The importance of learning from each other: using collaborative auto-ethnography to reimagine ‘experiential learning’ pedagogy in an increasingly virtual world

Year: 2021

Author: Valiente-Riedl, Elisabeth, Fletcher, Jennifer, Robinson, Helena

Type of paper: Individual Paper

For the Higher Education sector to maintain relevance and responsiveness in an era of dramatic social and technological change, its capability to continuously revise and even reinvent  teaching approaches is vital.  ‘Experiential  learning’ pedagogy, designed to ground students in the real world of work,  is uniquely valued for providing students access to  physical, on-site, vocational experiences and the rich networks they bring. Yet, the increasing digitisation of learning and work,  most dramatically in the context of the ongoing global pandemic, necessitates educators reimagine how experiential learning can be virtually and even asynchronously delivered, while remaining authentic.In this context, collaborative autoethnography (CAE) offers a methodology that uniquely permits educators to jointly interrogate and revise their practices, while simultaneously learning from each other (Chang, Ngunijiri & Hernandez, 2016). If we consider that educators are themselves participants in their own (teaching) ‘experience’, we can activate experimentation and innovation only through engaging in reflective practice (Kolb & Kolb, 2018). Applying the CAE approach to collaborative reflection in education - particularly in experiential learning contexts where multiple stakeholders interact - gains further relevance by incorporating Brookfield’s (1997) ‘four lenses’ of critical teacher reflection (self, student, peer and scholarship). In this collaboration, we share and evaluate  our recent experience of using CAE research to critically examine our teaching responses to the rapid shift to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. As four educators teaching into a common senior undergraduate experiential learning program, we experimented with CAE methodology to cooperatively assess and adapt our teaching practice. Our experience was immediately validating as we discovered shared challenges and concerns, which inspired us to co-craft strategies for improvement. This not only dismantled communication boundaries that were established through the isolation of remote working conditions, but also facilitated structured self-reflection and augmentation of teaching practice through constructive questioning and feedback from colleagues.   Our experiences with CAE suggest its strong potential to amplify teachers’ ability to critically examine their interactions with students, colleagues, educational theory and external partners.  This positions CAE with the potential to meaningfully contribute to a future culture of more reflexive, agile and student-focussed teaching practice.Brookfield, S.D. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. John Wiley & Sons.Kolb, A., & Kolb, D. A. (2018). Eight important things to know about the Experiential Learning Cycle. Australian Educational Leader, 40(3), 8–14.Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F.,  & Hernandez, K-A., C. (2016). Collaborative autoethnography. Routledge.