Use of reflection as a method of improving student engagement


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Slides for the presentation by Dr Karen Fullerton (University of Aberdeen) at the Learning in Law Annual Conference 2011.

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Use of reflection as a method of improving student engagement

  1. 1. Use of Reflection as a Method of Improving Student Engagement<br />Dr Karen Fullerton<br />University of Aberdeen<br />29th January 2011<br />
  2. 2. To introduce reflection to undergraduate law students at an early stage<br />To improve the student learning experience and engagement with the course<br />To encourage students to relate their learning to skills required in legal practice <br />To enable students to start early in self-recording evidence of skills development for use in preparation for applying for entry into the legal practice<br />Aim of the pilot study<br />2<br />
  3. 3. Pilot study<br />To introduce the use of a reflective logbook as part of a compulsory first year LLB course<br />To trial its use in a dedicated skills course – Legal Research & Writing:<br />Legal information retrieval<br /> Critical evaluation of documentary/online resources<br /> Legal writing<br /> Oral communication <br /> Team working<br />Evaluation of use of the logbook:<br />Review of the submitted logbooks<br />A questionnaire survey examining student experience <br />Legal profession input through a series of interviews<br />3<br />
  4. 4. University-wide PDP resource <br />Used by students without active intervention by lecturers<br />Owned by students<br />Generic resource which is not directly linked to any discipline<br />Logbook intended to complement wider PDP system<br />Relationship with University-wide PDP <br />4<br />
  5. 5. The Reflective Logbook<br />Purpose and relevancy<br />Self assessed audits of specific skills at start and end of the course<br />Information and reflective questions in relation to each of the five skills areas<br />Reflective questions on the first year and relating their experience to date to how this is equipping them for legal practice<br />5<br />
  6. 6. Review of logbooks<br />295 log books submitted - 94% of the class <br />Self assessed audit of skills<br />Upward movement for all skills areas <br />Positive shift average of 2 for all skills <br /> (0 none -3 excellent)<br />Highest initial self-assessment - team working followed by oral communication<br />Lowest initial self-assessments - information retrieval and evaluation<br />6<br />
  7. 7. Asked to rate the level of achievement of the learning outcome for each area of skills on a scale of 1(low) to 5 (high)<br />Majority response in all cases was 4 with the exception of team working skills where the majority response was 5<br />Achievements in five areas of skills<br />7<br />
  8. 8. Significant learning event<br />Legal information skills<br />“(a) Using materials in the library rather than just using online sources widened my knowledge and access to information<br />(b) It took me a while to discover where these source were<br />(c) Spend more time in the library tracing different sources.”<br />Evaluation skills<br />“(a) Having to discuss an article I found relating to my topic (Sarah’s Law) because it came from a site that did not have good authority.<br />(b) Well – I feel I learnt the importance of considering where sources come from and who they were written by, as a key part of evaluation.<br />(c) Continue to evaluate retrieved information in future work.”<br />8<br />
  9. 9. Significant learning event<br />Legal writing skills<br />“(a) Having to create an accurate bibliography<br />(b) I felt I gave it my best attempt, but I still don’t feel comfortable presenting work in the correct format<br />(c) Keep looking over the referencing guide in the handout until I feel more comfortable.”<br />Oral communication skills<br />“(a) the group presentation<br />(b) not to the best of my abilities I became a bit flustered when I stumbled on a few words<br />(c) prepare more notes in advance – slow down my speaking when presenting.”<br />9<br />
  10. 10. Significant learning event<br />Team working skills<br />“(a) Group meetings and the issue of deadlines and contributing<br />(b) As leader of my group I felt my reaction initially to group members failing to meet deadlines and their lack of contribution was poor. I tended to take on their workload myself. My performance became much better when organising the oral presentation, as I encouraged the members more strictly to contribute.<br />(c) Participation in more group discussions.”<br />10<br />
