Building Critically Reflective Practice in Higher Education Students: Employing Auto-ethnography and Educational Connoisseurship in Assessment
Building Critically Reflective Practice in Higher Education Students: Employing Auto-ethnography and Educational Connoisseurship in Assessment
Jane Southcott 0
0 Monash University
Building Critically Reflective Practice in Higher Education Students:
Employing Auto-ethnography and Educational Connoisseurship in
Abstract: This study posed the question: Does using an educational
connoisseurship framework applied to auto-ethnography assist in the
development of reflective practice in teacher education? The design of
authentic assessments that assist students in making meaningful links
between theory and practice is a complex process. We created an
assessment task that was directly linked to the lived experience of the
students and specifically focused on their educational practice.
Students were required to write an auto-ethnography that was shaped
by educational connoisseurship and criticism. With ethical permission
we retained the auto-ethnographic assignments by nineteen students.
After independent thematic analysis we built a composite, thematic
analysis and compiled tables of the content analysis. Our focus was
how our students engaged with the task. We found that using an
educational connoisseurship framework applied to auto-ethnographic
writing has the potential to assist in the development of reflective
practice in teacher education.
Assessment whether formal or informal, is integral to all learning and teaching
. Effective and engaging assessment can help individuals connect who
they are to what they do
which is essential in the development of critically
reflective educators. Designing authentic assessments that offer meaningful links between
theory and practice is complex and individual lecturers develop and employ non-traditional
assessment items and modes to suit different student cohorts and educational contexts
(Iannone & Simpson, 2012)
. In education and initial teacher education (ITE) courses the
complexities of assessment design is complicated as students grapple with defining their
teacher identity and developing personal pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. At
Monash University in Australia, graduate and ITE students enrolled in an advanced music
education unit were asked to use a structured auto-ethnographic approach in a teaching and
learning study for their final assessment. This article explores the efficacy of using this
approach by analysing student assignments.
At the commencement of the unit students were instructed to select an aspect of their
educational practice and begin a reflective journal to provide evidence and critical reflection
for their auto-ethnography. Journaling supported the development of the ability to critically
reflect on personal practice
. Using a social constructivist framework,
we devised assessment strategies that structured according to the tenets of educational
in which descriptive vignettes provide the reader with a
strong sense of the selected teaching and learning episode, their interpretation from the
perspective of those taking part, and finally they were to be evaluated on two levels:
educational and personal. We have both taught units to graduate music education students
and noticed the diversity of the group and a hesitancy to engage with critical reflection
beyond the superficial. Further, as musicians we are aware of the importance of the
development of skills and the opportunities to practice these new learnings. We decided to
provide opportunities for the practice of critical reflection by superimposing connoisseurship
on auto-ethnography to help our students focus their thinking and present their narratives in a
structured way. Connoisseurship is a valuable affordance for teaching ability, musicianship
and self-knowledge. We also felt that this would prepare students for their future practice as
educators who must produce an evidence-based portfolio.
Most students chose to include three or four vignettes and reported that the
assessment engaged them in considerable reflection which ultimately provided them with
new understandings of their past and present practice
and allows for fine-grained
. For some students, this was not a new phenomenon ? several already
maintained teaching and learning journals ? but others found this an innovative and
potentially valuable activity. This strategy allows for the recognition of different learning and
teaching styles and fostered agency among the students
(Lammers & Murphy, 2002)
. The use
of an auto-ethnographic approach was understood by all to support their own music teaching
and learning, and although challenging, the practice was deemed to have the potential to
support future critically reflective teaching and learning
(Norton & Campbell, 2007)
Providing students with this opportunity reflected our holistic approach ?to teaching and
learning that characterize our commitment to student-centred pedagogy?
2002, pp. 48-49)
In designing our assessment, we chose to use student authored auto-ethnographies as
an idiographic, rigorous, qualitative research method, which gives the subject a unique voice
and window into their lived experiences
(Nethsinghe & Southcott, 2015)
popular in music education, auto-ethnographic inquiry fosters self-reflection
Ellis, 2009; Dhokai, 2012)
and can possibly reshape envisaged futures if writers are open to
their transformative potential (Custer, 2014). Auto-ethnographers seek to describe, interpret
and systematically analyse personal experience to explore cultural (in this case educational)
experiences within social context
. Auto-ethnographies recount lived
epiphanic moments encountered in personal and cultural experience
(Ellis & Bochner, 2009;
Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011)
and auto-ethnographers explore the ?muddled idiosyncratic,
florid eccentricities that make us unique as opposed to part of a population?
