Laura “Lau” Malaver, Doctoral Student, Ethnic Studies
Over the course of Lau’s teaching career at CU, which spans an MA in Spanish Literature and now a doctoral degree in Ethnic Studies, they have taught a range of courses including Contemporary African American Social Movements, Introduction to Critical Sports Studies, Introduction to Africana Studies, and Spanish Language I. Throughout all of these, they have used the practice of reflection-action-reflection, a key pedagogical concept developed in 1970 by Paulo Friere. As Friere states: “It is not enough for people to come together in dialogue to gain knowledge of their social reality. They must act together upon their environment in order critically to reflect upon their reality and so transform it through further action and critical reflection.”
In Lau’s courses, students actively engage in critical consciousness raising practices by writing, sketching, or jotting responses to weekly reflection prompts. Students learn material, practice what is learned through reflection, embody knowledge through actions, and produce reflective practices through dialogue with self and others. Through these classroom actions, Lau can observe how student’s participation and knowledge production improve as the semester progresses. To better assess student understanding and learning, students then provide feedback through a mid-semester reflection survey and FCQs at semester’s end. In both student’s responses and practice of critical consciousness in collaboration with their peers in the classroom, they can engage with the material in a much more embodied and tangible way.
When asked how all of this can contribute to an inclusive classroom, Lau had the following to say:
"The implementation of reflection-action-reflection embraces all of the students in my classroom because of the preparatory work we do at the beginning of the semester and throughout. That is, by learning what the students are seeking to get from the course material; what they are willing to provide and give to the course; and why they find the course material important and/or beneficial to their growth. I can then find points of affinity and commonality (resurgent themes) to reflect upon as individuals and as a class. Therefore, the inclusion of all students through the reflection-action-reflection pedagogical tool occurs at multiple stages and through various ways; some students focus on their need to self-reflection, others feel ready to enact action where it feels right, and still others do a combination of both reflection and action. I specifically believe that to transform ourselves and our world, we need to raise our consciousness through reflection, and then find our praxis, that which is action-based through daily practices based on our abilities and capabilities. Overall, this pedagogical tool works only when students find their space of comfort and challenge themselves to move outside of their comfort zones. Therefore, it is a co-constructive medium that embraces students' learning process and action-based work.”
Although Lau received praise for their overall teaching, one student noted Lau’s ability to utilize the reflective practice in their class: "Lau was absolutely amazing. I felt supported by them and critical thinking was fostered in such a special way in recitations. I will miss them and their classroom a lot. I love the reflection journals we used in recitation to engage with the material."
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder, 1970.