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Effort Counts -ways of learning, online and off


Assessment of learning journals and the value of reflective writing for undergraduates and graduates using Bubbl.us to construct the knowledge map from an initial sketch on a fag packet.

With special thanks to fellow student Lesley Morrell who shared this software with us in the first place. I like it as a draft before Compendium, where I will take it next.


Resource Guided

In which the author does their directed reading, as per the brief. Scanning a few reports, choosing the few than can be covered in the allocated time and drawing their conclusions from these alone.

Tutor Guided

In which the author first follows, then seeks clarification and support for the route to take. This may have at its heart the concern or interest in ‘how do I get the marks’ for anything that may be required for assessment. (The balanced approach is to draw upon the tutor as an additional guide to all the others in blue)

Course Guided

In which the author aims to do as the institution course moderator), awarding body requires. Previous knowledge of this, or other such like institutions will help. With the caveat: ‘A collaboration of strangers’. In which a forced grouping (of convenience, without bias/favour) is constructed and required to perform as if they have come together naturally.


In which the author draws more fully on their own experience of this kind of thing, through reading and practice, as a student, employee, child/sibling or parent …


In which the author through choice or influence takes the wrong path. If working in isolation, not seeking or receiving tutor or peer group feed-back they either go off on the wrong path, or they wander aimlessly like a boat without a rudder. A certain way to disillusionment, delusion and/or depression.

Collaboration as peer guidance

In which one or two fellow students take on a mentoring or partnering or even a paternalistic/maternalistic role. They become a more trusted and understanding friend whose shared journey, experience, intelligence and way of putting things keeps you straight, or puts you back on track. Perhaps more effective where the group that collaborates is self-forming. In which an informal, larger grouping of people support one, several or each other through the process. Perhaps as effective, if not more so, where someone takes a leadership role. Either way symbiosis or reciprocity may (or may not) be expected or required.

Self-forming Collaborative

In which an informal, larger grouping of people support one, several or each other through the process.


In which the author, through following up references within references finds a meaning and ‘truth’ that is deeper and more meaningful to them. It is therefore given greater weight (whether or not this will be respect or followed up in the course of assessment).


The idea that the author does as they please. They express or ‘perform’ a typed-up, written-out ‘stream of consciousness’ – ‘free thinking’ if you like.


In which the author goes off in a world of their own. Dropping in thoughts and ideas from any old place, even if referenced, they are drawing on their entire life experience, anything they are reading at the time, or may have picked up from the internet, TV or radio in the last hour.


The idea that the author does a comprehensive job, though this may be descriptive, rather than reflective or thoughtful. The ground is covered in a systematic, probably linear way – which in effect resulted in Dewey 19933) first thinking about a better approach.


In which the author play Huck Finn (in which he gets friends to paint a fence for him). This might be considered more devious, than resourceful as it implies building on, though hopefully not plagiarising the thinking of others. It may include reading all the suggested resources, but may also imply seeking out something more current that may very well answer the exact question for which they are seeking the answer.

The next step, even if the word count has been exceed, is to put it through Compendium to add underlying reports and references.

I’ve already had a great experience of producing a project briefing document in Compendium, sharing this withou someone several hundred miles away and then discussing it on Skype. Compendium meant that he got what is clearly a draft, a working document, the way my mind has thus far thought the project through. He could then indulge where necessary his greater curiosity by reading the attached notes, documents or reports.

The trick with this continued reflection on reflection, beyond due dates, word counts or reading lists, will be to wrap it all up at some stage, editing along the way, and if it is going to be submissable, reducing it to a 500 word count.

This has to be the eighth or ninth effort at this, forays that have yet to benefit from the kind of academic rigour and effort that will no doubt deliver an end result.

The fear is that this is like shooting an arrow at the moon, when the target is 60 yards away – clear as dandy. But this is who I am, and how I approach things. The trick is to pay me on a fixed-fee basis, because you may pay for 20 hours effort, but you’ll get 60.


‘All that hard work I did ought to count’

‘All that hard work I did ought to count’ Creme (2010)

A student, habitually wrote up her reading in a descriptive formulaic fashion without exploring the content or the process she was going through. She felt grieved that she was marked down having felt she had put in the effort. The effort, despite guidance, had not delivered what was being marker.

Some further notes:

Academic reflection is … more structured and more formal than what we will term ‘informal’ reflection. Moon (1999)

There is no point in defining reflection in a manner that does not relate to the everyday use of the word if further confusion is not to be created. Moon (2001)

  • It is an everyday, ever apparent process that is over theorised. It is simpler than academics want it to be.

