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Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

Teaching Reflection
Author: Helen Day, Centre for Employability through Humanities, HFDay@uclan.ac.uk

What is reflection?

Reflection is an activity in which you: recapture your experience, think about it (alone or with others), evaluate it, and then act upon the evaluation (CfE, 2006). However these processes doesnt necessarily happen in order. You could experience all of these processes in the act of writing one sentence. Reflection works best when you think about what you are doing before, during and after your experience. Tip: It isnt easy it takes time and practice and some people will take to it more easily than others.

Why reflect?

Reflective learning requires that you think through issues for yourself, ask questions and seek out relevant information to aid your understanding. The CfE argues that the experiences, incidents or ideas most worthy of reflection are usually those that provoke feelings of discomfort, pleasure or confusion. In fact it has been said that we learn the most when we deliberately take ourselves out of our comfort zone. Benefits of reflection Reflective learners are more likely to develop a deeper understanding of their subject and therefore to achieve better grades. They tend to be motivated and pro-active and know what they are trying to achieve, are able to identify, explain and address their strengths and weaknesses, understand new concepts by relating them to previous experiences and use their existing knowledge to help them to develop their understanding of new ideas.

What is a reflective journal?


A learning journal is a collection of notes, observations, thoughts and other relevant materials built up over a period of time and usually accompanies a period of study, a placement experience or fieldwork. Its purpose is to enhance your learning through the very process of writing and thinking about your personal experiences. Your learning journal is personal to you and will reflect your personality and experiences (University of Worchester, 2006). We like the term learning journal as we wish this record to be an accumulation of material based on your thoughts and reflections, rather than a mere record of events and activities, such as would be found in, for example, a ships log. (University of Kent, 2006). A learning journal should not be a purely descriptive account of what you did but an opportunity to communicate your thinking process: how and why you did what you did, and what you now think about what you did (University of Worchester, 2006).

Why is this important?

Apart from the fact that it is an essential piece of coursework, a learning journal is important because it:

Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

Provides a live picture of your growing understanding of a subject or experience (gives it shape and colour etc.) Demonstrates how your learning is developing Keeps a record of your thoughts, emotions and ideas throughout your experience of learning Helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses and preferences and skills in learning Allows you to develop skills at self-evaluation Often leads to an increase in confidence and self-esteem

What are the aims of your journal?


Aims Think carefully about why you are keeping this journal (apart from the assessment) as this will help you decide what to write about and will keep you focused on the task. Are you trying to see how you respond under difficult circumstances, for example, or perhaps you wish to explore how you learn about ways of approaching the issue of race with members of the public. You can have more than one aim, 4-5 would seem reasonable. Tip: Make a note of your aims in your journal in fact your first entry might be to discuss your aims. Questions to consider to get you started: 1. What sort of learner am I and do I want to experiment with other types of learning? You can find out about learning styles at http://www.uclan.ac.uk/ facs/class/cfe/eggs/learningstyles.htm or about team roles at http:// www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/class/cfe/eggs/teamworking.htm 2. Why did I choose this module and what do I hope to get out of it? 3. What do I think a learning journal is? 4. Will I find reflective learning difficult? 5. What do I know so far about this project and what do I need to find out? 6. What personal attributes will I need to be successful on this module i.e. confidence etc.? 7. Tip: Self-Evaluation - How will I know if I have made a success of this module? Questions to consider as you go along: 1. What did I learn today / during that incident or experience? 2. How did I feel about the incident or experience? 3. How might other people have experienced the same incident? Why? 4. What did I find interesting and why? 5. What did I find puzzling or unexpected and why? 6. What do I feel about the way I am approaching the issue, subject or topic? 7. How am I learning and can I link this to any theories about learning? 8. How can I improve my learning techniques? 9. What do I need to know more about and how can I plan for further action? 10. What other resources interested or inspired me (photos, visuals etc.) 11. Looking through my journal periodically, how have I improved my writing, reflection and subject knowledge? Questions to consider near the end of the process:

Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

1. What new knowledge, skills or understanding have I gained during the process of writing my journal? 2. How can I use this knowledge, skills and understanding in the rest of my degree and beyond? 3. Has this module helped me think about my future career? 4. How would I explain what I have done to an employer when I leave university? 5. Tip: Self-Evaluation - Have I succeeded in this module according to my own criteria?

What might you reflect on?


