#ocTEL activity 1.1: my practice


In the final-year project unit I coordinate (see for details of the large group project), the 160 students write a final reflective analysis essay which is worth 60% of their unit mark. The essay requires students to draw on set readings, and to reflect on the work they did in the semester-long group project. On the graph, it’s strongly “individual/directed.” This complements the highly social practice of the project itself. The individual nature of the assignment allows students to reflect more openly than they might do in a public forum. The learning outcomes with which the assignment is connected include development of the students as reflective practitioners, and articulation of theory (set readings) to practice. Although the project is done as a group, all assessment in the unit is individual, comprising two written pieces: the final reflective analysis (60%), and an early evaluation of the existing product on which the students will work (40%).

  • How you could achieve your learning outcomes if the activity were conducted differently?

What if I shifted this reflection from individual to social?

I recently read an article in HERDSA journal, “Reflective practice in the transition phase from university student to novice graduate: implications for teaching reflective practice,” which usefully pointed out that in professional practice, reflection is usually social and conversational: when it comes to reflection, “the methods students were taught, for example written journals, contrasted to the methods used by practitioners, whose use of reflective practice was embedded in their everyday actions and was social and dialogical in nature” (p. 633). The article also noted that professional reflection usually occurs temporally closer to the event than does written reflection, which often takes place temporally distant from events. The authors recommend that students learn both social and written reflection.

  • Whether this would be an improvement? If not, why not?

Shifting the final assignment from entirely individual to social could be an improvement in that it would teach students how reflection works in a professional context: how they can make the best use of questions, conversations, and interactions to enhance their professional learning and practice. Students might also enjoy not having a large written assignment waiting for them at the end of a fairly demanding project.

  • What technology you would require if you did things differently?

What teaching and learning activities/TEL would best support dialogical, real-time reflective conversations in a way that can be used for assessment? Each student could keep a weekly blog, noting the reflective conversations they’d had in project meetings that week; part of the final assignment could involve engaging productively in commenting on others’ blogs a set number of times (somewhat like ocTEL Tel One Badge activity for week one!). Not a ground-breaking idea TEL-wise, I know, but it could work in taking up Smith and Trede’s observations about academic vs professional reflective practices and competencies. Assessment would remain individual, but would involve social practice. Or students could be put into Google Circles as reflection groups for the duration of the project. It could also work practically, as an assessable item which is not too cumbersome for assessors or too vague for students. It could also be done by having several ‘reflective discussion’ sessions in class time in which students are broken up into small groups and asked to discuss a particular topic, then write up results of the discussion subsequently in blogs.

  • At what points of your course are there opportunities to express opinions and instincts?
  • At what points do you work with fellow learners?

Because students meet in small groups weekly for the full semester, they have substantial opportunity for discussion with their peers. Each student is a member of two groups: each student works closely with a minimum of ten other students for the full semester. They are also given considerable autonomy to shape the direction of the project. Some students may feel constrained by group dynamics and composition, however.

  • At what point do you have to absorb information and how?

Students absorb three weeks of teacher-delivered information at the beginning of the project in the form of live and online lectures. After that, information is absorbed in an ongoing manner as the project evolves.

I’d appreciate hearing from others here about how they’ve used TEL or other assessable learning activities to develop students’ reflective skills in dialogical as well as individual ways.


3 thoughts on “#ocTEL activity 1.1: my practice

  1. Thanks for this interesting read. I thought that as you left some comments I my blog, I would return the favour. Peer-to-peer marking (as part of peer-to-peer learning) is becoming more common – especially within the world of cMOOCs but also within some of the other movement that I mentioned. It’s usually not called marking and is sometimes referred to as feedback or peer appraisal. My first experience of this was about two years ago when I did a digital literacy MOOC with the University of Edinburgh. At the end of the MOOC we had to create a ‘digital artefact’ which was then given a score by three other students that were chosen at random and were anonymous. The fact that only those students that had stayed the course through to the end were chosen as peer reviewers showed that they had level of knowledge and commitment that was needed.

    If you want to read a bit more about peer-to-peer learning then visit: http://dmlcentral.net/blog/philipp-schmidt/great-peer-learning-pyramid-scheme

    • Great idea, I’ve considered peer assessment to complement peer-to-peer learning, but I’ve always foundeered on how to actually make it work efficiently and equitably. This kind of concrete example is exactly what I was hoping to get from this MOOC: thanks!

  2. Sal Chappell says:

    Some interesting thoughts here – thanks! I’m still at the stage of thinking about how to get my students to be more reflective, so I’m not sure there’s really much I can add. I agree that student blogs could be useful, and it’s certainly something I want to start introducing next academic year. I wonder whether this is really because I’ve seen how beneficial it can be on this course? I used to keep a written journal of reflections on my teaching sessions, which was great at the time, but unfortunately was rarely revisited after the initial reflection. I’m hoping that having everything online will encourage me to reflect more continually, and this is a skill I’d like to explicitly develop for my students. I’m also aware that I need to keep the pedagogy first, reminding myself to think about the best way to do things and how technology can help with this, rather than the other way round 🙂

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