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Why did the people on a course I ran learn what they learned?

Fig. 1. Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ reversioned.

I did something …

This is my take on Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ which I will use to explore what I ‘did’. I ran a creative problem solving workshop. The motivation for attendees was to pick up some creative problem solving techniques, to solve a problem we had with using social media and to do some team building. The objective for me was to crack this problem and to introduce a more creative and collaborative approach to problem solving.

Fig. 2. Coach to Olympians running a workshop – part class, part ‘pool side’

I couldn’t help but draw on experience as a Club Swimming Coach planning programmes of swimming for a squad swimmers and as the ‘workforce development’ running training programmes for our club’s teachers and coaches. Planning and preparation when you are putting athletes in the pool several times a week over months is vital. On a smaller scale this workshop required a schedule, to the minute, with some contingency, allowing you to build in flexibility for both content and timings.

Fig. 3. Planned to the minute – my creative problem solving workshop

The plan was for five to six creative problem solving techniques to be used, top and tailed by, using terms from swimming, a ‘warm up’ and a ‘warm down’. The modus operandi of the Residential School had been to introduce, experience and play with as many creative problem solving techniques as possible.

Fig. 4. As a prop, food and aid memoir a bunch of bananas has multiple uses

‘Bunch of Bananas’ is a creative problem solving technique that suggests that you include in the group a ‘plant’ – a person over whom other’s will slip, like the proverbial banana. My take on this was to introduce two outsiders – a Russian academic who would bring a different take on things and the a mathematician and senior programmer.

Fig. 5. ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’ is a great warm up, while stretching like an Olympic swimmer was an apt ‘warm down’ at the end of the session.

We did a warm up called  ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’. This is the team equivalent of ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ where two teams face each other and on the count of three, having agreed what their response would as a team, they either ‘Tut-tut’ and wag their finger like a mother-in-law, ‘growl’ and get their claws out like a Tiger, or shout ‘ha!’ while posing like a Samurai warrior brandishing his sword. This is the ‘warm down’ to stick with the swimming coaching metaphor was to have participants get into the ‘streamlined’ position that swimmers adopt – essentially a stretching exercise.

Fig. 6. Human Sculpture and Timeline are useful ways to have people look at and feel a problem in a different way and from a different angle.

In between we did a mixture of physical and mental activities, including Human Sculpture where one person becomes the sculptor and uses everyone else to form a tableau or sculpture that expresses their talk on the problem. Another was timeline where you imagine looking at the problem from the perspective of the past and future.

Now, stand back  …

Standing back I’d say that running a workshop for colleagues has advantages and disadvantages. How would a director or line manager feel about their views being exposed like this. On the other hand if well managed it becomes a team building exercise too.

The challenge is to know what risks to take and how to build in flexibility, not just in timing, but in the kind of activities. This requires that despite the plan you are alert to signals that suggest an activity should be developed or dropped.

Workshops and seminars I take have a common element – there is ‘hands on’ activity.

The goal is that at the end of the session people feel confident that they could do these things themselves. I’m less comfortable about teaching where the communication is one way – me talking and them taking notes. I value encouraging self-discover and people being on their feet, interacting and having fun.

The workshop was experiential

It was collaborative and iterative, it was problem-based learning that used communication skills.

How did you feel about that ?  

Fig. 7. How we like to be ‘in the flow’ rather either bored or stressed from being too challenged. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level.

I felt ‘in the flow’ for most of the time, suitably challenged and never bored. Though anxious and surprised when a colleague gave me a drubbing the day after feeling that they had been tricked into attending. This came as a surprise, the other surprise was how away from their desk and computers the apparently introverted could become so animated and responsive.

I felt like a party planner. I was hosting an event. The atmosphere of controlled enthusiasm would be down to me. I would be, to use a French expression, the ‘animateur’ or ‘realisateur’ – the one who would make this happen and bring it to life.

Fig. 8. For all the playful activities, we are still reliant on Post It Notes and flip charts

Now what ?

