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Reflection in Higher Education


Reflection is ‘cognitive housekeeping.’ Moon (2005). OU Student Jane Barret (2010) doubts that Moon supplies evidence, feels that ‘critical thinking’ is a better term and that Moon (and others) are trying to make something abstract concrete. I prefer to think of reflection in an academic setting as ‘guided consideration and compartmentalisation of the material you’re working with.’

Reflection in the context of studying requires the student to hold a mirror up to their student-selves. Efforts to get things straight in your head, to generate your own take on the topic being studied may go awry on take one, shape up in take two, and, one would hope, comes together by take three. Reflection on this process helps establish the final thoughts. In the OU context where is take one and take two? Some of it is undertaken in the forum, some of it in the blog. Either way, feedback, comment and critique as well as marking is the way to pass through these cognitive stages. Nothing obliges one to reflect more than success or failure, a hearty slap on the back, or a slap across the face. You do well, you want to do better; you do badly, you want to put it right. You reflect on this and find a better way forward. Wherein lies the importance, in e-learning, of comment and collaboration, using what the Internet affords, those around you whose different take and experience can add colour and understanding to your efforts.

Reflection is like making a buerre blanc, which is made by reducing white wine vinegar with stock, a shallot and then carefully adding cubes of unsalted butter. In other words, reflection is at first a gathering in of the correct resources and then a reduction of these resources.

Drawing on what Dewey says, that reflection is ‘a kind of thinking that consists in turning a subject over in the mind and giving it serious thought’ makes me think of composting. You put all kinds of bits and pieces in that over time, reduces down to plant food and fibre, or in the case of reflection, a sentence or two that sum up your thinking.

Dewey defined reflective thought as ‘active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends’ (Dewey 1933: 118)

Both of these ideas imply a ‘deep approach’ to learning, wherein lies the value of reflection. You take the experience of reading and interacting with others, and draw some tentative conclusions; you achieve more than simply itemising what others have already expressed ‘surface learning’.

Reflection is a process that both reduces and gathers in. The end result ought to be something potent and memorable.

REFERENCE

Barret, J c2.4 Reflection and learning (2) my views. OU. (Accessed 28 SEPT 2010)

Moon, J. (2001) ‘PDP working paper 4: reflection in higher education learning’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id72_Reflection_in_Higher_Education_Learning.rtf (accessed 25 Sept 2010).

Moon, J. (2005) ‘Guide for busy academics no. 4: learning through reflection’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id69_guide_for_busy_academics_no4.doc (accessed 28 Sept 2010).

Moon, JA (2006), Learning Journals : A Handbook For Reflective Practice And Professional Development, London: Routledge, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)

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