. Autoethnographic self-study offers the researcher the opportunity to interrogate the
attitudes, assumptions and beliefs that underpin personal experience, professional practice
and educational values
(Chang, 2008; de Bruin, 2016)
. Writing their own stories can motivate
reflective practitioner-researchers ?to consider what they have gained and what they have
come to know, either about themselves or others? (Karpiak, 2010, p. 54). Auto-ethnographies
explore educational processes, pedagogical practices, and shared music making
Smith & Worthington, 2008, p. 24)
. Auto-ethnographic writing is an effective component in
higher degree research
(Nethsinghe, 2012; de Bruin, 2016)
that has the potential to promote
reflection, critique and rigour in graduate music teacher education students. This paper
articulates how this can be enacted via early career teachers? practice and reflexivity to
support their ongoing professional development.
Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism
It is an often stated and desired outcome of educational engagement that students develop the skills and abilities to synthesize and/or integrate practice and theoretical Vol 43, 5, May 2018 96
. Eisner advocated for the legitimate role of artistic expression
and knowledge in educational phenomena
. He explained that teaching
requires artistry, that schooling is a cultural artefact and that the educational process varies
between individuals and contexts
. Such individuality or ?productive
idiosyncrasy? that affords students the opportunities to assume ownership of their work. This
process recognises diverse beliefs, values, interests and abilities
(Moroye, Flinders &
. The students involved in this research project are music educators. Being
expressive and idiosyncratic is inherent in their practice as both musicians and teachers. In
educational evaluation it is necessary ?not to seek recipes to control and measure practice, but
rather to enhance whatever artistry the teacher can achieve?
(Eisner, 1976, p. 140)
educational connoisseurship and criticism offers a way to look deeply into teaching and
learning while simultaneously fostering reflection, interpretation and the ability to express
. Through this process the individual can develop ?a rich
nuanced feeling for and understanding of a particular activity?
(Hansen, 2017, p. 9)
Connoisseurship is the art of appreciation
and connoisseurs are able to
make finely tuned discriminations between complex qualities of phenomena
notice what others may overlook
. Connoisseurs possess awareness and
understanding of experience, which forms a basis for evaluation
connoisseur?s appreciation and judgement is revealed ?by the artful use of critical disclosure.
Effective criticism requires the use of connoisseurship, but connoisseurship does not require
the use of criticism?
(Eisner, 1976, p. 141)
. Effective critics must be well-informed and able
to make discriminating judgements based on their experience as expert professionals
& Wilson, 1985; Eisner, 1985)
. Connoisseurship can reveal the rich and complex
engagements that occur in teaching and learning, which is disseminated through educational
(Eisner, 1976, 2002)
Educational criticism requires that researchers describe, interpret, evaluate, and
and may improve the teaching and learning by offering
finegrained studies of what occurs. Description should allow readers to ?participate vicariously in
the educational situation, which points to the use of literary vignettes?
Uhrmacher, 2009, p. 89)
. Deciding what to present in the vignettes is an interpretative act.
Following vibrant, evocative vignettes that transport the reader, the next step is to interpret
what is occurring to reveal the significance and meanings of situated actions in their social
. Evaluation involves making value judgements concerning the
educational significance of the phenomena
and discerning themes can be
understood as naturalistic generalizations that reveal lessons to be learned
The idiosyncratic nature of educational criticism raises questions of validity but
Eisner explains that we frequently learn from single cases
(Moroye & Uhrmacher, 2009)
. It is
also assumed that the ?best judge of worth is an expert in the area of the thing to be
(Gardner, 1977, p. 574)
. We acknowledge that our students may not yet be expert
music educators but they have already spent many years learning and for some teaching their
craft. Evaluation involves subjective judgments which are inevitable but regardless of the
type of assessment, critically it is the individual who makes the judgement
Educational criticism begins with an artistic paradigm rather than a scientific one. This
enables those engaged in education to develop their ability to see and reflect about what they
. Educational criticism can reveal the complexities of educational
phenomena and share understandings with others. Beginning with students? individual
experiences has the potential to enhance motivation and deepen involvement in educational
. Developing the skills of educational criticism takes time possibly
more than was available to our students, but our hope was to introduce an approach that could
become embedded in participants? future practice.