On this occasion we delivered a couple of distinct responses to the problem. People reflected on the experienced and felt it was both enjoyable and of practical value. The request was not that others would host such an exercise, but that I would do more. I was subsequently booked to run a few more workshops on specific topics with different groups in the faculty. The question that we couldn’t resolve was whether were  a ‘creative organisation’ ? My own conclusion being that we quite palpably were not.

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2

Experiential learning theory. (Available from http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/gibbs/ch2.htm. Accessed 22FEB14)

Gundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Te hniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Henry, J and the course team (2006, 2010) ‘Creativity, Cognition and Development” Book 1 B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Henry, J (2010) ‘Set Breakers’ Henry (P. 96)

Kolb, D.A. 1984 Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McCaskey, M.B. (1988) ‘The challenge of managing ambiguity’, in Pondy, L.R, Boland, R.J and Thomas, H (eds) Managing Ambiguity and Change, new York, pp 2-11

Henry, J & Martin J (2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively

Schon, A.A. (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals think in Action, London: Temple Smith

Tassoul, M, & Buijs, J ( 2007, )’Clustering: An Essential Step from Diverging to Converging’, Creativity & Innovation Management, 16, 1, pp. 16-26, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 22 February 2014.

 

 

 

A five minute presentation on facilitating a creative workshop

Challenged over the last couple of weeks to create a 10 minute presentation as part of the Open University postgraduate module H818:The Networked Practitioner (part of the Masters in Open and Distance Education) I’ve barely had time to reflect on this experience when I find for Oxford Brookes University I am creating a 5 minute presentation as part of their online course First Steps into Learning and Teaching 2014 (FSLT14).

A 5 minute presentation takes twice as long to write than a 10 minute presentation.

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. Blaise Pascal

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Anything less than a minute is a TV commercial and might take months to get right.

I’ve known this ever since I took an interest in working in TV (Drama short on Channel 4, otherwise 150+ videos in L&D)

I am at least starting to get the tools I use to sing:

  • Picasa for my cloud based albums of pictures
  • Brushes to layer images
  • Studio to turn images into graphics

Both these for the iPad (I love the tactile)

Other Apps are available.

My issue with the FSLT 14 brief concerns the assumption that a non-wordy presentation – PowerPoint has been banned, any text may only appear on the overlay – is that the first, second and third rule of any ‘audio visual’ presentation such as this is (to quote Alfred Hitchcock):

‘the script, the script, the script’.

You have to write words to rationalise and order the visual.

You write a script in two columns: one describes what you see (the most important), the second what you hear (which is likely to be the spoken, or acted word – as well as sound effects and music).

This format works

Anyone familiar with a screenplay or TV script will be as capable of reading such a script and seeing that happens as a conductor can read a score and hear the music.

It remains word heavy.

Galleries of images and instant search for images is both distracting and limiting. They encourage the ‘creative’ to shoehorn inappropriate, compromise and copyright images into their work.

Far better, not that I’m about to do it, is to stick to the words in the script (easily edited and re-written for effect) and at most doodle an impression of an image: I like using a drawing pen on a large sheet of cartridge paper, though a stylus on the screen of an iPad might do.

So, I’m locked down in ‘writing mode’ at the best time of the day on the best day of the week – early on Sunday morning.

And I’m sharing this practice online. Though currently my expectation of feedback is limited. I miss the way were over a decade ago writing in Diaryland. Feedback guaranteed on the 24 hour cycle as fellow bloggers picked it up around the globe. I know what’s happened, and this blog is testament to that given that I transferred content from 1999-2004 to this space – I have spread myself too thinly.

Who knows what I am writing about anymore?

In this first years it was a balance of writing and the personal following authors who did the same and that group of us who were ‘always there for each other’ had one thing in common – the desire to develop a ‘voice’ and have stories to share.