‘Reflection is a simple process but with complex outcomes that relate to many different areas of human functioning.’ Moon (2005:4)

  • Surely the outcomes are meant to be simple and finite, while the process can be complex.

Reflection is theorised in so many different ways that it might seem that we a looking at range of human capacities rather than apparently one. Moon (2001)

  • It can be misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Dewey (1933) saw reflection as a specialised form of thinking. ‘a kind of thinking that consists in turning a subject over in the mind and giving it serious thought’

  • Like composting.

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)

The cycle revolves with new learning undergoing active experimentation and ‘recycled’ through new experiencing. In this way what was a cycle becomes a spiral (Cowan 1998).

  • Or flying a Peter Powell Stunt Kite.
  • [Has this got anything to do with Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. 1996?] No, though the thinking developed as a management practice sounds similar. See where Google gets you? Call this serendipity. Our Cowan is Cowan, J. 1996)

A kind of cognitive ‘housekeeping role’ as well as generating new learning (Moon, 1999).


Cowan, J. and Creme, P. ((1998)) New forms of student writing in social anthropology. Learning Matters 8 , pp. 11-12.

Creme, Phyllis (2010) ‘Should student learning journals be assessed?’, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30:3, 287 – 296

Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think. A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process(Revised edn.), Boston: D. C. Heath.

Moon, J (1999) Reflection in Learning & Professional Development: Theory and Practice.

Moon, J (2001) Reflection in Higher Education

Reflection on Learning

Guide for busy academics. No.4 Notes. Learning through reflection.

Jenny Moon, University of Exeter – the guide. Upright.

Jonathan Vernon, my thoughts – my reflection(s), in italics and (parenthesies) as if I don’t quite mean it. Or do I? These thoughts just pop into my head. They bubble up from nowhere. (Reflection or an unfortunate chemical condition called myelination.)

PDP can involve many forms of reflection and reflective learning.

A mysterious activity … or capacity? (or indulgence)

‘it lies somewhere around the notion of learning.’ (What on earth is meant by that?)

(Plenty of people reflect, it is apparent in those people who listen during meetings. When they have something to say it is because they have taken on board various ideas and are then able to summarise and offer their own thoughts. They don’t need to write it down, all they have to do is sit forward and concentrate on what is being said, rather than thinking about what they would like to say.)

Generally reflection is a means of working on what we know already and it generates new knowledge.

(I disagree. Why reflect on something you know already? Surely not giving it a second thought applies when you understand something, better when you can act intuitively. On the contrary, the time to reflect is when you don’t understand, or your thinking has been changed and you need think twice?)

Reflection is a form of mental processing that we use to fulfil a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome.

(I disagree. Reflection can be a form of indulgence, a pastime, an entertainment. Indeed, does this author not start out by calling it a ‘mysterious activity … or capacity?’ Nothing they have thus said convinces me that they know otherwise.)

It is applied to gain a better understanding of relatively complicated or unstructured ideas and is largely based on the reprocessing of knowledge, understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess.

(Two words worry me here, ‘relatively’ and ‘largely’ suggest to me someone who doesn’t know, who is hedging their bets and has no evidence to support what they are saying.)

Reflection has a role in:

• academic and non-academic learning
• self development
• critical review
• considering our own processes of mental functioning
• decision-making
• emancipation and empowerment and so on.

(And here it is tag on, cover-all, phrase ‘and so on’ that worries me. A list. An open list. Why not just say ‘reflection has a role in everything.’)

Perhaps it should be called ‘reflectivism’ this obsession with navel gazing.

(It will work for some, not for others. And just because someone reflects a great deal, does not mean they find any deeper truth as a result, or as a result are then capable of deciding a way out of this intellectual impasse and turn thoughts into actions.)

There is a close relationship between reflection and emotion or feelings and many would suggest that the use of reflection in academic contexts provides an appropriate channel for exploration or expression of this human function.

(This is just poor English or Jenny has been listening to too much of ‘Just a minute … trying somewhat awkwardly to avoid using the same word twice.)

Self-awareness and control of emotions is an important factor in academic performance and PDP provides opportunities for emotional engagement with subject learning.

(Perhaps I’ll buy into this based on what I have read on ‘How to study’ in Richard Northridge’s OU book of 1990)

What’s more effective than reflection? Debate.

