Reflection – practice and tools.
Reflection is regarded as a crucial aspect of learning but is seldom defined or operationalised. In doing research for a previous paper I interviewed a number of people, all of whom said that reflection was important for their learning. Two things struck me, however. The first was that they all described it in very different ways – to the extent that I wondered is the concept was meaningful at all. The second was that they all made strong statements about the physical context – in the bath, on the bus etc.
The latter is interesting in terms of theories of learning which include concepts like habitus, “the physical embodiment of cultural capital, to the deeply ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions that we possess due to our life experiences” (Routledge, no date) as an example of habitus in practice. It is also reminiscent of Merleau-Ponty's Body schema – the physical aspect of mental activities, the consequence of which is that it is impossible to fully reflect if you are prevented from adopting the bodily schema – not being in the bath for example. These aspect point to the complexity of the process of reflection and the difficulty of teaching and improving it.
This is the problem with the advocacy of reflection in education, in particular in the e-portfolio movement, advocates who argue that the provision of e-portfolios, and tools like journals in virtual learning environments will get students to reflect. In my experience such tools seldom work and when they do they are seen as chores by students who drop them immediately after they have completed the assessment for which they were required.
Reflection and the recording of reflection are of course two totally different things! Although some would argue that the former, without the latter is transient and therefore not valuable, likely to be a passing moment. While I do not take that view, in my practice I attempt to record most of my reflections.
Why do I find this important?
- To consolidate the reflection – recording it generally enriches it
- To store it for latter use, either for my learning or reporting to others
- Planning further action is helped
At which point the idea that reflection is a single activity is again challenged and leads to my main learning about reflection and tools to aid reflection.
I reflect in different ways in different times for different purposes. Therefore, I use different tools.
- Paper – when it is quick and unstructured, so a mindmap is easier to be free of structure
- Evernote – for random reflections when I don’t have an aim apart from getting it down on paper – or if it is a random idea for a project
- Onenote – if it is part of an existing project – or something which is clearly going to be a project, onenote is more structured and imposes discipline – useful when you want/need it.
- Photo’s – I am late to this but am learning the value of taking photo’s as a way of recording the subject of reflections to come back to later – there are various ways of storing them.
- Blogs and twitter – when I know that I want to share immediately (all the above may be shared later of course).
The idea that I would be restricted to one format is ridiculous.
To enhance your reflection by recording it therefore means having a variety of tools which fit your habitus and bodily schema around reflection and what you want to do with it. It takes trial and error to find that – but worth it.
Routledge (no date) Habitus | Social Theory Rewired. Available at: http://routledgesoc.com/category/profile-tags/habitus (Accessed: 28 September 2018).