Reflection is an evaluation process to help verify if current practice is effective and if not, how to adapt and modify it.
It “undergrids the entire pedagogy of portfolios”. If reflection does not encourage a dialogue that includes reasoning and judgment about knowledge, it is unlikely to lead to in-depth learning.
Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that is used to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding, as well as on emotions that already exist.
When we use the word 'reflection' we usually want to describe a process of thought that is active and careful. It is an activity in which people 'recapture experience' and evaluate it. It involves three aspects:
- Returning to experience - that is to say recalling or detailing salient events.
- Connecting with feelings - this has two aspects: using helpful feelings and removing or containing obstructive ones.
- Evaluating experience - this involves re-examining experience in the light of one's aims and knowledge. It also entails integrating this new knowledge into one's conceptual framework.
There are two types of reflection:
- Reflection on action: This type of reflection is at a distance from the actual events that required reflection. It is situated on an abstract level, it can be generalized, and it is possible to express the reflection. This type of reflection involves descriptions, analysis and evaluation of occurred events, decisions made etc. Therefore reflection on action gives the reflective individual an opportunity to get wiser.
- Reflection in action: This type of reflection is tied to the context in which an event occurs. The reflection is often very tangible and have a tendency to appear as implicit knowledge/tacit knowledge
The traditional stages of reflection are self-awareness, description, critical analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This is the cognitive model of learning by reflection.
We are interested, however, in the active process of reflection, i.e., in how a mentor can intervene to assist in healthy and effective reflection. So, the following 4 stages can be applied: Priming, Guiding, Momentum, and Termination.
Means to create learning environments that are open, collaborative and support learning
As learning gradually is moving to the digital world, there is a growing need for rethinking theories of learning and for changing of educational practice. A digital environment has different characteristics than a physical environment and provides a different set of educational possibilities.
Further there is a need for new educational concepts that support the learning demands of a late modern society. There is a need for means that supports learning as an experiential, self-guided, and lifelong process that is situated in social contexts.
It is in this light the concept of digital portfolio is an innovative educational tool. It is a means to create learning environments and educational communities that are open, collaborative and support continuous learning.
Portfolios are well known from artistic-like professions such as designers, architectures, and painters. It is a folder containing previous works, a showcase demonstrating a person's skills and professional development, used when applying for jobs, financial support etc. It is lately that several educational institutions have adopted the concept of portfolio, using it as a tool for collecting and documenting the work of students. It has been motivated by the search for new and improved methods for assessment that goes beyond testing
Art of effective reflection
The art of effective teaching draws heavily on the skill of critically reflective thinking.
For the effective teacher, each instructional opportunity and each interaction with learners serves as a tool for continuous improvement as the teacher reviews, evaluates and enriches his/her understanding of the experience for future performance.
The teacher is repsonsible to create a reflective student. Learning from experience is one of the easiest and most effective ways to achieve this purpose. Teachers can require that students keep journals or publicly discuss different events such as meetings, projects or even personal relationships. Teachers must take into consideration the different learning styles of their students, as well as their different interests and needs.
A well developed description provides basic information about the activity or experience by answering the following questions:
- What was the setting in which the lesson was taught and who were the students?
- When was the lesson taught?
- What philosophy or research base guided your decisions in preparing the lesson?
- What were the intended learning outcomes of the lesson?
Examining the activity or event for trends and patterns and for evidence of teacher or student strengths and weaknesses are the key element of analysis. The analysis has to include reflection on the intended learning outcomes of the lesson and the real outcomes of it. It has to show the essential strengths and weaknesses of the lesson, as well as a reflection on what can be done to improve the delivery of the lesson and the learning outcomes.
To achieve these goals the analysis has to answer to the following questions:
- What were the essential strengths and weaknesses of the lesson?
- What specifically might have been changed to improve the delivery of the lesson?
- What specifically might have been changed to improve the learning outcomes?
- What were the unintended and unanticipated learning outcomes of the lesson?
- What factors negatively or positively affected the success of the lesson?
- What specifically was learned as a result of developing, planning and teaching this lesson?
- Why is this experience significant in order to become an effective teacher?This type of analysis requires in-depth, honest self-appraisal and focused introspection.
Planning allows the teacher to identify specifically how his or her future actions will be improved by what has been learned.
A successful planning process has to answer questions such as:
- Specifically what should be kept and what should be changed to improve this lesson before teaching it again?
- What philosophy or research base guided the teacher’s decisions regarding changes?
- Specifically, how should the teacher’s learning and growth as result of this experience be used to improve his/her performance in other aspects of his/her teaching and learning?Repeating this cycle provides the reflective practitioner with an invaluable tool for continuous learning and improvement.
Questions to answer
A well-developed teacher reflection will answer questions such as:
|What was the setting in which the ePortfolio was taught?||What were the intended learning outcomes?||What were the essential strengths and weaknesses?||What specifically might have been changed to improve the learning outcomes?||What were the unintended and unanticipated learning outcomes?||What specifically was learned as a result of developing, planning and teaching?||What factors negatively or positively affected the success?|
There are few key principles for effecive reflection:
- Outcomes must be specified precisely. If outcomes are specified too broadly it may be difficult to devise appropriate reflection activities and to develop appropriate assessment techniques.
- Before designing reflection, teachers must select appropriate reflective activities and consider the question: How can reflection be used to enhance a particular outcome?
- Finally, teachers must consider how the outcomes will be assessed.
Working group 1 - Challenge
Portfolio development should challenge students to think in new ways, raise new questions, and explore new ways of problem-solving. That’s why the aim of this working group is to discuss the challenge of the portfolio and the new opportunities that it can give learners- how it can stimulate their reflection on different issues and thus contribute to their personal development, as well as help them reveal their full potential.
By encouraging students to explore issues more deeply and to think about issues and solutions they may not have considered, faculty can enhance students' problem-solving efforts as well as the resulting learning.
Working group 2 - Coach
Discussion on the role of the teacher in the development of the Portfolio. This is a very important part of the whole discussion because the responcibility for a well-developed portfolio, as well as for a successful student falls on the teacher. Teachers should challenge students while simultaneously provide support and create a 'safe' environment--one where students are confident that their contributions and feelings will be respected.
Continuous reflection facilitates the coaching role by providing portfolio related information in a timely manner.
Working group 3 - Contextualize
Discuss the benefits of learning through experience, as well as the advantage and effectiveness of developing the learning and reflection process in a specific context.
Teachers can enhance the effectiveness and quality of portfolio by ensuring that reflection activities are appropriate for its context. Teachers should consider factors such as student knowledge and attitudes, community needs, and course objectives and constraints in designing the reflection process.
Working group 4 - Communicate
Discussion on the importance of communication for the effective realization of the purposes of the Portfolio.
Peer-to-peer and learner-to-teacher communication is an important and integral part of the reflection process. Reflection activities should provide opportunities for communication with peers. Communication with peers can also enhance student learning by exposing students to multiple perspectives.
MOSEP Project - http://wiki.mosep.org/Mosep/
The project is managed by the Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft , if you have any questions or contributions, please contact the project co-ordinator Wolf Hilzensauer.