Designing the Assessment
In designing this assessment, a social constructivist model was adopted that positions
the task as active and critically reflective social engagement
(Boud et al., 2016)
such an approach enhances students? learning experience and allows assessment to be part of
their active learning process
(Rust, Price & O?Donovan, 2003)
. This task was positioned as a
socially situated phenomenon
(Boud et al., 2016)
, linked to the lived experience of the
students and specifically focused on their educational practice. We sought to stimulate higher
order thinking by asking students to describe, interpret and evaluate past teaching and
learning experiences. Students were encouraged to explore, interrogate, articulate
relationships (between self and others), and develop understandings of future self as teacher.
This ?future-mindedness? or ?prospection?
relates to the students? increasing
understanding of self as present and future practitioner who recognises that this assessment
offers a useful tool for continuous critically reflective practice and teaching engagement.
Prospection affords the opportunity to generate imagined future states of the participant?s
. This assessment harnessed the learner?s own endeavours and
curiosities to engender transformative learning experiences to allow students to develop a
self-assured understanding of their own learning
(Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012)
. We sought to
give them a sense of agency which enables ?people to play a part in their self-development,
adaptation, and self-renewal?
(Bandura, 2001, p. 2)
. During their careers, musicians may
undertake different roles including teaching and performing in multiple, concurrent and
diverse musical genres and organisations
(Bartleet et al., 2012; Bennett, 2008; Canham,
. This aligns with our constructivist understanding of self, wherein knowledge is
constructed through experiential learning
(Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012)
Assessment strategies for promoting student agency have found success in
(Rust, Price & O?Donovan, 2003)
. By addressing their real-life
experiences and challenges, students are able to make decisions about how to approach their
autoethnographic constructions to build meaning and a sense of agency over personal
performance. At the core of student agency is the belief that a person is responsible for their
own learning and achievement
and it may be ?easier for a learner to situate new
learning within existing knowledge structures by making connections to previous experience?
(Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012, p. 346)
. A sense of agency is either immediate or long term
(Pacherie, 2008) and our assessment is the latter as students were asked to generate ?a form
of self-narrative where one?s past actions and projected future actions are given a general
coherence and unified?
(Sadler, 2015, p. 12)
. Although an imposed assessment, this
autoethnographic study was more like a task that a reflective practitioner might set for
themselves. Several students commented that they had been maintaining reflective teaching
journals for several years and this assessment offered a different lens through with to
consider their reflections. Overall this assessment enabled flexible learning tailored to the
individual?s social context, prior experiences and motivations.
The Unit, the Assessment and Related Course Context
The unit that is the focus of this study is an expert teaching practice specialisation at
master?s level that can be taken within several course offerings in the Faculty of Education at
Monash University including the Masters of Teaching ? Secondary or Primary-Secondary or
Early Years-Primary (Graduate: 2 Years Initial Teacher Education), and the Masters of
Education (Postgraduate: 2 Years). This subject occurs in the last semester of the pre-service
Masters of Teaching programs and at some point in the Masters of Education programs. The
unit is an enhanced professional learning unit available in the expert teaching practice
specialisation that is designed to extend interest and deepen knowledge and expertise in
teaching and learning. The aim is for students to address the complexity and artistry of
teaching and learning and advance their understanding of curriculum areas and issues within
a specific discipline area. This is considered across contexts such as schools, tertiary
education, workplaces and in communities. The cohort that enrols in the unit is diverse,
possessing a range of musical and educational expertise. For example, some students have
music performance skills, others have complete music degrees; some students are pre-service
while others are already established classroom and instrumental teachers. The unit
encompasses a wide range of music education issues and approaches with the intention of
advancing knowledge and skills in the discipline area overall and ensures that assessments
are flexible enough to accommodate unique and varying educational contexts and histories.