(And if open, formal debate in the style of a debating society is not feasible, then at least engaged discussion in a tutorial-like setting is required. This makes information stick, this transforms they way you think, changes behaviour and builds knowledge. Reflection doesn’t have teeth, it lacks the emotional edge of tussle with colleagues, fellow students, subject matter experts and senior tutors.)

Reflection compared to debate, is the difference between tea and scones and a bun-fight. Which are you going to remember?

Reflection is tame, learning should be a wild tiger.

• being reflective slows down learning, because it requires time for a learner to reprocess ideas.

(It can cause learning to grind to a halt. If all you are doing is traveling across the same ground. Reflection as a dog chasing its tail, not even that, reflection as a dog chewing its own tail.)

• material on which we reflect is relatively complicated or unstructured material. It challenges learners and when they are challenged, they gain greater abilities in dealing with difficult material of learning.

(We agree on this. But I don’t believe that reflection engenders challenge. Nor do I think, should students share their ‘reflection’ that this should be challenged unless the tutor or moderator wishes to or is trained to act as a kind of therapist who helps the reflective process along, by turning old thoughts into new ones, then seeking and agreeing a way forward.)

I don’t feel challenged by this ‘guide,’ only irritated. Irritation does not foster reflection or debate.

There are many vehicles for reflective learning in the curriculum:

• learning journals, logs etc
• the use of portfolios
• reflection on work experiences
• reflection on placement experiences beyond the deliberate curriculum
• in the context of peer and self assessment
• in the context of careers work, counseling or student or personal development work.

(How about reflection without ever writing it down, or recording it? Just person to person, not talking to yourself in a mirror, or talking to yourself at all, but by speaking with a friend, or colleague, or mentor, or ‘significant other.’)

There are some things to think about when asking students to reflect.

(i.e. before you reflect, reflect and before you get students to reflect, reflect. Indeed, why not stop and think again, think twice, think trice.)

‘You think too much.’

If labels stick, this one stuck. Time to move on, or not. Perhaps I’ll reflect on it.

Perhaps I just did?


Northridge, Andrew (1990) The Good Study Guide. Open University.

The Higher Education Academy
Guide for Busy Academics No.4
Learning through reflection

Resources for Reflection

(18 September – 1 October)

Unit 2 (part 2): Reflection and learning

Core texts

Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (2009) ‘Completed RLOs – study skills’ (online), Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Available from: http://www.rlo-cetl.ac.uk/whatwedo/rlos/completedrlos.php#studyskills (JV accessed 28 SEPT 2010).

Crème, P. (2005) ‘Should student learning journals be assessed?’Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 287–96. Available from: http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602930500063850 (JV accessed 25 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 (JV accessed 26 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 (JV accessed 27 SEPT 2010).

Smith, C. and Haynes, R. (2005) ‘Reflective writing RLO’, London Metroplitan University. Available from: http://intralibrary.rlo-cetl.ac.uk:8080/intralibrary/open_virtual_file_path/i1026n24186t/reflective_writing/reflective_writing.html (JV accessed 28 SEPT 2010).

Smith, M. (1996) ‘Reflection: what constitutes reflection – and what significance does it have for educators? The contributions of Dewey, Schön, and Boud et al. assessed’ (online), The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education. Available from: http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-reflect.htm (JV accessed 26 SEPT 2010).

Supplementary resources

Chen, H.L., Cannon, D., Gabrio, J., Leifer, L., Toye, G. and Bailey, T. (2005) ‘Using wikis and weblogs to support reflective learning in an introductory engineering design course’ [online], paper presented at the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Research & Innovation in Engineering Education. Available from: http://riee.stevens.edu/fileadmin/riee/pdf/ASEE2005_Paper_Wikis_and_Weblogs.pdf (accessed 25 May 2010).

ERIC Digests, http://www.ericdigests.org/ (accessed 25 May 2010). Enter a keyword search for ‘reflection’.

Lister, S. (n.d.) Do it Yourself Reflectionhttp://www.educause.edu/blog/slister/DoityourselfReflection/165694 (accessed 25 May 2010).

Making Practice-Based Learning Work (n.d.), Reflectionhttp://www.practicebasedlearning.org/resources/reflection/intro.htm (accessed 25 May 2010).

Reiss, D. (n.d.) Donna Reiss’ Active Learning Online Resourceshttp://wordsworth2.net/webfolio/ (accessed 23 June 2009). See also a sample reflective hypertext essay at http://wordsworth2.net/webfolio/refhypertext.htm(accessed 25 May 2010).