Events and experiences You might want to consider the following: (a) Description of event: summarise significant and relevant details about what happened, who was involved, where and when. (b) Who was involved: who was affected and how might the situation have been seen from their point of view? (this might be fellow students or other individuals) How did they react and could this have been anticipated? What there any conflict and if so, how did you manage it? (c) Feelings: what were your feelings at the time of the event and have they changed now you are writing this up? (d) Significant Influences: incidents and circumstances that may have influenced your behaviour/feelings before, during or as a result of the event? NB. This may involve some personal probing into you conscious or unconscious motivations (e) Learning: did the incident / experience happen the way I expected? Why / Why not? How is the situation generally dealt with and is there best practice? How might I categorise this incident / experience? What skills and understanding have I learnt from this incident or experience? How does it relate to my subject knowledge? (f) Theories/Ideas: can I relate this to any theories and ideas either about dealing with race issues or about learning and personal development? Tip: This will also help you get a better mark (g) Action Planning: what will I do differently next time? Can I identify other incidents that are likely to require the same techniques? Events and experiences that you might like to reflect on could include: Trips to Liverpool and Lancaster (slave trails, visits to sites and museums, meetings with curators and artists); Discussions about organising an event or website; Responding to videoed events; understanding issues involved in race sensitive projects etc. Learning and re-evaluating experience Learning You might want to write about the learning involved in the following: (a) Yourself (b) Your work experience (c) Your academic studies (how your learning on this module relates to the course as a whole) (d) The reaction of those affected

Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

(e) (f) (g)

Negotiating conflict Technical, bureaucratic an other organisational processes How to abolish barriers caused by history, cultural differences, race etc.

Strengths, Weaknesses and Skills Over time you should return to the notion of your own strengths and weaknesses, noting how you have made use of your strengths or developed your weaknesses. Tip: You also need to update your skills profile and evaluate this against your original skills audit (this is your baseline from which you can be measured). This means thinking about, for example, whether you have improved your research skills or organisation skills etc. and how you did this. Personal Attributes and empowerment Many students find that this kind of project increases their self-confidence and develops other personal attributes such as sensitivity towards others. You need to reflect on incidents or moments in which you think you have developed as a person. Many people also find that writing journals can be empowering as they take responsibility for their learning. Learning of others In order to consider the needs of others and to learn to see events from various perspectives it would help to reflect on how other people learn. Perhaps you could write up a discussion between your group about how you see each others roles and responsibilities. Working with others Employers are always keen on employing those who work well with others and demonstrate responsibility towards others. Tip: You should evaluate whether you have changed your team role during this project (this requires you to return to your baseline team role assessment) and why this might be. Also of importance is how you develop your relationship with your peers, your tutor and, crucially for this project, how you interact with members of the public such as curators etc. It Tip: it would be particularly useful to reflect on how you have negotiated differences of opinions and raised sensitive issues (if there is a conflict this would be a good use of a critical incident learning log). What language did you use, for example, and did you choose particular settings for debates? Have you become a better facilitator (helping others develop)? Highs and lows It is important to congratulate yourself when you feel you have achieved your learning goal or when you have unexpectedly progressed. Equally you should record when things have not gone well and try to understand why this has happened since we often learn more from such events. Recording highs and lows will allow you to see how your confidence and self-esteem has developed as well as how you have dealt with problems and setbacks. Reviewing the journal itself It is important to revisit earlier parts of your journal regularly and consider how you have progressed since that time and how you have developed as a learner. You might also want to consider whether your writing style or the way you keep your journal has changed.

Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

How might you organise your material?


Date and Keyword Make sure you date all your entries and give each entry a keyword or phrase as a title when you have finished it. It is also important to take time to recollect and review events or experiences by returning to the representation of the experience. Tip: It might help to talk the event through verbally before writing it down. Narrative The most common way of writing a learning journal is to use narrative i.e. to tell a story. Human beings are natural story-tellers (think about telling your friend of partner what happened to you today) but we dont always associate this with academic work. While all of us probably wrote stories at school only some of us will continue this creative writing. Although essays may contain some narrative form, many of you will be out of practice at writing in this way. It may feel uncomfortable to use the first person (I) when you have learnt a more formal academic style. On the other hand, many people find this liberating; after all, who else is having these ideas, feelings and experiences but you. Reflective Learning Logs These are more formally organised and may be better described as critical incidence logs. You can find an excellent example at < http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/class/cfe/ eggs/reflection.htm> where you can download a chart. These are best used to record and reflect on critical incidents, moments of great insight or events that have had a huge impact on your development. The formal structure will make sure that you think through the issue fully. You may, however, miss out on some insights that would be gained if you wrote this out in narrative form. Tip: Try this out as a method by filling in a form and then writing it up in narrative form. Lastly make sure you explore the differences in the results of the two techniques. Dynamic List of questions A useful way to chart your progress is to keep a dynamic list of questions. On a separate page in your journal note down any questions you have about this module and date them. Every week or fortnight return to this list. Tick off any questions to which you now have the answer and date it. Then note down any new questions. This will help you see what has concerned you and when it has been solved. You can choose a few questions to write about elsewhere in your journal.

What style will you use?