In the unit ?Teaching music: Theory and practice? students are asked to challenge their
thinking by questioning their values, beliefs and understandings about teaching and learning
music. They investigate current theoretical understandings and practical approaches to music
education in formal and informal settings and across the lifespan. Students become familiar
with the historical and philosophical influences that have shaped music education policy and
practice, and relate this to their own educational contexts. Students develop advanced skills in
reflective practice through conducting a music teaching and learning study that requires a
critical and creative autoethnography within a cultural context bounded by the tenets of
connoisseurship as their summative assessment. The assessment asks students to select a
specific approach to teaching music that they are interested in exploring as a music educator.
They are required to source research literature about their chosen teaching approach, which
should inform their practice. As this degree of reflection takes time, students are required to
keep a detailed reflective journal where they document their experiences employing this
chosen approach to teaching music throughout the 12-week semester. Students are
specifically asked to reflect on how their experiences teaching music link to the relevant
literature. This is a form of reflection on activity that occurs after completing a task
. To support their autoethnography, students were asked to create descriptive narratives
based on their journal extracts and artifacts from their own teaching and learning. Lecturers
in the humanities and the arts are familiar with the use of ?mind-maps, photographs, recorded
narratives and other ?creative? forms of communicating ideas? in assessment items
2015, p. 2)
. Personal narratives are pivotal in exploring both identity and understandings of
(Maree, 2013; Canham, 2016)
It was recognised that students would require foundational skills and knowledge in how
to approach a reflective practice study that required them to critically interpret their music
methodology and pedagogy. Further, teaching artistry necessities the ability to understand
pedagogical content knowledge in an objective and subjective way. Autoethnography would
enable students to use rich data descriptions to systematically analyse personal experience to
understand cultural experience
(Hamilton, Smith & Worthington, 2008; Bartleet & Ellis,
. This more informal approach considers the process as important as the product. To
teach students to do this well in a limited amount of time was a challenge. We decided to
provide a framework for students? auto-ethnographic studies and selected Eisner?s
educational connoisseurship and criticism. This alternative approach to viewing the way that
professionals ?think in action? is involves artistry (
) and entails a paradigm shift
from a focus on technique to one situated around praxis was an appropriate frame for this
learning and teaching study. Once students have completed their description, interpretation
and evaluation, they are required to thematically analyse their writing and discuss its import.
Figure 1 outlines how the framework was used as a tool for reflective practice situated within
This study sought to answer the question: Does using an educational connoisseurship
framework applied to auto-ethnography assist in the development of reflective practice in
With ethical approval from the University, students were asked for permission to
retain and analyse their auto-ethnographic assessment. Of the 24 students enrolled in the unit,
19 agreed. As stated earlier the participant cohort included students from a range of graduate
education and ITE programs. Students had diverse experiences to draw from and were at
different stages of their professional development. The auto-ethnographies were all rich in
reflection and detail. We graded the assessments and returned them with evaluative
comments. The students were then given their final grades. At that point, we addressed the
assessments as data which were read and re-read
(Smith & Osborn, 2009)
. We independently
coded and analysed the auto-ethnographies thematically and then together co-constructed a
composite analysis building overarching themes in an inductive process. Independent
analysis of the same transcripts has the potential to increase trustworthiness
(Rodham, Fox &
. Thus rigour was applied to the analytic process, strengthening the credibility of
To maximise trustworthiness in this research, iterative strategies were applied to all
stages of the research to establish credibility and dependability
autoethnographic writing collected captured the students? understandings of their lifeworld as
music educators. The students knew the plausibility and trustworthiness of their own
interpretation of their lived experience
. Although their choice of what to
include was subjective, they were able to acknowledge and discuss their values, beliefs, prior
understandings and assumptions
. As researchers we brought to the analysis
our shared understandings as school and university music educators who have been
colleagues for some considerable time and who inhabit life-worlds comparable to those of the
participants. All data were de-identified and participants given pseudonyms.
The results reveal a diversity of educational contexts and teaching and learning
approaches used by class members and the inherent value of providing individualised
opportunities for students to explore their teaching practices and contexts. We recognise our
students? diversity of personal and cultural backgrounds which is complicated by their varied
musical genres, pedagogical traditions, and performance practices. In both teaching and
assessment, the ?first challenge ? is to consider the social context into which teaching is
(Hewitt, 2009, p. 332)
. Social contexts shape experiences, skills and knowledge that
in turn shape pedagogical approaches. Our students reported a wide range of influences
including: Bloom?s higher order thinking, Vygotsky?s socio-cultural theory, holistic learning,
life-long learning, authentic and real-life learning, personal experiences as a learner (both
individually and within family), the importance of balancing formal and informal education,
practical and experiential learning, technology, kinesthetic learning, and popular culture.