Richards, C. (2005) ‘Activity-reflection e-portfolios: an approach to the problem of effectively integrating ICTs in teaching and learning’ (online), Teaching and Learning Forum, Curtin University of Technology. Available from: http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2005/refereed/richards.html (accessed 25 May 2010).

Sierra, K. (n.d.) Karina’s Writing Portfolio Wikihttp://cooper.pbwiki.com/Karina (accessed 25 May 2010).

Smith, M.K. (1996/2007) ‘David A. Kolb on experiential learning’ (online), The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education. Available from: http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-explrn.htm (accessed 30 SEPT 2010).

Trafford, P. (2005) ‘Mobile blogs, personal reflections and learning environments’ (online), Ariadne no. 44 (July). Available from: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue44/trafford/intro.html (accessed 25 May 2010).

University of Denver (n.d.) DU Portfolio Communityhttps://portfolio.du.edu/pc/index (accessed 25 May 2010). Enter ‘reflection’ in the keyword search box for examples of student reflection.

University of Warwick (2004) Recording, Summarizing & Reflectinghttp://www2.warwick.ac.uk/elearning/tools/blogbuilder/recordreflect/ (accessed 25 May 2010).





Reflection and the need or otherwise of compulsory interaction in e-learning

Assessing your capacity to reflect ‘on your development’

  • In the Masters in Open and Distance Education Course Guide for module H808 (p.7) it says that “we regard [the reflective commentary] as equally academic because it deals with knowledge that is constructed during the course. (Although this knowledge is more subjective and not intended to be confirmed or refuted, rather it is self-knowledge for the writer)”
  • Cognitive Housekeeping

    • Moon (2001) draws on other theorists such as Schon, Dewey and Kolb in her paper. I had never questioned why certain work events make me reflect and others do not, but I think the point about reflecting on complex and challenging issues/events, as a means of ‘cognitive housekeeping’ resonated with my personal experience. A Student.
    • I think assignments are designed as prototype reflections for the final course assignment, perhaps to help with the unfamiliarity/unease and get us used to reflective writing before the assignment (as Moon suggests, reflection as a gradual process aimed at getting students started, then deepening their reflections). Another Student.

    ‘involving emotions helps to promote reflectiveness.Moon (2002) cited in Salmon (2002)

    Moon (2005) describes reflection as an essential component of good quality learning and the representation of that learning. A Student

    (Moon, 1999a) as the reflection itself helps learners realize the depth of their knowledge and understanding therefore the notion of reflection functions as means of learning something new as well as harmonizing prior knowledge and experiences in the process. A Student

    This process of arriving at an idea of what is absent on the basis of what is at hand is inference. What is present carries of bears the mind over to the idea and ultimately the acceptance of something else.” (Dewey 1933:190) A Student

    Jenny Moon suggests that learners undertake either a deep or surface approach towards a learning task.

    A deep approach is seen when the learner understands the meaning whilst a surface approach focuses on memorizing the material as it is by not trying to connect it with previous understanding. Developing a deep approach to a learning task as an ideal path can be well achieved with the help of giving learners the chance to represent learning in different ways, in the form of a presentation, graphic display, mind mapping, essay writing, forum posting, keeping a learning journal, logs, diaries, portfolios, peer-reviewing and personal development planning. Another Student

    Phyliss Creme (2005) The compulsory nature of core activities might support the underlying approach that reflective activity “should be recognized part of the assessment process; otherwise students would not take them seriously”

    Building our professional development portfolio in four areas of competency; practice-related, communication-related, technology-related and research-related support formal assessment with different ways of thinking rather than the traditional means.

    Especially at initials stages of a reflective activity learners would need a reader to reach at for feedback and this is possible with the help of blogging tools.

    As Creme (2005) observes in the 10-week course, “One or more of the two-hour seminars was given over to the students reading each other’s journals. This was generally very productive, the most useful outcome being the students’ growing respect for each other’s work and realizing how diverse each other’s experiences, thinking and way of writing could be”.


    Crème, P. (2005) ‘Should student learning journals be assessed?’, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 287–96. Available from: http://www.informaworld.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/smpp/section?content=a713605501&fulltext=713240928 (accessed 30 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).

    Salmon, G (2002) E-tivities
    Smith, M. (1996) ‘Reflection: what constitutes reflection – and what significance does it have for educators? The contributions of Dewey, Schön, and Boud et al. assessed’ (online), The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education. Available from: http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-reflect.htm (accessed 21 Sept 2010).

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