10 Reflective Models

This is an essay I wrote for a class while I was pursuing my M.S. in Experiential Education. This was a course focused on the pedagogical importance of facilitating reflection from learners. Assignment: to collect, summarize, and write about 10 items found throughout the internet that pertain to guiding reflections for others.

Stained Glass Game Poem

This is a simple game for three or more players about diving into each other's memories. The only materials necessary are paper and a colored pen for each player. As players take turns, they inspire memories in each other, or retell another player's memory from an invented point of view. It is called a game poem because the rules are very short, and the experience is meant to communicate a feel rather than a narrative.

Considering all the ways that one can reflect on an experience, it is good to not always use homework-ish styles like writing or constructing a project. Sometimes a simple, fun, collaborative game will inspire deeper connections and understandings than a more traditional kind of assignment.

Also interesting about this game poem is that players do not come up with their own subject of reflection - rather, players inspire each other by writing words in each other's gamespace. Important to remember that you can often reflect more effectively with a little help from your friends.

The Antidisciplinarithon

This event is amazing. There are only two stages: Collaboration, which lasts just ninety minutes, and then Presentation. People from all kinds of different disciplines are brought together and paired in odd combinations - game design and teaching, healthcare policy and distributed mathematics, bioengineering and ethnomusicology. The flow of ideas seems to be electric and colorful.

The presentations for this program are quick, sketchy, and obviously full of brilliant ideas. For our reflective purposes, it is good to see such bright people using such simple whiteboard images to communicate the content of their discussions. Capturing an experience can be difficult and perhaps impossible, but that shouldn't stop anyone from trying. Don't get it right; get it written.

Electronic Rituals, Oracles and Fortune Telling

This course on digital oracles is a self-directed introduction to systems of divination such as Tarot, dream interpretation, and channeling, and how those systems are being used in the modern world. I am interested in the way that divination can adjust the cycle of learning we are familiar with in Experiential Education.

In most situations, the cycle of learning goes like this: Experience -> Reflection -> Understanding, meaning that after we go through an experience, we reflect on it, and through that reflection, come to understand what we have experienced. However, fortune-telling technologies such as Tarot give a person tools to reflect on an experience before it happens. This changes our cycle to: Reflection -> Experience -> Understanding. Divination systems allow learners to pre-organize their thoughts around a situation so that when it occurs, they are able to more effectively move towards understanding.

Feelings Checkin

This is a simple yet strong activity to include in any reflective circle. The crucial act of sharing your feelings in a safe and private environment can release everyone to do their best work.

I especially like the addition here of everyone being able to choose whether they want feedback, or whether they only want to be heard. Also, the symbolic importance of the Speaking Object cannot be understated: the totem of speech lets one "hold the floor" in a very real way.

Feelings can often be left out of the reflective process, especially when a group is reflecting on a brain-heavy learning experience. Include it every time anyway! Feelings are the color and vibrancy behind and in between every kind of experience. Let 'em out!

Autopsy Report

An autopsy report is a kind of reflection that contains no interpretation. The hyperdetail of these reports is striking, and overwhelming to someone like me who has very little anatomical vocabulary. A good autopsy report, it seems, is so thorough that it can be reviewed as its own experience and artifact, even though it is abstracted from the "raw data" of the corpse itself.

It is interesting to consider this kind of objectivity when reflecting on experience. Under some circumstances, it may be valuable to include so much detail that your reflection itself can be interpreted and analyzed by others.

I am reminded of Samuel Pepys' diary, an enormous work encumbered by the mind-numbing detail of the everyday. However, without this diary, we would know only a fraction of what the English world was like in the 17th century. In historical and forensic situations, a reflective process heavy on detail and light on interpretation may serve the public more than a short and sweet analysis of events.

Military After Action Reviews and Reports

This document is a study and critique of various after-action reviews (AARs) conducted in real situations by military personnel. Because of the demanding nature and pace of combat, AARs are vitally important for cataloguing, compressing, and communicating lessons learned in the field.

The findings of this study are excellent and simple. For example, it was found that using a lecture format was seriously uneffective (and boring), while inviting discussion from everyone led to a much deeper AAR. Good reviewers reminded their troops to "listen respectfully to each other in a spirit of self-improvement" and that "there are no right or wrong answers, but there are reasons why things went right and wrong."

One more specific lesson was to allow key points of the discussion to come up naturally, without being imposed by the facilitator. The study mentions several examples of people in leadership roles taking much too much time explaining or lecturing on a topic that was not important to the operation at large and was not relevant to anyone else in the room. Rather, important subjects can be come upon by honest discussion and consensus.

North House Folk School Internship Blog

This is a blog post written by my friend and fellow North House intern Nia Zekan. At the end of our internship, the three of us were each invited to write a blog post reflecting on our year in Grand Marais. Alex's article and my article are great, of course, but I think Nia's format is especially interesting. It is organized into what I would call an instagram format: simple images with very short captions, arranged in a significant order.

We hear a lot about how social media melts our brains and screws with our mental health. However, the content on most social media platforms is a very simple and direct curation of a person's work. I think these styles of presentation can be very strong reflective formats when stripped of their likes, shares, and follows.

Crow Work

Peter Grey is here writing about a walk he took to an ancient stone circle near London. He finds several discarded relics of amateur witchery - offerings of money, flowers, and constructed objects. Sorcery, witchcraft, and other ritual practices are all about manipulating subjective experience to encourage new ways of thinking and acting in the world. This means that all these ritual objects found by Grey are indeed artifacts of reflection.

He sees these objects as desecrations and distractions, essentially magickal graffiti. So he starts in on what he calls "crow work", the collecting and dismantling of ritual artifacts. "I am still furious, and so here is my autopsy report from half an hour of crow work... the patient removal of debris by groups and individuals, and the cursing of all the items found on site."

I don't know if I agree with his anger or his actions. However, his interactions with the reflective artifacts of other people can lead us towards some interesting questions. How does one interact with objects of such hyper-personal reflection? Is it possible to separate the experiences that a location invites from the location itself? Why does a stone ring deserve to stay, but offerings deserve to be banished?

Tomorrow Don't Come

"Feel understood if you are a sufferer of depression yourself. Gain insight into this mental health issue as someone who is not affected. Whatever it may be, I hope this experience will be some sort of help to you as well." This is how the creator of Tomorrow Don't Come introduces their work.

This is a short and very bare video game made by someone in the depths of depression, and it communicates very much by using very little. This reflective piece offers the possibility that a reflection can, in itself, be an experience that reflects the original experience! This game invites the player into the world of the creator, into their interpretation of their lived emotions. Most of the reflective practices in this list are static artifacts, but this absolutely requires full participation and interaction. What a powerful reflection indeed!

Rune Soup on Recapitulation