It may only be five minutes, but I need at least to remember that this is a story – that above anything else, narrative works. The ten minuter I completed and presented earlier this week was too worthy, too explanatory. Let’s see if I can evoke the feelings that came from the workshop I ran:

  • risk
  • laughter
  • revelatory
  • results

Let’s also see if I can write what in my heart I want to say, rather than trying to write what anonymous others expect to hear. I do so loathe guides on assignment marking which can reduce something exploratory, that should have momentum and flow, into a ‘tick box exercise’.

Onwards.

And the first thing I do?

I turn to Brushes and draw my own graphic and will see if I can, like Julian Stodd, settle on a graphics style rather than relying on images purged from the Web. I want to use my own photos, but this too requires that I take pictures that deliver the right message.

A couple of hours later I have this.  And on reflection, prefer the process of devising your own take on someone else’s graphic, just as one ought not to quote verbatim from other authors, but interpret your take and understanding of their thinking.

 Based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1994)

REFERENCE

Argyris, C, & Schön, D (2007) ‘Organizational Learning’, Bloomsbury Business Library – Management Library, p. 78, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2014.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

FURTHER READING

James Atherton http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm

Ed Batista http://www.edbatista.com/2007/10/experiential.html

Roger Greenaway http://reviewing.co.uk/research/experiential.learning.htm#3

 

Reflection in Higher Education (Notes on reading)

Reflection in Higher Education. Jenny Moon

The nature of reflection – how it is seen in theory and how theoretical views are related to the common sense view of reflection.

In other words, it suggests that reflection is a simple process but with complex outcomes that relate to many different areas of human functioning. (p4)

Personal development planning (PDP) can involve different forms of reflection and reflective learning.

We are using it extensively in a range of contexts in learning and professional development in higher education.

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.

·We reflect on something in order to consider it in more detail.

·Usually we reflect because we have a purpose for reflecting – a goal to reach.  Goal orientated. Having a purpose and focus.

·Sometimes we find ourselves ‘being reflective’ and out of that ‘being reflective’, something ‘pops up’.   I am in the ‘pop-up’ camp.

·Seeking understanding and clarity where we had none. We reflect on things that are relatively complicated. Where there is not an obvious or immediate solution.

·Emotion. Some theorists see the role of emotion in reflection as very significant and frequently neglected (eg.  Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985).

·a means of working on what we know already

·We put into the reflection process knowledge that we already have (thoughts, ideas, feelings etc), we may add new information and then we draw out of it something that accords with the purpose for which we reflected.

Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfil a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome.  (based on Moon 1999):

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.

·Dewey 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’. (Such churning, such composting, requires plenty of matter, words, and time)

·‘Active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and further conclusions to which it leads…it includes a conscious and voluntary effort to establish belief upon a firm basis of evidence and rationality’ (Dewey, 1933).

Jurgen Habermas (1971) focused on the way in which humans process ideas and construct them into knowledge.

– instrumental knowledge – where we know ‘how’ or ‘that’ and where the concern of the knowledge is to understand and thereby function within, and control our human environment.

– knowledge that is concerned with the interpretation of human action and behaviour.  We largely ‘interpret’ in the social sciences in order to better our understanding of society and human behaviour.

– knowledge that is a way of working with knowledge, acting on the first two forms of knowledge.  This form of knowledge is developed through critical or evaluative modes of thinking and leads towards the emancipation or transformation of personal, social or other situations.  It concerns the quality of the bases on which we make judgements.

David Kolb (1984) is well known for his development of the Kolb cycle – or cycle of experiential learning.

Concrete experiencing

(have an experience)

Active experimentation                                                Reflective observation

(try out what you have learned)                                  (reflect on the experience)

Abstract conceptualising

(learn from the experience)

i.e. learning from experience

Like CBT.

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).

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

Donald Schon focused on reflection in professional knowledge and its development (1983, 1987).  They build up an expertise from their practice (theory-in-use) by being reflective.

Making  this ‘knowing-in-action’ explicit so that it can be the subject of further reflection and conscious development.

