Dean's Foreword

Voices of practitioners: Learning experiences from evidence based practices

Fauziah Abdul Rahim
Dean
School of Education and Modern Languages
Universiti Utara Malaysia

 

Introduction

The great scholars of yesteryears have taught us a significant tradition of sharing of ideas through thoughtful writing from a tradition that began in the past, which started during the productive times of the debates between Islamic and Greek thinkers (Hozien, 2005). This tradition has been continued till today with the growth of new journals though often being done with the contention of tenure-ship or academic promotion in a publish or perish academic world. However, scholars in the past not only shared their ideas about how they have understood their world, often challenging others in return, but also shared their scientific evidence as proof to their theses.

As the world enters its postmodernist era of uncertainties and chaos, the nature of epistemology and ontology which influences the methodology in the realm of education has to take into consideration the disruptive changes that occur that influences the nature of learning (Flavin, 2012). Due to this, a prospective orientation towards learning is called for, which is relevant to enable learners to solve problems that may not have the solutions yet. Prospective orientation towards learning requires a change in the perspective of learning and teaching that empowers learners to take ownership to construct their own learning so that they are able to solve problems in diverse ways. Unlike the retrospective orientation towards learning that focuses on how far learners are being assessed based on regurgitated knowledge that has been taught by their teachers earlier, prospective orientation requires them to think and reflect on ways to solve problems that even their teachers may not have the answers to. In doing so, learning becomes dynamic and diverse which in a way is relevant to the nature of learners being diverse.

Learner diversity, an inclination of the past as simply an education buzzword that never stood a chance being tackled rightly in a conforming world then, began to take central stage in the light of the millennium era (Verenikina, 2010). Learner diversity has never been acknowledged until the last two decades especially with the surge of technology use that offers collaborative yet personalized learning in a trajectory way. Though learning, naturally and in the past has often been described as communal, collaborative and shared it somehow became deluded by the individual, competitive and distinct way in order to separate the elite and the bourgeois as demanded, especially during the second and third industrial age. However, the fourth industrial age requires learning to be boldly constructive in nature that sharing becomes inevitable.

 

Sharing learning experiences

Previous literature has argued that the nature of man, as social beings, naturally learn through sharing. Learning models and theory like apprenticeship model (Rogoff, 1990) and social cultural learning theory (Vygotsky, 1987) places social interaction at the heart of learning and development in which novices learn from experts. As Vygotsky claims in his sociocultural theory, the development occurs at two levels; the inter-psychological level before the intrapsychological level. Vygostky describes that what one can do on one’s own is regarded as the actual development of the person and through interaction with more knowledgeable others and through mediation, one is able to do what one is not able to do on one’s own but with the help of others. He refers as the potential development that occurs in the inter-psychological level or the social plane. Learners are able to achieve their potential development if mediation is provided within their zone of proximal development.

To Vygotsky, actualizing the potential development is key to human development, raising the consciousness of the mind and increasing the higher mental function. Intra-psychological level occurs when one is able to internalise what is learnt and have reached the potential development. Through this theory it is understood that human learns best from others and the development is achieved through social interaction. In view of this, learning is also influenced by how one shares their expertise and how the others learn from these experiences.

Increasing the higher mental functions require one to think and reflect of the learning processes that they go through during and as a result of the interaction. Placing this in the context of sharing these experiences in writing, writers share their learning experiences and practices in order to create a shared community in the practices especially amongst those who shares similar contexts.

 

Creating a community of learners

Community of learners can be developed in various contexts, either physically or virtually.  Lave and Wenger (1991) in their Situated Learning theory describes how a community of practice is developed based on three criteria, which include the practice, the domain and the community.   By sharing their practices within specific domain, people of similar community become engaged in completing a task or solving problems and to a certain extent learn from each other through intersubjectivity way in which one interchanges with another thoughts and feelings that enables them to relate and learn from one another.  In a nutshell, community of practice refers to people who not only desire to learn from each other but also contribute to others at the same time, sharing their various experiences through their participation.  

Wenger also identifies three levels of participation which include the core group which consists of people who are intensely involved in leading the discussion or project; the active group who are actively involved but do not take the leadership roles and the peripheral group, consists of people who are passively involved by observing other members solving the problem because they have not yet gained confidence to become active in the project or discussion.  The last group tends to become the majority of the community.  Placing this in the publishing contexts, especially in Practitioner Research, the core group members include writers cum researchers as leaders of the project and active members can be those who are also involved in similar projects and have gained from others’ experiences from various projects but whose role is simply as active members rather than as leaders.  Peripheral members signify the majority of readers either students or other faculty members who are still thinking and observing what evidence based projects that practitioners are doing and learning before embarking on their own projects based on their practices and interests.

 

Giving a voice to practitioners: Learning from others as experts

Practitioners are considered experts in whatever they do and in their own fields. They could be teachers, faculty members, trainers, doctors, psychologists and leaders of all disciplines who not only embark on projects but also share their reflection of what they have learned in the process in order for others to learn from and use their experiences. Those who practice, then do research on their practices and reflect requires people who not only display the notion walk the talk or practicing what they preach but also those who can provide evidence of change in their practice that impact others and themselves.

Therefore providing a platform for practitioners to share their transformation in what they do for others and themselves is a pertinent to enable others to learn and emulate as well as go through the process of transformation themselves.  In so doing, this platform provides avenue for voices of these practitioners to be heard and learning to be facilitated through their experiences as experts in their fields.

 

Conclusion

Journals, like Practitioner Research, can provide this avenue for practitioners as experts to share their experience and expertise so that others can learn from their experiences.  Establishing a learning community especially one that shares a common interest or practice is important as a means to learn with and from others.  Practitioner Research then become the medium of shared practices, which eventually and hopefully opens up possibilities of creating learning communities, especially of shared practices.

Learning from practitioners, as experts and challenging norm practices to transform others in the light of contributing to the betterment of society, will hopefully revive the era of yesteryears in which practitioners as experts engaged in a dialogic discussion through publication that influences knowledge and ways of working.  Reciprocally by giving voices to practitioners to share their experiences and thoughts will hopefully engage readers especially, the majority i.e. the peripheral members, to listen and learn before gaining confidence to share their practices and thoughts for others to learn.  In this way, Practitioner Research has the potential as a medium to mediate learning and develop the potential development of others and in so doing develop on its own, community of expert practitioners and learners that may impact the society, in which they live in.

 

References

Flavin, M. (2012). Disruptive technologies in higher education. Research in Learning Technology, 20, 10.3402/rlt.v20i0.19184.

Hozien, M. (2005). The introduction of Greek philosophy in the Muslim world.  Journal of Islamic Philosophy, 1,163–174.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 33, 29, 40

Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press

Verenikina, I. (2010). Vygotsky in twenty-first-century research. In J. Herrington & B. Hunter. (Eds.). Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (pp. 16-25). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Mind in society: The development of higher Psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.