Artifacts and research tools that our student participants used to explore their pedagogy were
reflective journals, music practice journals, their own students? work and progress data,
photographs, ethnographic observations, semi-structured interviews and informal discussions.
We have selected three exemplars from students? writing that demonstrate their use of
an educational connoisseurship frame for their auto-ethnographic writing. The references in
the students? statements are retained to illustrate their inclusion of related literature, but we
have not added these texts to our references. In the vignettes from Students 2 and 3 we have
preceded their writing with a brief explanation of the music pedagogical approaches that they
Student 1: Instrumental Music Teaching: Reflective Practice
At the forefront of my instrumental teaching practice is engaging my students in
reflection and self?regulated thinking ? I began implementing reflective practice in my
teaching at the beginning of this year, in the hope that my students would become more
accountable for the sort of practise that they did. I have noticed a remarkable improvement in
their ability to practise more effectively, to problem-solve and become self?sufficient learners
? My reflective practice template integrates the components of reflection ? For me, it is
important that my students establish clear aims of what they would like to achieve and how
they are planning on achieving it. Once they have practised, they then need to reflect on how
effective it was and evaluate what aspects worked well and what aspects could be improved
upon. My aim is that eventually, reflective practice will become integrated as a natural part of
their learning and their practising.
A large portion of professional musicians, either consciously or subconsciously,
dedicate a significant amount of time planning their practice sessions ? to ensure that they
are making the most of their time and actively working on their weaknesses. Likewise,
successful students are also more likely to be those who are methodical in their approaches to
learning (Nielsen, 1999) ? in education, and particularly in music, we focus too much on the
final outcome and not enough on the learning process ? Reflection and self?regulated
thinking are important components not just in music but in a broader context of educational
theories and learning strategies. Primarily, reflection falls under the constructivist approach,
which suggests that ?everything a person learns is mediated by their prior experiences and
understanding? (Moss, 2011, p. 12). Learning is not about simply absorbing what is said or
being able to robotically recall information. Rather, it is based on students being engaged in
?genuine learning problems or tasks that foster the opportunity for them to make connections
between new material and prior knowledge?
(Crawford, 2014, p. 57)
? Reflective and
selfregulated practice encourages students to engage in higher order thinking through planning
their practice, selecting and incorporating strategies that enable them to improve their
performance, and evaluating their effectiveness in order to determine if the set goal has been
My past musical experiences have taught me the value of approaching music practice
in a holistic, systematic and organised manner, by incorporating a variety of exercises and
practice strategies to improve particular aspects of my playing and my musical ability as a
whole. As a teacher, these experiences have directly influenced and framed my approach to
teaching and I hope to engage my students in meaningful practice by encouraging them to be
reflective and self-regulated learners who enjoy learning and practising. Teachers are also
life-long learners and I look forward to developing my ideas further and am determined to
continue exploring and experimenting with new strategies that can benefit my students?
learning and enjoyment of music. Teaching students how to practise effectively and how to
get the most out of their learning should be a priority for all teachers, regardless of their
teaching subject. Effective practice requires discipline, planning and thinking, and
demonstrates to students the benefits and rewards of hard work. As a teacher, my aim is to
provide my students with valuable skills and strategies that will enable them to be
independent and life-long learners. Regardless of whether or not they continue to study music
in the future, I hope that my students will all benefit from the skills that learning music has
taught them and have a lasting appreciation for music.
Student 2: Primary School Music Teaching: The Kod?ly Approach
In the Kod?ly approach, inspired by Hungarian composer and educator, Zoltan Kod?ly the voice is central to musical instruction and, by focusing on learning through engaging with music, singing, playing, moving and enjoying, music becomes part of the natural learning process (Gault, 2016).