Many others have written about reflection, most developing ideas from those mentioned above.

Examples are:

Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985;

Boud and Walker, 1998;

Cowan, 1998,

Brockbank and McGill, 1998.

A ‘deep’ approach and a ‘surface’ approach to a learning task.

A deep approach is where the intention of the learner is to understand the meaning of the material.

A surface approach to learning is where a learner is concerned to memorise the material for what it is, not trying to understand it in relation to previous ideas or other areas of understanding.

These approaches to learning are not ‘either or’ situations, but at extremes of a continuum and the same learner may choose to learn differently according to the task at hand.

E.G Dexion, What is the problem? What is the problem? What is the problem? What is the problem? What is the problem? Repeatedly until you get to thr crux of the problem. ‘Tha swallowed the fly, that ate the dog, that …. etc

Making sense – getting to know the material as coherent – but only in relation to itself.  Facts may be fitted together like a jigsaw but not related to previous understandings.  Representation is coherent reproduction, but not related to other ideas and not processed.

Making meaning.

Working with meaning

Transformative learning

On the basis of this model, There are at least three ways in which reflection might be seen as relating to learning.

1.Reflection has a role in the deeper approaches to learning – the last three stages described above, but not in surface approaches to learning (the first two stages);

2.We learn from representing learning – when we write an essay or explain something or draw a picture of it, we represent it to ourselves and learn from the re-processing (Eisner, 1991).  This is a reflective process;

3.We ‘upgrade’ learning.  For example, we can go back to ideas learnt only to the stage of ‘making sense’ (eg in the form of facts – bits and pieces) and can reprocess those ideas through reflection, integrating them with current understandings (Vygotsky, 1978).  This might be conceived as a kind of ‘chewing the cud’ exercise  – or cognitive housekeeping (see earlier).

A well functioning tutorial system is an example of a means by which we encourage students to upgrade their learning (3).  Preparation for and involvement in a tutorial is the opportunity for many students to reflect on and process their learning into a more meaningful state – in other words, to ‘re-file’ it.

Revision for examinations is another opportunity for review of previous learning such that understanding is deepened (Entwistle and Entwistle, 1992).

Reflection slows down activity, giving the time for the learner to process material of learning and link it with previous ideas.

Reflection enables learners to develop greater ‘ownership’ of the material of learning (Rogers, 1969).  It will also enhance the student’s ‘voice’ in her learning (Elbow, 1981).

A particularly important means by which reflective activity generally supports learning is through the encouragement of metacognition.  (Ertmer and Newby, 1996).  Study skills programmes that support learner’s awareness of their learning processes seem to be more successful than those that focus on techniques (Main, 1985).

We suggested above that reflection occurs when we are dealing with material that is relatively complicated – or ill-structured.  (King and Kitchener, 1994).

METHODS pp8

On the assumption that reflection has a valuable role to play in higher education, the methods below serve as vehicles for reflection within the curriculum.

Just asking students to write a learning journal, for example, may bring benefits, but they will be haphazard.

learning journals, logs, diaries … with the intention of improving or supporting learning but are of many different forms.  used successfully in most disciplines including the sciences and mathematics (Moon, 1999a).

Portfolios … unreflective compilation of work, to collections of coursework and reading with reflective comments, to coursework with an attached overview, to something very akin to a learning journal.

reflection on work experience … to develop employment skills, or to use the experience as a basis for learning about self and personal functioning (eg Colling and Watton, 2000, Watton and Moon, 2002 – in preparation)

reflection in work-based learning. (Boud and Garrick, 1999).

reflective exercises:   Examples are contained in Angelo and Cross, 1990; George and Cowan, 1999; Moon, 1999 and 1999a).

in peer and self assessment:  self or peer assessment they are likely to be reflecting on the work in relation to their perception of how they think it should appear

in careers or personal development.

in APEL (accreditation of prior experiential learning

It has had a particularly strong role in professional education and development – with nursing, teacher education and social work as the principle examples.

