss four lenses which are autobiographical, students, colleagues and theoretical literature. These lenses helped me to ‘challenge my assumptions’ and to support me as a reflective practitioner, to stop and analyse situations from multiple views before making big or small decisions. Please don’t think that I am so tied up in viewing through multiple lenses that I become incapable of acting but it becomes a’ habit of mind’ to take a wider perspective and very quickly make an informed decision that takes into consideration than more than one point of reference.
In chapter 9 ‘Storming the Citadel – Reading Theory Critically’ Brookfield discusses how you can use educational literature to;
“investigate the hunches, instincts, and tactic knowledge that shape our practice” as this leads to a “understand better what we already do and think” (p185)
This was my validation and permission to pursue what I ‘thought’ was right but had not had the confidence to put out there. There are so many endorsements within this chapter which supported my dispositions in teaching and leading such as (p186)
Theory lets us ‘name ‘our practice
Works wonders for our morale and self confidence
Theory breaks the circle of familiarity
I felt Brookfield was speaking directly to me and supporting me to discuss education from a theoretical point, affirming my instincts as a teacher and leader, to use research to provoke and challenge current practice, both my own and practices within my learning community.
In this chapter Brookfield goes on to discuss how literature can be engaged with, to develop a criticality of mind so that when I read an article I engage by questioning and do not accept the ‘facts’ without interrogation of the purpose, the voice being heard, the validity of the methodology, ethical and moral issues, the bias.
“To be critically reflective teacher means that we regard both our personal and collective experiences and our reading of formal theory, research or philosophy an important elements in our critical journey” (p194)
If you are starting on the journey of engaging with educational literature, I would recommend this book as a great starting point.