This article was written as a class assignment for EDF6931 Multiple Perspectives on Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida in Spring 2015.

April 10, 2015 Self-Reflection

As I look back on our class this semester, I really enjoyed the conversations and the review and analysis of such a wide variety of theoretical learning perspectives.  As I review my writings from January 15, 2015, included below, I realize that my perspectives have not changed much from the beginning of the course.  As I consider the various learning theories and philosophies we reviewed, I think of them sort of like a tools in a tool belt.  Just as a carpenter would carry a variety of tools to meet a variety of needs, I feel it is important for us as educators, to also carry a variety of tools in order to respond to the varying needs of our students and the goals of our various educational practices.

What I do believe I gained throughout this course is a deeper understanding of each of the learning theories, as well as a broader understanding of how each of us approaches the various theories with a different lens.  It was interesting to me to hear the different perspectives in our class that were shaped by a variety of backgrounds and educational experiences.  In addition, to a deeper and broader understanding, I am beginning to develop a better academic vocabulary.  I am learning how to express my understanding and opinions about education theories using appropriate academic language including behaviorist, constructivist, cognitive, etc. as well as being able to align those theories with the academic researchers that founded them.

Throughout the course of the semester, I have retained a notebook of readings that I think will be helpful in my further study.  This was a very busy semester for me, so I do not feel like I had the time to properly and thoroughly read and absorb all of the material. I hope to have time over the summer to revisit many of the readings, to help better lay the foundation of my understanding and ability to apply these theories to my own educational practices.

January 15, 2015 Self-Reflection

In considering the role of theoretical frameworks in my current work, I find myself resistant to identify with any one particular framework.  I believe some of my resistance comes from a simple aversion to assigning labels.  This is something I’ve resisted most of my life.  I have a great deal of fascination with many philosophies, and find it hard to identify just one that applies to me or my work.  With that being said, I will reflect on several interpretive frameworks with which I find some alignment with my own philosophies.

My professional identity is shaped by my experiences as an information technology (IT) professional working in a non-profit social service environment, as a community college professor teaching in an IT program, and as a co-owner of a feminist bookstore.  Currently, my main area of research interest lies in the empowerment of marginalized groups including women, minorities and LGBTQ individuals.  More specifically, I am looking at effective methods to increase both the gender diversity and the inclusion of underrepresented populations in IT educational programs, and ultimately in the IT field in general. Some of the theories that appeal to me, and I hope to use in my work, include social constructivism, transformative frameworks, pragmatism, feminist theories, critical theory and queer theory. 

Social Constructivism or Interpretivism, looks at the world in which we live and work and develops meaning through experiences and interactions.  Meaning is co-created with others as we learn and experience together.  Transformative Frameworks are based on the concept that knowledge is not neutral and reflects the power and social relationships within society.  Knowledge construction is a process by which we can improve society.  Pragmatism focuses more on the outcomes of research, than on the conditions of research.  Taken together, these frameworks begin to describe how I see research.  To me research is a means to an end.  An attempt to understand why something is happening and learn from the individuals affected, so that we can develop ideas on how to improve society and the lives of the those we are studying (Creswell, 2012).

Feminist theory, critical theory and queer theory all focus on how individuals from marginalized groups are affected by a predominately white, heterosexual, patriarchal society. These philosophies, or interpretive frameworks, look at how gender, race, class, sexuality, and privilege affect our experiences in employment, education, work and other factors that affect the quality of our lives.  In looking at the issue of women in IT, Elizabeth Clark (2013), theorized that IT is a gendered field.  She proposed, that because IT had its start during a time when our workforce was predominately male, the industry as a whole took on the characteristics of a masculine gender.  I find this line of thinking interesting, and believe it could help us to find ways in which we can shift the gender identity of the IT field to a more gender neutral expression, and to be more responsive to the needs of a diverse society.

In summary, I don’t think just one theoretical framework can be used to describe how I approach research.  There are however a variety of frameworks which align with my philosophies of research and the way I see education and the world in general.  I hope to be able to use these frameworks in finding ways in which we can improve our educational systems to better meet the needs of a diverse society.

References

Clark, E. A. (2013). Women as Chief Information Officers in higher education: A mixed methods study of women executive role attainment in information technology organizations. Boston College.  

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches: Sage publications.