An impetus to the thinking that underlies this section is the frequent observation that not all students find reflection easy when it is introduced as a specific requirement

Some, however, who may be good students otherwise, will not understand what is meant by it – and will ask ‘what is it that you want me to do?’

The discourses of some subjects are, by nature, more likely to require reflective activity ‘on paper’.

Academic reflection will be more structured.

We may be giving structures – such as the Kolb cycle – to follow.

In our private reflections, we do not systematically describe what we are about to reflect on – we just do it

From Moon (1999a)

Academic reflection is, therefore, more structured and more formal than what we will term ‘informal’ reflection.

Reflection can be superficial and little more than descriptive or can be deep and transformative (and involved in the transformative stage of learning).

Reflection is used to make sense of unstructured situations in order to generate new knowledge.  It is important to be clear that the activity might be introducing the skill of reflective learning or generating knowledge by using reflection to make sense of something.

Most students will have learnt that they should not use the first person singular in an academic environment.  (Which is where I feel my ‘voice’ is being compromised by obliging me to speak in a certain way.)

Most students will have learnt that they should not use the first person singular in an academic environment.

Descriptive writing:  This is a description of events or literature reports.  There is no discussion beyond description.   This writing is considered not to show evidence of reflection.  It is important to acknowledge that some parts of a reflective account will need to describe the context – but in this case, writing does not go beyond description.

Descriptive reflection:  There is basically a description of events, but the account shows some evidence of deeper consideration in relatively descriptive language.  There is no real evidence of the notion of alternative viewpoints in use.

Dialogic reflection: This writing suggests that there is a ‘stepping back’ from the events and actions which leads to a different level of discourse.  There is a sense of ‘mulling about’, discourse with self and an exploration of the role of self in events and actions.  There is consideration of the qualities of judgements and of possible alternatives for explaining and hypothesising.  The reflection is analytical or integrative, linking factors and perspectives.

Critical reflection:  This form of reflection, in addition to dialogic reflection, shows evidence that the learner is aware that the same actions and events may be seen in different contexts with different explanations associated with the contexts.  They are influenced by ‘multiple historical and socio-political contexts’, for example.

(developed from Hatton and Smith, 1995)

.  A fair question is that since reflection is an encouragement for learners to follow the lines of their own thinking, to work without a curriculum – how can it be marked?

i.e. as the institution hasn’t put in place adequate systems to monitor my progress why don’t I do it myself and give myself marks out of ten too?

The message of this section is essentially that there is no one way to assess reflective work.  There are no clearly agreed generic criteria for reflection since different people see reflection as different processes (as has been demonstrated in the early sections) and they set reflective tasks in order to achieve different purposes.

To encourage a student to be reflective is to encourage the development of a habit of processing cognitive material that can lead the student to ideas that are beyond the curriculum, beyond learning defined by learning outcomes, and beyond those of the teacher who is managing the learning.

Boud, D and Walker, D (1998)

‘Promoting reflection in professional courses: the challenge of context’, Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), pp191 – 206

Reflection in Higher Education

In time I will get this down to less than 200 words – or none. Because it won’t be in a blog, or an e-portfolio, but in my head.

And to prove it I should sit an exam or have a viva.

What else can indicate that I have command over the information, that my learning is deep, and that I can deploy what I have learnt?

Everything else is a compromise, a good compromise, but a compromise non the less.

Reflection in Higher Education. Jenny Moon

The nature of reflection – how it is seen in theory and how theoretical views are related to the common sense view of reflection.

Reflection is a simple process but with complex outcomes that relate to many different areas of human functioning. (p4)

Personal development planning (PDP) can involve different forms of reflection and reflective learning.

It is used in a range of contexts in learning and professional development in higher education.

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.

