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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Praxis, reflexivity and identity: career learning in the undergraduate classroom Rawes, Kimberley


As emerging professionals, students require opportunities to explore aspects of their identity and engage with praxis and phronesis in order to think purposefully about the moral implications of their actions. Biochemistry students learn advanced technical skills that have the potential to change the human and natural world in novel ways, and many of these practices, like gene editing, have unknown long-term consequences. These technical skills are not value neutral, and as emerging professionals, students ought to engage in praxis in order to examine how to act for the greater social good with the skills and knowledge they attain during their degree. Each day in the classroom is an opportunity for praxis where students consider who they are, who they becoming, and how their disciplinary learning informs their professional identity. Praxis combines theoretical and technical understanding with lived experience as a professional and incorporates principled-actions in service of a better world. Phronesis, is a mindset oriented towards the moral and ethical implications of one’s actions as a professional, and it originates from sustained praxis. This research explores the professional identity third-year biochemistry students developed through strengths-based reflection in a laboratory course. The students in this study submitted a reflection about their experiences and learning associated with Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. Critical discourse analysis was applied to interpret their reflections and to identify influences on the development of professional identity. Each student’s submission provided an example of the narratives student’s internalized from their observations and experiences up until this point in their degree. When analyzed together, broader social narratives emerged that depict the importance of student’s sense of agency as emerging professionals. When students name their strengths, they take power of their role in learning and developing their professional identity. Preparing career ready graduates with praxis as professionals transcends skills and job training. It prepares students to be purposeful in their lives and to act with a sense of what is morally right. For this type of career learning to take place, instructors must make intentional choices to include and prioritize professional development in conjunction with disciplinary-content.

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