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End-of-Semester Self-Evaluation

carolyn.j's picture

As a final summation and look back on my semester of Praxis work, my advisor recommended I complete a self-evaluation, along the lines of one she employs for various of her classes.  I was intriqued by this proposal, and was ultimately quite happy to have had it proposed and followed through on.  I had already had to reflect somewhat on my Praxis work in preparing a poster for the Praxis program's poster session, but this endeavor was more thorough and concerted in what it addressed. 

Additionally, this reflection is especially helpful as I look forward to Praxis next semester, and how I may retain and modify elements of what I did this fall.

The self-evaluation is posted below:

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carolyn.j's picture

Self-Evaluation

Self-reflections are not an educational tool I have often been presented with, and never have I been given one designed such that it is actually as thoughtful as the practice should require.  Looking through the work I have produced this semester in addition to the manner in which I engaged with the course as a whole, I find myself somewhat taken aback by the variety of comments I have for myself.  Just starting this reflection, I wish I had done a similar exercise in the middle of the semester, to keep myself better on track and inform myself better about what I was doing with my Praxis work.

I have the greatest trepidation going back over my online participation in my Praxis.  I followed through on the basic level of what I needed to do for my work.  With some occasional degree of lateness – but I think, overall, a reasonable promptness – I posted responses to my time at work on Monday, and then followed up with an extended annotated bibliography of a reading I had done that week.  However, I do not believe I utilized the platform Serendip provided to the best that I could have.  While I posted consistently, I failed to respond to the comments left for me there, which would have facilitated dialogue in the space of time between in-person meetings with my advisor.  Similarly, I should have spent more time experimenting with the medium as a whole.  As my advisor pointed out in our last meeting, the section title “Responses” does a poor job of expressing the content of that page – something I should have realized and addressed early on. 

In structuring an accompanying set of exercises to accompany my fieldwork, I was really pleased with what was decided upon.  The post-work reflections forced to me to sit down and truly think about what I had done, how it fit into other things I had done or read, and what my reactions to it were.  Having the perspective of the summer, where I had the benefit of fulltime work but was then able to leave everything I did at the office each day, I found the weekly reflections especially useful and insightful.  Having done those reflections, I feel much more able to speak thoughtfully about the work I was engaged in, as well as though the work had more meaning for my own personal and intellectual growth because I gave it that extra time and consideration.  Likewise, I needed the kick of an official course to get myself regularly reading the type of scholarly feminist work I did this semester, but throughout the semester I was pleased to have the prompting and requisite time commitment to read and reflect on feminist academic work. 

Overall, I found that the space for engagement, investigation and introspection provided by the Praxis program was especially helpful and worthwhile for exploring the concepts I set as my course goals.  “Praxis” itself expresses what I ultimately came to understand as the greater lesson of my course: the intersection of theory and practice.  Originally, I titled my course “Translating Feminist Theory into Feminist Politics,” which is a clear demonstration of my perspective: I was approaching the work as a student who had only primarily engaged with feminist philosophy, and wanted to examine and pursue the implementation of that philosophy.  What I learned from a semester’s combination of academic and fieldwork, and especially when it was spelled out clearly for me in one of the later readings I did (Carolyn Dever, Skeptical Feminism), was that there is no line from one to the other.  Theory and practice grow and develop in tandem, each informing and influencing the other.  If I have concerns about how the two relate, I should approach not as an error in translation from theory to practice, but as a failure of communication and dialogue between them. 

Moving forward into next semester, this is the key understanding I will take with me in reexamining and rethinking my Praxis work.  Looking back to my effective use of the Serendip platform, my initial linear assumption of theory into politics is reflected in my similarly dichotomous structure of reflections and reading responses.  The two sides of my work needed to be brought into more concerted conversation – especially given their clear representations of the theory/practice divide – and while I began to incorporate more references back and forth as the semester went on, the visual separation was a poor choice and should have been rectified.

As I plan for the future I also hope to be able to incorporate more conversation into my course structure.  Acknowledging that I did myself a disservice by not taking advantage of the conversational capacity embodied by commenting on posts, I do still wish I had more opportunities to really discuss my work.  My favorite moments with the out-of-office side of my work were the discussions I had with those around me – from my advisor, to coworkers, even to friends (who may have been more or less interested, but at least willing to humor me). 

I also learned from this endeavor the degree to which I need to be held accountable, and to which I find structure helpful.  Knowing that I had agreed to a deadline for posting various weekly assignments was key to getting myself to get the work done in a more timely manner – which was important, given that my weekly reflections would have lost something if I left them sitting for too long, allowing the memories to grow more distant.  My weekly readings are a good indication of my need for deadlines: with only my next Monday at work a vague date by which to finish them, they often got put off until then. 

Additionally, I found the lack of structured readings difficult.  My advisor and I knew this would be difficult from the outset – she has been more than wonderful as an academic advisor; but it remains that she has little background in the social science areas I wanted to focus my work.  While I feel strongly that our conversations about my reflections and work were extremely helpful – especially on the concept of feminism(s) in general – neither she nor I had good field knowledge of what readings and works would be helpful to inform my investigation of feminist political theory and practice.  My weekly searches for material to read were enjoyable, and I came across many interesting texts; but I know that my selections lacked concerted connection to one another, and I think my long-term use and retention of them suffered for that. 

Leaving this semester of Praxis, then, I feel encouraged by what I have learned with regards to my stated course aim of exploring theory and practice.  And while I have concerns about my ability to self-schedule work and online engagement, I hope that having sat down to write this reflection and acknowledge these failures, I will be better able to note them and address them. 

 

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