We reflect:

  • in order to consider it in more detail.
  • because we have a purpose for reflecting – a goal to reach.
  • to seek understanding and clarification
  • Where there is not an obvious or immediate solution.
  • as a means of working on what we know already
  • on knowledge that we already have (thoughts, ideas, feelings etc).
  • adding new information and ”drawing out of it something that accords with the purpose for which we reflected.’
  • to fulfil a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome.  (based on Moon 1999):

Some theorists see the role of emotion in reflection as very significant and frequently neglected(eg.  Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985).

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.

Dewey 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’.

(Such churning, such composting, requires plenty of matter, words, and time)

‘Active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and further conclusions to which it leads…it includes a conscious and voluntary effort to establish belief upon a firm basis of evidence and rationality’ (Dewey, 1933).

Jurgen Habermas (1971) focused on the way in which humans process ideas and construct them into knowledge.

We largely ‘interpret’ in the social sciences in order to better our understanding of society and human behaviour.

Knowledge developed through critical or evaluative modes of thinking.

David Kolb(1984) is well known for his development of the Kolb cycle – or cycle of experiential learning.

i.e. learning from experience

Like CBT.

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).

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

Donald Schon focused on reflection in professional knowledge and its development (1983, 1987).

Many have written about reflection:

  • Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985;
  • Boud and Walker, 1998;
  • Cowan, 1998,
  • Brockbank and McGill, 1998.

A ‘deep’ approach and a ‘surface’ approach to a learning task.

A deep approach is where the intention of the learner is to understand the meaning of the material.

A surface approach to learning is where a learner is concerned to memorise the material for what it is, not trying to understand it in relation to previous ideas or other areas of understanding.

These approaches to learning are not ‘either or’ situations, but at extremes of a continuum and the same learner may choose to learn differently according to the task at hand.

E.G Dexion

Invent or solve problems by asking over and over again, ‘What is the problem? What is the problem? What is the problem? What is the problem? What is the problem?’ Until you get to the crux of the problem.

(I got this from attending a business talk/workshop put on in the front sitting room of someone’s house in West Hampstead. This has to be late 1985 or early 1986. If I’ve transcribed those diaries and uploaded them then I ought to be able to do a search and find my notes. Is this how keeping a learning journal for life might aid memory?)

  • Making sense
  • Making meaning
  • Working with meaning
  • Transformative learning

On the basis of this model, There are at least three ways in which reflection might be seen as relating to learning

1. In the deeper approaches to learning

2.We learn from representing learning – when we write an essay or explain something or draw a picture of it, we represent it to ourselves and learn from the re-processing (Eisner, 1991).

3.We ‘upgrade’ learning … reprocessing ideas through reflection, integrating them with current understandings (Vygotsky, 1978).

This might be conceived as a kind of ‘chewing the cud’ exercise  – or cognitive housekeeping (see earlier).

  • A well functioning tutorial system is an example of a means by which we encourage students to upgrade their learning (3).
  • Preparation for and involvement in a tutorial is the opportunity for many students to reflect on and process their learning into a more meaningful state – in other words, to ‘re-file’ it.
  • Revision for examinations is another opportunity for review of previous learning such that understanding is deepened (Entwistle and Entwistle, 1992).

Reflection slows down activity, giving the time for the learner to process material of learning and link it with previous ideas.

Reflection enables learners to develop greater ‘ownership’ of the material of learning (Rogers, 1969).

Reflection will enhance the student’s ‘voice’ in her learning (Elbow, 1981).

A particularly important means by which reflective activity generally supports learning is through the encouragement of metacognition.  (Ertmer and Newby, 1996).

Study skills programmes that support learners’ awareness of their learning processes seem to be more successful than those that focus on techniques (Main, 1985).

We suggested above that reflection occurs when we are dealing with material that is relatively complicated – or ill-structured.  (King and Kitchener, 1994).

Just asking students to write a learning journal, for example, may bring benefits, but they will be haphazard.

learning journals, logs, diaries … with the intention of improving or supporting learning but are of many different forms.  Used successfully in most disciplines including the sciences and mathematics (Moon, 1999a).

