Indicative of ambivalence, my application to study MA Education was late. Despite a strong desire to study, I was unsure of my ability and feared failure. I struggled to recognise how learning from my professional experiences could support me in being reflexive. My decision was cemented by a valued senior colleague communicating belief in me. However this reliance on the approval of authoritative others could hinder my growth at masters level. A critical voice means demonstrating confidence in my own authority, and not fearing challenging the view of perceived experts (Cottrell, 2011).
My first lecture was an experience that completely shattered my assumptions of adult learning, resulting in disappointment towards contemplation of resignation. On critical reflection encouraged by reading authors such as Brookfield (1987) I now see my beliefs clouded my initial perceptions, resulting in two acknowledgements. That there are endless approaches with equal validity applicable in context, and if I truly believe in my approach, I must demonstrate a reasoned and evidence based voice. It had begun.
This fear to challenge authority transferred into university, with my self-doubt exuded when surrounded by teachers, resulting in self-questioning my validity. By reading more, my conscious incompetence increased making it hard to critique those with more experience. At the same time I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of having my assumptions tested. To the point where I immediately enhance my practise at work with new ideas, contradicting those previously relied upon for years. I’ve also now considered that teaching at level 3 can easily become a dictatorial experience for adult learners which I am keen to avoid, and authors like Wilson (2010) have highlighted cognitive dissonance about lifelong learning.
I’m aware of my fear of failure and recognise my success in compulsory education was due to my desire to please those in authority and provide the right answers. A critical view point I’ve developed in retrospect. However, the work environment has taught me quite contrasting ideas. Being creative supports every element of my work. Accepting all perspectives and realities of others has enabled me to support people effectively in substance misuse treatment.
Drawing on my understanding of this sector also helps to dismiss the idea of an expert. As policy, drug use, and social trends are constantly changing I don’t believe anyone can call themselves an expert. The practitioner training content I lead on is fluid, and each client should receive individual holistic treatment. Expertise would be ignorant of this, yet I can make solid assertions. I hope to bring this into my MA Education. My perspective is one reality, which my existence and experiencing grants me the validity to express. By transference of skills, I can use effective communication to stage a persuasive argument, and empathy to respectfully challenge others.
One of my goals in life is to master the art of conflict and utilise disagreement as a vehicle for learning in every arena. I avoid argument, associating it with negative experiences and only choosing to take part when passionate. Whilst engaging for a captive audience, and conducive to therapy, I now understand that this could hinder both reason and credibility in becoming a master (Cottrell, 2001). As a result of this course I also hope to be a even better facilitator of constructive conflict in the training room rather than manager of people.
Brookfield, S.D. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cottrell (2001) Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Arguement. Second Edition. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wilson, A.L., (2010) Creating identities of dependency: adult education as a knowledge-power regime. International Journal of Lifelong Education. Vol.18: 2: 85-93.