I was informed by fellow staff and students that the previous program was based on
music history, incorporated little in the areas of performance and students had no
understanding of traditional western music notation, unless they received instrumental tuition
? [Current] Year 6 students were asked to compose their own pentatonic piece and record
their composition on the music staff. I expected students to accurately include clef, time
signature, bar lines, rhythmic elements (crotchet, quavers, semiquavers and crotchet rests)
and pentatonic pitches (doh, re, mi, soh and lah) in their 8 bar composition ? The students
who did not receive any additional instrumental lessons also completed well-crafted and
musically literate compositions, one said ?I don?t know why, but I just ?got it?. Everything we
did in class made sense to me ? it wasn?t easy but I knew what to do?.
Singing is essential to developing music literacy skills in my students. As they
progressed through the program, I was astounded that students as young as 6, were
understanding and demonstrating skills in musical literacy. I began to question whether
teachers are actually expecting enough of their music students and whether teachers
recognise their students? true potential. Cuskelly (2012) notes ?an increasing trend to
patronise children and to diminish their potential for learning and intelligent engagement?.
Students are capable of developing such musical skills ? children do not lack ability, but
rather that our education systems fail to provide suitable opportunities for the students to
achieve their potential.
I feel that the Kod?ly method can be successfully employed across a student?s
lifespan. It is a method that can be successfully employed across a teacher?s career. The
techniques, repertoire and skills offered by this approach, provides teachers with a means of
catering for a variety of student abilities and needs, and provides students with a sequenced
approach to learning music. The Kod?ly approach results in positive implications for the
music education community including: an approach that caters to students? needs and
abilities, creating a sense of belonging and creating life?long skills.
Student 3: Secondary School Music Teaching (Final Pre-Service Practicum):
Technology and CLASP
Keith Swanwick developed an influential model for music activities (CLASP) which
involved Composing, Literature studies, Audition (audience listening), Skill acquisition, and
This is an important aspect of my past teaching and is a valuable insight into future
teaching contexts. Technology has already had a profound impact on education, with policy
and curriculums integrating and demanding the presence of it within all subjects, and teachers
being required to be familiar with ICT ? This autoethnography will elucidate how important
technology is to developing authentic learning, and ways in which it can (and will be)
employed for lifelong learning. Swanwick?s CLASP model that influences my pedagogy will
be used as a frame for exploration. During my placement all my lessons featured an aspect of
music technology. I realised that just because it is the twenty-first century and technology has
such an impact on our lives doesn?t mean that all of its implementation in lessons is authentic
and effective. The question perpetually lingered in my mind: how can I make this learning
authentic and useful, something the students can use to apply in real life, not just as a task
they have to do to move on?
In my experience with technology in the music classroom, I examined both positive
and challenging experiences, which assisted in eliciting observations of practices which
generated authentic learning, so a greater understanding of authentic pedagogical contexts
may be cultivated. It was interesting to see the variance in motivation, self-efficacy, and
engagement between students who were the same age and gender, completing similar
compositional tasks via ICT across different tasks. I devised a few key factors which I
believe to be strong influences on the differences in final products resulting from this unit of
work on composition:
1. Students had more scaffolding of musical terminology, concepts and characteristics.
2. Students had more direction (step-by-step instructions, guided planning workbooks).
3. Students were challenged to transcribe and record rather than using loops, developing
more musical skills according to Swanwick?s CLASP.
4. There was always a further step which the task could take (students needed further
instruction on how to develop their songs).
The unit of work was well-received by teachers, students and fulfilled curriculum
guidelines. I believe that this unit of work had ? authentic learning experience opportunities
and the compositions produced by students were of high quality.
I more firmly than ever believe that technology is the future of music education and
will continue to play a large role in pedagogy. I have seen the benefits and engagement in
truly authentic learning experiences, as well as the challenges in creating such environments
that will develop lifelong learning of music in students. While many students may have
originally believed that they were not necessarily musically inclined as they couldn?t play an
instrument, most were able to find success and apply knowledge from other avenues into
recording on Garage Band ? The value of technology and authentic learning in education it
will only increase. It seems that the zeitgeist is for students to develop their social skills and
experiences through authentic music technology pedagogy, providing students with an
enriched music education, a balance of informal and formal lesson styles and skills that are
transferrable to multiple disciplines ... and allows for ? age appropriate learning materials,
and flexible, individualised teaching methodologies within music education.