Portfolios … unreflective compilation of work, to collections of coursework and reading with reflective comments, to coursework with an attached overview, to something very akin to a learning journal.

  • Reflection on work experience … to develop employment skills, or to use the experience as a basis for learning about self and personal functioning (eg Colling and Watton, 2000, Watton and Moon, 2002 – in preparation)
  • Reflection in work-based learning. (Boud and Garrick, 1999).
  • Reflective exercises:   Examples are contained in Angelo and Cross, 1990; George and Cowan, 1999; Moon, 1999 and 1999a).
  • Reflection in peer and self assessment:  self or peer assessment they are likely to be reflecting on the work in relation to their perception of how they think it should appear
  • Reflection in careers or personal development.
  • Reflection in APEL (accreditation of prior experiential learning

It has had a particularly strong role in professional education and development – with nursing, teacher education and social work as the principle examples.

An impetus to the thinking that underlies this section is the frequent observation that not all students find reflection easy when it is introduced as a specific requirement

Some, however, who may be good students otherwise, will not understand what is meant by it – and will ask ‘what is it that you want me to do?’

The discourses of some subjects are, by nature, more likely to require reflective activity ‘on paper’.

Academic reflection will be more structured.

We may be giving structures – such as the Kolb cycle – to follow.

In our private reflections, we do not systematically describe what we are about to reflect on – we just do it

From Moon (1999a)

Academic reflection is, therefore, more structured and more formal than what we will term ‘informal’ reflection.

Descriptive or deep

Reflection can be superficial and little more than descriptive or can be deep and transformative (and involved in the transformative stage of learning).

Reflection is used to make sense of unstructured situations in order to generate new knowledge.  It is important to be clear that the activity might be introducing the skill of reflective learning or generating knowledge by using reflection to make sense of something.

Most students will have learnt that they should not use the first person singular in an academic environment.

(Which is where I feel my ‘voice’ is being compromised by obliging me to speak in a certain way.)

Most students will have learnt that they should not use the first person singular in an academic environment.

Descriptive writing:

This is a description of events or literature reports. There is no discussion beyond description. This writing is considered not to show evidence of reflection.  It is important to acknowledge that some parts of a reflective account will need to describe the context – but in this case, writing does not go beyond description.

Descriptive reflection:

There is basically a description of events, but the account shows some evidence of deeper consideration in relatively descriptive language. There is no real evidence of the notion of alternative viewpoints in use.

Dialogic reflection:

This writing suggests that there is a ‘stepping back’ from the events and actions which leads to a different level of discourse. There is a sense of ‘mulling about’, discourse with self and an exploration of the role of self in events and actions. There is consideration of the qualities of judgements and of possible alternatives for explaining and hypothesising. The reflection is analytical or integrative, linking factors and perspectives.

Critical reflection:

This form of reflection, in addition to dialogic reflection, shows evidence that the learner is aware that the same actions and events may be seen in different contexts with different explanations associated with the contexts.  They are influenced by ‘multiple historical and socio-political contexts’, for example.

(developed from Hatton and Smith, 1995)

A fair question is that since reflection is an encouragement for learners to follow the lines of their own thinking, to work without a curriculum – how can it be marked?

i.e. as the institution hasn’t put in place adequate systems to monitor my progress why don’t I do it myself and give myself marks out of ten too?

N.B. The message of this section is essentially that there is no one way to assess reflective work.

N.B. There are no clearly agreed generic criteria for reflection since different people see reflection as different processes (as has been demonstrated in the early sections) and they set reflective tasks in order to achieve different purposes.

To encourage a student to be reflective is to encourage the development of a habit of processing cognitive material that can lead the student to ideas that are beyond the curriculum, beyond learning defined by learning outcomes, and beyond those of the teacher who is managing the learning. Boud, D and Walker (1998)

‘Promoting reflection in professional courses: the challenge of context’, Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), pp191 – 206

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