(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

Never stop thinking. Never stop writing

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Just a short blog post reflecting on something: people keep referring to me as a prolific blogger. I take it they’re impressed, but they shouldn’t be, really. I think all of us academics think a lot, possibly all day long, every day, while we are doing all sorts of other things.

All I do, really, is organize my thoughts into a blogpost so I do not lose them (the thoughts), and instead of keeping them in a random place on paper, PC, or mobile device, instead of emailing the, to a few select people in my f2f life, I post them (incomplete thoughts as they are) online so I can share them and get feedback, and my social networks help me think again, which creates new blog posts. Voila. Writing really is a muscle that you exercise (i.e. the more you write,the easier it is to write, for me at least). Maybe I am a little rash in posting things publicly that are incomplete. I don’t care (yet).

One of the funniest things when writing a peer-reviewed article is that by the time I get feedback from the reviewers, I have had further thoughts and read more articles, etc., and so I want to change so many things about the article! At least on my blog I can get immediate feedback. At least the feedback does not stop after publication.

In my own PhD thesis defense (my topic was critical thinking) I was asked to describe my understanding of critical thinking. I hate being asked that question, but I answered it anyway. The examiners looked at me quizzically and said, “that is all really interesting, but it’s not very clear in your thesis!”, to which I responded, “yes, it’s something I thought about while my supervisor was reviewing the final draft of my thesis and I published it online in a magazine about Arab higher ed”. So them I was asked to add those thoughts back into my thesis for the final final draft.

I wrote an article about MOOCs for JOLT last summer. I have since experienced several completely different MOOCs and have so much more to say now, but the article itself has not yet been published!!! So that is quite annoying.

So blogging gives me this space to write my thoughts, and update them in another post as they evolve. It is a reflective and social practice, both.

Just today, I heard students learning to reflect for the first time say they saw the value in reflection as a way to give feedback to instructors, but not as something that directly benefited them personally. I think reflecting publicly has a lot of benefits that personal reflection misses, of course, but the first benefit of reflection is (quite obvious to most of us educators, but clearly not to students doing it for the first time) personal growth.

So …thanks to all my social network friends for helping me through all my personal reflections by inspiring the thoughts that go into them, and responding to them.

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

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