Handwritten or Electronic Learning journals are often handwritten although you may wish to complete your version on a computer. There are pros and cons to each method. Writing encourages you to organise your thoughts as you go on and so may improve your writing style and ability to structure your thoughts. You can also carry the journal around with you, which allows you to write whenever you want to (laptops can sometimes have the same function). When you go on fieldtrips it would be useful to make notes in your journal and then write them up later: this will allow you to see how you have used your notes to structure your thoughts into a piece of writing. Using a computer allows you to edit easily but by doing this you will lose an important part of your thought process so think carefully before deleting anything. The main advantage of electronic writing is that, if you decide to use quotations from your journal in other written work, websites etc. it is easy to copy and paste directly from your journal

Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

document. You might also want to consider recording some of your experiences and thoughts verbally. Setting aside time to write It is up to you to decide whether you want to set aside time to write every day, every few days, every week or to be guided by your thought processes (i.e. whenever you have an idea). The advantage of setting aside regular time to write is that the act of writing will help clarify your ideas and may even allow you to be more creative. Sometimes you will write a lot, sometimes only a few lines. Reflecting on the activities of a day or a specific event will give you time to review the experiences and activities of the day while they are still fresh in your mind. It is also an opportunity to note down any questions you have and anything you havent understood and to determine to follow this up the next day or to ask the tutor. This will help you become more autonomous as a learner; by taking control of the learning process for yourself. Sharing You might consider sharing your journal with a critical friend. Ideally this would be another student from the module. The main job of a critical friend is to ask probing questions to help you improve your writing and learning i.e. Why did you do that, feel like that? What could you do to resolve this problem? How could you express this in a clearer way? etc. S/he shouldnt criticise your journal but offer constructive feedback in a helpful and friendly manner. You may want to set up a dialogue in your journal with your critical friend by asking them to write comments in a different colour next to or after your entries. Being a critical friend and learning to take and respond to peer feedback is a skill in itself and will add to your profile. Visuals Theorists like Tony & Barry Buzan, authors of The Mind Map Book (2005) argue that our brain makes more connections when we display and record material visually than when we use list or narrative format. This may or may not be the case but you may find it useful to use mindmaps, different colours, photos, drawing and diagrams in your journal. You can also use it like a scrapbook by placing photos of statues or places you have visited, e-mails from clients, maps, guides etc from your travels. If you do this make sure you reflect on them by providing annotation or a commentary so that you are using them as a learning experience.

How will your journal be assessed?

The following will be taken into consideration when marking your learning journal and will form the basis of your feedback: Framework for Feedback and Marking Criteria 1. Critical regard for evidence Descriptive writing and communication: accuracy of events and experiences plus fluency and creative use of language 2. Reflection on a range of experience communicated effectively Reflection on events, self, task and subject matter Reflection focused on events or incidents Reflection on personal experience and that of others Reflection on the manner of reflection and the nature of knowing Action planning for future similar incidents

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3. Chaining of events and levels of interpretation (including looking from the inside out and outside in) Understanding through interpretation of events and experiences (involves standing back, ability to see events from another point of view) One event/one perspective One event/multiple perspective Several events/multiple perspective Chaining of events/perspectives Responding to peer review 4. Locating personal biography in social/historical/economic/political structures Critical Reflection: linking perspectives to historical, social and cultural processes and events as well as to theories and ideas about learning Effective links between practice and theory and personal development Locating analysis in wider context Consideration of moral / ethical issues 5. Thoroughness of analysis and development of themes Processes including organisation and use of visuals painstaking analysis complexity and questioning talking of feelings creative format and themes 6. Impact of reflection on learning and change Outcomes: Self confirming Practical learning Self-evaluation Resolution coming to terms Transformation Thanks to Shriel and Jones work on assessing learning journals

Bibliography

Buzan, Tony & Barry Buzan, The Mind Map Book, London: BBC, 2005 Learning Journals, Student Learning Advisory Service, University of Kent, 2006 < www.kent.ac.uk/uelt/learning/value/journals.pdf> Learning Journals, Study Skills Advice Sheet, University of Worcester, 2006 <www2.worc.ac.uk/studyskills/pdf/learningjournals.pdf> Moon, Jennifer, A. Learning Journals: A Handbook for reflective Practice and Professional Development, Second Edition, London: Routledge, 2006 (earlier edition in library) Reflection, Student Employability Site, centre for Employability, University of Central Lancashire, 2006 http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/class/cfe/eggs/reflection.htm

Helen Day / ceth / Reflection / October 2006

Shiel, Chris & David Jones, Reflective Learning and Assessment: a systematic study of reflective learning as evidenced in student Learning Journals Reflection on teaching: Impact on Learning BEST Conference, 2004 <www.business.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/reflect/conf/2003/shiel/index.html>