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The reflection process in online learning

The reflection process in online learning

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  • There are early views in educational theory that stress the importance of reflection in the educational process. According to Boud and Walker (1998), Dewey stated its importance as he stated that we are not taught to think, but can learn to think well and reflection is a critical component of that process (p.191).
  • Even with its early roots, reflection may be misunderstood, as the authors go on to state that in education, emotions and feelings are not valued as much as rigorous thought process, but in fact the reflective process also carries a visceral, emotional component (p.194). Reflection is indeed a multidimensional experience.
  • In the reflection process instructors need to be aware of the larger context through which the reflection will operate. As stated by Boud and Walker (1998), reflection is critical before, during, and after the learning event and needs to take in such contextual parameters as culture, educational institution, and educational discipline (p. 203).
  • Boud and Walker (1998) go on to say that honest self appraisal, conducted with the help of peers is not only the sign of someone who is a willing advocate of reflection, but this is critical when working within any environment which blurs the lines between personal and professional life (p. 205).
  • In the online learning environment, there is no physical meeting place for face to face reflection and interaction. Software platforms such as course management systems are the virtual brick-and-mortar environement, and as reported by Bos and Shami (20006), the platforms, while they may have started with limited capabilities of communication, especially between students, are now able to allow for robust interaction, communication, and group work that follows a constructivist, social learning environment (p. 494).
  • Bos and Shami (2006) report that pervious research, such as that performed in 1997 by the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt show that students learn more from educational experiences that involve reflection, which is the process of reviewing experience to identify generalizable knowledge. The authors go on to say that difficulties with incorporating reflection stem from two reasons; first that incorporating reflection is hard work, and second, that it is sometimes seen as a distraction from the task at hand (p. 497).
  • Given the evidence and research into the efficacy of incorporating reflection, the design challenge is to incorporate the reflective process seamlessly into the educational activities, according to Bos and Shami (2006, p. 498).
  • So what triggers individual reflection to group reflection? Rogers (2001) reported that in order to trigger the reflective process, the student must be subjected to events that are outside of their typical experience (p. 38). Another technique reported as effective by Rogers (2001) is to subject the student through a structured experience, which guides the student through a challenging situation that prompts the student to broaden their analysis and synthesis (p. 47).
  • Rogers (2001), citing the work of Seibert and Daudelin from 1999, state that the conditions that need to be met in order to promote reflection include autonomy, feedback, access and connection to others, stimulation by others, and significant performance demands (p. 43).
  • Specific techniques for promoting reflection online can include journaling, role modeling, use of guiding questions, and critical incidents (Rogers, 2001, p. 38).
  • Lin, hmelo, Kinzer, and Secules (1999) add to this list by suggesting that designers match design characteristics to specific goals, use sufficiently complex problems, use design that contains built in opportunities for multiple perspectives and group reflection, use design that allows for instructors to organize reflective activities, and use a design that facilitates and allows for the instructors interpretation of the results (p. 59).
  • Reflection can enhance learning and overall personal and professional effectiveness— both of which are critical aims of the educational process. In spite of its potential for positive outcomes, however, reflection remains a challenging concept for educators to apply in practice states Rogers (2001, P.49). A summation of the importance of integrating the reflective process into online learning was perhaps best said by Rogers in 2001, as he states “Perhaps no other concept offers higher education as much potential for engendering lasting and effective change in the lives of students as that of reflection. Reflective practices that are intellectually credible can promote resiliency and resourcefulness in the face of life’s dynamic challenges and encourage habits of individual and collective attention and analysis that can sustain higher education as it works to addressthe problems of society (p.55).
  • Transcript

    • 1. Kurt M. Sussman
      The Reflection Process
    • 2. Early Research
      Learning to think well: The reflection Process
    • 3. The Nature of Reflection
      The multifaceted nature of reflection
    • 4. The Larger Context of reflection
      When to reflect
    • 5. Self Reflection
      Peer support
    • 6. Reflection Online
      The Role of the Course Management System
    • 7. Barriers to Reflection
      Hard work?
    • 8. Designing for Reflection
      Integrate reflection into activities
    • 9. Triggers for Reflection
      Non-Typical Events
      Structured Experiences
    • 10. Conditions for reflection
      So, what conditions need to be met to facilitate the reflection process?
    • 11. Reflection Activities
      Online reflection
    • 12. Reflection Activities
      Multiple Perspectives
    • 13. Final Thoughts
    • 14. References
      Bos, N. (2006). Adapting a face-to-face role-playing simulation for online play.Educational Technology, Research and Development, 54(5), 493-493-521. Retrieved from
      Boud, D., & Walker, D. (1998). Promoting reflection in professional courses: The challenge of context. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 191-191-206. Retrieved from
      Lin, X., Hmelo, C., Kinzer, C. K., & Secules, T. J. (1999). Designing technology to support reflection. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 47(3), 43-43. Retrieved from
      Rogers, R. R. (2001). Reflection in higher education: A concept analysis. Innovative Higher Education, 26(1), 37-37-57. doi:10.1023/A:1010986404527