Staying relevant: Using Action Research as Reflective Practitioner
As Information Technology academics we experience almost numbing pressure to excel in our academic careers while providing relevant training to our students in a world where today’s buzzword is tomorrow’s old news. While we spend time mastering new technology in order to provide our students with relevant skills, our academic careers demand research outputs – we have to solve the seemingly “impossible” challenges we face. Reflective practice described by Schön may enable us to achieve both these goals simultaneously.
Reflective practice, guided by Kolb’s learning cycle, illustrates how professionals develop through a cycle of experimentation and abstraction. The cycle starts with the professional identifying the need for development from a specific experience, this is followed by a process of reflection and abstraction which might be informed by theory. After an improved understanding of the event which started the cycle, the practitioner improves his/her conduct, and the cycle is completed.
As academics, we are able to develop ourselves and our students as reflective practitioners. Students are struggling to apply theory to practice in their work. This ongoing concern of bridging the theory-practice gap among students calls for a change in traditional methods of teaching towards students’ teaching and learning. Reflective practice has proven to be beneficial for instructors as well as students as a process for professional development.
In this paper, we show that Action Research can be used as a research methodology to complement the process of reflective practice to achieve both our goals in terms of benefiting our students and advancing our academic careers. We provide guidance of using action research in the classroom to develop ourselves and our students as reflective practitioners in such a way that we can contribute to the scholarly community.
This is demonstrated with a case study involving a lecturer and information technology students at a university of technology in South Africa. Lessons learned are documented to reflect both negative and positive experiences. This paper provides a methodology that is based on action research for the use of reflective practice in teaching.