Reflective Agents of Change: A Role of Higher Education

Changes in operational procedure, management styles and services offered to clients and customers characterize many places of employment. An examination of the internet and other media reveals the rapid development of new products and seamless modifications of existing ones. A factor which caused major changes in people’s income, lifestyle and attitude, is the disruptions in the world’s financial market. Given the fact that change is a global reality, one role of higher education institutions is to enable students to not just function effectively in rapidly changing workplace environments, but to become reflective agents of change.

Being a reflective agent of change

Broadly speaking, a reflective agent of change makes use of reflection in the process of effecting change. Specifically, it involves both cognitive and affective processes such as employing self-directed critical thinking as a means of improving workplace conditions policies and procedures. The reflective agent of change develops an ‘uneasiness’ about protocol, process and procedure which leads to questioning of these aspects of the workplace, trying out new strategies and ideas, seeking alternatives, and using higher-order-thinking skills. The development and use of self-directed critical thinking and ongoing critical inquiry will also result in greater understanding of the workplace. This kind of knowledge is critical to the implementation of appropriate changes in the workplace because, successful changes to policies or procedure depend on knowledge of the nuances, thinking of the employers and employees and overall ethos of the workplace.

Secondly, being a reflective agent of change also involves the use of one’s affective skills as a means of improving practice. Markham (1999), points out that this includes the use of personal intuition, initiative, values, and experiences in the process of making sound judgment and decisions. If affective skills are honed, they will improve one’s ability to react, respond, assess, revise, and implement new approaches and activities.

Thirdly, being a reflective agent of change also requires a willingness to confront the uncertainties of one’s philosophies which undergird judgments, decisions and ideas for change. This is developed by examining ‘self’, personal competences and personal philosophies in a collaborative manner involving receiving, and giving feedback to colleagues

Developing reflective agents of change

From personal research in the area of reflection and reflective teaching (Minott 2009), I conclude that everyone has the capacity to reflect, for reflection is an element of being human. However, I also agree with Posner (1989) that there are ‘more’ or ‘less’ reflective individuals, hence there are ‘more’ or ‘less’ reflective students. This conclusion also highlights the fact that there are those who, for any number of reasons, for example, training or a lack of training in reflective techniques, or personal disposition and likeness or dislike for reflection, emerges as being either ‘more’ or ‘less’ reflective. Therefore, three things are required to develop students as reflective agents of change.

Firstly, there is the need to ascertain their belief and disposition on the matter of reflection. Again personal research (Minott 2009) as confirmed by popular theories, that students’ belief can hinder or help. In this process, it is important to help students to bring their embedded beliefs, values and assumptions about reflection to the fore for examination before beginning the process of encouraging their reflective skills.

Secondly, there is the need to develop students’ proficiency in the use of the techniques and tools of reflection. This includes the use of reflective journal writing, collaborative exercises, the use of questions, and what to question.

Thirdly, there is the need to encourage the affective or intuitive aspect of the practice, for example, sensitivity to factors that make particular ways of operating more or less appropriate, willingness and the capacity to ‘research’ their own work, and an awareness that the choices they make on the job are shaped by their belief.

References

Minott.MA (2009). Reflection and Reflective Teaching, A Case study of Four Seasoned Teachers in the Cayman Islands. Germany VDM Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. ISBN 978-3-639-15860-1

Markham, M. (1999). ‘Through the Looking Glass: Reflective Teaching through a Lacanian Lens’ In Curriculum Inquiry 29: 1

Posner, G.J. (1989). Field Experience methods of Reflective Teaching New York: Longman Publishing groups

Be Smart About Higher Education: 5 Steps to Determine When and How You Begin Change

Change can involve excitement and looked at as a great opportunity or be scary and as the worst thing that can happen. Whether it is a good or bad experience is contingent on a person’s attitude. Regardless of how it is experienced, normalizing change is the pathway to a fulfilled life.

A baby’s first steps are shaky, but eventually result in a flop. Moving from middle school to high school for the first time is something to look forward to, but upper classmen can be intimidating. Leaving home to go to college means freedom and independence, but also the potential for homesickness, intimidation with arrogant professors, and hard-to-get-along-with roommates. Day one on the first real job is the start of a new chapter in life, but feeling totally stupid is common.

The aforementioned experiences are a common pathway for students pursuing higher education. Real change begins by making difficult choices. After getting to high school, will the student respond appropriately or react negatively to bullies and gossipers? Are the challenges of pursuing higher education leaned into rather than avoided or denied? Does the fear of asking questions and false pride dictate how the new job goes?

Tough choices continue as life goes on. Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule attributes that personally coming out of bankruptcy and heavy drinking began with a process of counting backwards 5-4-3-2-1 to launch out of bed in the morning. The story is mainly about a desperate need for change of direction in her life by ignoring feelings and making a commitment to act on improving. Mel claims the seemingly insignificant process of counting 5-4-3-2-1 and launching out of bed instead of hitting the snooze button began the road to recovery that led to being one of the top speakers in the world.

The key to Mel’s success is being smart about what needs done and taking the action to do it by not giving in to what feels comfortable. Another bad guy is analysis paralysis that involves too much thinking eventually resulting in talking yourself out of doing anything. Although the research varies, many would agree it takes at least 21 days to create a habit. The time leading up to creating a habit is hard because change is a challenge! Failed New Year’s resolutions are ongoing proof.

An accompanying bad guy to analysis paralysis is cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortions are simply ways the mind convinces itself of something that isn’t really true. The inaccurate thoughts reinforce negative thinking. The tricky part is, a rationale is built around the false ideas. Following are some common distortions people use:

Pessimism – amplifying the negative while filtering out the positive.

Helplessness – feeling helpless over what happens in life.

Overgeneralization – basing an opinion on a single piece of evidence.

Blaming – “it’s not my fault, you don’t understand.”

Emotional reasoning – feelings are automatically indicative of what is true.

Attempts to change are unlikely with dominant cognitive distortions. That’s why The 5 Second Rule is so effective in completing a predetermined decision. The only thing to think about is repeating the 5 second count down to take action. Distortions based on feelings or over thinking are to be ignored.

Answering five questions serves as additional help in determining when and how to change:

Where are you? Take an honest and objective look at your status right now physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally (academically), spiritually, and financially.

Where are you going and why? Write down dreams and get a vision and purpose to stay focused.

Who are you? Know every person is talented, gifted, and destined for great things. The hardest person to convince of that is you.

What are you doing that matters? Pay it forward.

When and how are you going to start the changes needed to be smart about higher education and live a life that matters?

Begin using The 5 Second Rule: 5-4-3-2-1, start answering these questions now!