Creating a Systematic Approach for the Reflective Practice of Service-Learning Academics through the Development of Communities of Reflective Practice
Ó Donnchadha, Brian
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This Ph.D. thesis in education is a qualitative examination of the reflective practice of academics who use service-learning, which can be described as an experiential pedagogy whereby students learn through providing a needed service in the community. Over a period of two years, I interviewed 43 American practitioners about how they reflected on their practice of teaching in and researching about engagement with the community. This study found that practitioners used a wide variety of reflection techniques including contemplative, verbal and written techniques, conducted alone and in groups. Whilst academic collaboration such as research, publishing and conference presentations provided a method of reflecting on the academic elements of their practice; there was generally an absence of a forum in which academics could also reflect on their civic and personal development. Arising from an analysis of the data and based on the practical and philosophical needs of practitioners, I posit that the use of a systematic approach to reflection can contribute to strengthening the reflective practice of academics who use service-learning. I propose a Community of Reflective Practice: a structured model that facilitates academics to critically reflect with their peers (in a safe and nurturing environment) on their academic, civic and personal development. As a contribution to the theory of reflective practice I offer a typology of reflection that distinguishes types of reflection from techniques of reflection. Finally I discuss the context of civic engagement in Irish and US higher education and make recommendations for the implementation of a Community of Reflective Practice in the Irish context.
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