My name is Arthur Hernández, and I am a Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio Texas.
Even before I knew it, I was an evaluator (albeit not a very good one!) considering my process and consequences related to my teaching, research/evaluation, and service. Now mostly, I’m interested in the means and mechanisms for collecting authentic, genuine information which informs about the nature and “quality” of value, provides for learning, and impacts action for all involved. I am a MSI alumnus and a member of the Indigenous, Multicultural, Teaching, and LA RED TIGs.
On my path to becoming a good evaluator, I’ve learned that evaluation requires regular and systematic self-reflection. While self-reflection is often cited as an essential mechanism for cultural responsiveness and for community based and participatory evaluation, it is all too often assumed to be an inherent skill which can be automatically applied by anyone on demand. This is not the case; it is a skill which must be learned and developed. Unfortunately, self-reflection is not typically a skill developed during training or addressed in evaluation protocols which are often structured around some “template.” This lack of preparation and practice is fatal to self-reflection since, people are not generally open to newness, critical of what is common or usual, or ignore feelings in favor of thoughts (or vice-versa). This “unconscious bias” has been described in many ways (e.g., implicit bias, prejudice, unreliability, invalidity, systematic error, etc.).
My process for self-reflection is an amalgamation of the many recommendations from the literature developed and refined over time. Briefly — first, consider the event or circumstance carefully, endeavoring to accurately remember what was happening (audio-visual recording can be of great service not only to data analysis but to self-reflection), the context, what you were doing, how you were feeling (you may have had multiple feelings) and why. Next, carefully examine or analyze the experience looking at criteria for mistakes and success, missed indicators (e.g., cultural representations) or opportunities. What did you learn? From this, you should evaluate yourself not only from the perspective of your performance and consequences of your decisions but from theperspective of impact on others. What difference did it make to your purpose? At what cost? How did it affect others around you? How do you know? Are you sure? Finally, it is important to develop a plan of action. Self-reflection is a matter of “learning from action and acting from learning” – without action, self-reflection is likely an empty exercise.
In short, self-reflection is a skill and as with any other skill, good performance requires mindfulness, discipline, and regular practice (habit development). Skillful self-reflection provides the means to learn from experience, clarify values, examine “automatic” judgements and behavior, plan, and reconsider self -in-context. It is important to self-reflect on your self-reflection; but that is a matter for another time.
One useful approach to self-reflection is to keep a log or journal, documenting activities, recording process and outcome observations and the impact on all involved (including yourself) and on the community of both the activity and the evaluation. This can be an essential guide to what was learned and “so what?” – that is how lessons learned are not only informational but transformational.
- Reflective frameworks – Reflective writing – LibGuides at University of Hull
- Microsoft Word – MCHN Reflective Practice print versions May 07.doc (education.vic.gov.au)
- Reflective Practice Models (ucd.ie)
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