  11. 11. 11<br />Skills development<br />“I will try to be critical when it comes to reading: not just reading of legal sources but reading in general. For example when reading the newspaper I will try to see if there is a slant.” <br />“I already do team work with the University Air Squadron. Thus allowing me to use the skills I have developed in this course to outside realities.”<br />Making good any skills shortfall:<br />“Ask friends to constructively criticise my attempts at practice presentations.”<br />“Become involved in the mooting society.”<br />“I need to plan my work better so I have a well organised structure and not drift from the topic by inserting bits of my own opinion and going off on tangents not related to the topic.”<br />
  12. 12. End of year reflections<br />Which aspect of your studies do you find most challenging and why?<br />“I found that referencing is the most difficult part. Although I follow written guides my mind appears to always put it in backwards. I need to keep an extremely close eye on this.”<br />“The reading side of law I initially found very challenging as a lot of the cases and statutes are quite lengthy, and it takes a while to feel more comfortable with them.”<br />“Definitely oral presentations. I am very self conscious about being centre of people’s attention particularly if I don’t know them.”<br />12<br />
  13. 13. End of year reflections<br />How do you feel about your academic performance so far? Could you improve it in any way?<br />“I feel I am doing quite well in the subjects I am interested in and scraping by in the ones I am not. I could improve by going to more lectures and revising as the year goes, rather than cramming 3 weeks before exams.”<br />“I feel I am performing to a reasonably high level but I know I could improve it by working harder and doing more work in my own time.”<br />“I think I am doing well, of course I can do better, spend more time away from face book!”<br />13<br />
  14. 14. End of year reflections<br />What practical experience have you gained this year that you feel will help equip you to work as a solicitor/legal advisor? <br />“Enjoyed being part of the mooting society and have attended most moots.”<br />“Having delivered an oral presentation, worked as a team and participated in tutorials has greatly helped my confidence which is essential for a solicitor/legal advisor.”<br />“The ability to work alone on a topic I know little about. The individual report really taught me how to write independently without constant assistance.”<br />14<br />
  15. 15. Anonymous questionnaire distributed electronically<br />Response rate: 31%<br />97 responses out of a class of 314 students<br />Previous reflection<br />Just over a third (36%) had used formal reflection prior to completing the reflective logbook<br />Questionnaire survey of the class<br />15<br />
  16. 16. Self assessment of skills grids<br />16<br />
  17. 17. Questions on 5 specific skills areas<br />17<br />
  18. 18. End of year reflection<br />18<br />
  19. 19. 68% had completed it in 1-2 hours<br />84% would not have completed the logbook if it had been voluntary<br />Only 1 student had incorporated their logbook into the university PDP e-portfolio<br />Completion of the logbook<br />19<br />
  20. 20. Usefulness and relevancy<br />46% did not regard the logbook as a useful part of first year law studies while 24% thought it was useful (30% were neutral)<br />The students were split with regard to the relevancy of the logbook to their studies: <br /> 42% relevant/39% not relevant (19% were unsure)<br />26% perceived the logbook as relevant to their future career while 39% viewed it as not relevant (35% were unsure)<br />20<br />
  21. 21. Interviews were undertaken with 5 practicing solicitors from firms of different sizes<br />Benefits identified for <br />The recruitment process<br />Preparing students for their time as a trainee <br />Identification of their own development needs<br />Extension to other years<br />Views of the legal profession <br />21<br />
  22. 22. Logbook review – evidence of reflection and engagement with their learning experience<br />Questionnaire on the student experience – evidence of benefits but students display little direct recognition of the benefit to themselves<br />Legal profession input – useful for future careers for those intending to enter legal practice <br />Conclusions<br />22<br />
  23. 23. Conclusions<br />Reflection a new activity to majority of students<br />Students not attracted by reflection <br />Students had little direct recognition of any benefit to themselves <br />Students did reflect candidly on their learning experience<br />Probing questions indicate benefits realised<br />Actual process is beneficial to engagement enabling students to reflect on their learning, performance and achievement<br />23<br />
  24. 24. Subject specific reflective learning activities<br />Element of compulsion<br />Improve promotion of the benefits of reflection – feed back the positive reaction of the legal profession<br />Electronic format<br />24<br />Lessons for the future<br />