Recording a student’s history in narrative form and reflecting on that experience for the purpose of solving problems is, in a way, a form of ethnographic fieldwork that can be used to instruct and guide the student in their development. It allows you to shift the perspective of learning from content to how the content became known. This promotes cognitive flexibility, and the ability to think about more than one concept at once, allowing the individual to move more fluidly from concept to concept. Cognitive flexibility is a skill that is very difficult for many neurologically involved students to master. It is often the cognitive source of many behavioral problems. The PBP enables you to address these issues directly and in a positive way.
I believe that every person has a given amount of energy that they will apply to their environment. I think this energy level is rooted in our biological makeup and it is hard for us to apply much more or even less of this energy, even if we wanted to. Yet what is always at issue is have we put in our full effort? Often we make judgments of other people based on our ability to apply our energy to their situation, but this is an incorrect view. The individual is the only person who can truly accurately assess this kind of internal state accurately. Therefore the ability to assess ourselves and assess the value of what we expel our energy on is critically important, and is often a skill we run away from, a skill that is rarely directly taught. In working with students toward this end I asked several kinds of questions such as: How, and to what, do you apply your energy? How can you be your best? How can you know if you’re being your best? What are you willing to apply your time and energy to become highly skilled at? By answering these kinds of questions I move a student on the path of personal enlightenment by referring them to their history and reflecting on their answers.
Foucault (as cited in Rabinow & Sullivan,1987) felt that there were three types of reflection, and I am inclined to agree with him. The first type of reflection sees the present as belonging to a certain era, distinct from any others. This is akin to what is commonly thought of as history in the academic sense. The second form of reflection can be questioned and used to predict events to come. This could be thought of as scientific reflection because of its predictive nature. His third type of reflection refers to a kind of analysis that detects a transition towards the dawning of a new world. This type of reflection is metahistorical in nature and also requires active participation of the reflector. Through my work with PBP I believe I have enabled students to comprehend all three types of reflection by having them metacognitively contemplate their own past. However, I also wonder if there are other forms of reflection yet to be expressed because in this context the student’s history becomes a tool to identify various types of reflection, a starting point in a creative process. From this perspective goal setting becomes a form of metahistory, where a student reaches into the past and projects themselves into the future.
Burbules and Phillips, (2000) in Postpositivism and Educational Research described the idea that you see only what you are of the understanding to see as our ‘theory laden perception of reality’. As an educator I am very interested in how understanding develops into a form of perception and vice versa. Our past experiences, for a multitude of reasons, are fundamental to our development of meaning. But as was illustrated by Smith (2008) in his introduction to Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage, the problem of meaning resides in how one lives one’s understandings of their beliefs. In my life I have worked with some very behaviorally out of control children, however, contrary to popular belief, I’ve never met a student who completely disregarded morality. To the contrary, I have found that the most difficult behavioral students have the greatest sensitivity to injustice and unfairness. At the same time these individuals seem incapable of perceiving the injustice of their own actions, and unfairness of their own behavior. However, through the creation of these narratives in their PBP, students become empowered to become a better version of the person they are and want to become.