These excerpts present an extremely condensed version of the ideas encompassed in
the selected assessments. The three exemplars make visible the thinking about pedagogy as
each participant moved through the reflective stages and engaged in higher order thinking. It
highlights the value in providing a framework for their autoethnographies that supports
developing reflective practice and pedagogical reasoning on macro and micro levels.
Discussion and Conclusion
Using an educational connoisseurship and criticism framework applied to
autoethnography can assist in the development of reflective practice in teacher education.
Autoethnographic writing in higher education has considerable value as an assessment task
but can be a challenging, complex and far-reaching process
. The elements of
educational connoisseurship offered a structure in which students could select aspects of their
professional practice as music educators for interrogation and reflection. Students described
their experiences and understandings and placed them in their educational and social
contexts, ultimately developing knowledge constructs from their reflective engagement with
their own lived experiences. As one student confirmed, ?autoethnography is so helpful; it
validates your own personal experience [and] has provided me with greater links to my past,
and stronger foundations for my future practice?. Through this assessment we hoped to
facilitate students? sense of agency in their construction of present and future self as teacher.
Giving students the sense that they have control and the power to affect their own learning is
one of the great challenges of contemporary education
(Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012)
Reflective practice is underpinned by multifaceted cognitive and affective processes that
support and advance learning
. As educators we facilitate learning in which ?the
outcomes go beyond subject knowledge and reach into the promotion of deeper-level
learning capacities, which are transferable to new and less predictable areas?
. This approach helps ?students discover the profession by preparing them to work in
contexts of uncertainty and cope with complex situations?
(Pallisera, Fullana, Palaudarias &
Badosa, 2013, p. 587)
. Our diverse group of students are still forming themselves as
independent professional educators and this assessment sought to increase their reflective and
critical abilities to understand their own teaching practices. As experienced teachers and
academics in music education we can formulate questions that challenge students and
engender new thinking
This assessment item worked well for our students, providing them with the
opportunity to reflect critically on an aspect of their music teaching. Music students find
themselves in ?fluctuating roles ... Learning to negotiate and smooth these transitions is part
of developing a secure musical identity?
(Pitts, 2013, p. 198)
. This was a complex challenge
that offered a model for continuous reflective practice as teachers and learners. By centering
this assignment on individuals, each student could explore their own educational context and
link theory to practice. Adopting the position ?inquirer-as-witness must bring to bear an
experiential as well as scholarly intimacy with the dynamics of practice?
(Hansen, 2017, p.
. Students could explain their pedagogical practices and the socially mediated factors that
impact who they are as people, musicians and educators. Students identified varied influences
on their personal pedagogical understandings. Demonstrably it is unwise to assume a
homogeneity in student cohorts. Each student used different constructs and evidence to
inform their critical reflection. Two students might discuss the same pedagogy but their
personal understandings and applications were quite different. For example, three people
mentioned the Kod?ly approach but their pedagogical influences included lifelong learning,
formal education, constructivism, Vygotsky?s socio-cultural theory, and experiential learning.
Many of the cohort identified the influence of their own learning experiences on their
formation as teachers.
argues that before students exit higher
education, they should have accepted responsibility for their ongoing formative assessment.
The more we read, the more we realised how important it was to have an assessment that
could cater for diversity and foster critical reflection. Even within the confines of this
relatively constrained format, constructing a structured autoethnography based on educational
connoisseurship was an effective assessment strategy to employ. We acknowledge that this
study has reported data from a small cohort of students but we argue that the practices we
have described can be used in a range of subjects and courses. The guidelines for such an
assessment item should provide a writing approach, a structure, and encourage individualised
self-reflection positioned in social and pedagogical contexts. This assessment was both
guided and flexible, and fostered capacity building and critical understanding of self as
This research has revealed interesting avenues for future research that can both extend
this study and explore unanswered issues. It would be interesting to follow our participants
into their professional practice in a longitudinal study to identify the efficacy of
connoisseurship and criticism in fostering reflective educational practice and support the
collection of evidence for teaching portfolios. The combination of auto-ethnography and
educational connoisseurship and criticism as a model for teacher practice (see Figure 1) may
be applicable to other discipline areas, including but not limited to the arts. The construction
of auto-ethnographies may be a means to share practice with others and could be factored
into school-based professional learning.
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