Context & Scale
This pattern is useful in large units in which there is a strong desire for students to connect the unit content and skills with their own personal goals and experiences. The pattern can be adopted in alignment with the reflection scaffolding framework developed by Coulson & Harvey (2013), which encompasses learning to reflect, reflection for action, and reflection on action.
The pattern outlines a highly supportive approach to implementing reflection to cater for a large number of students of varying reflective capabilities initially, while seeking to also maintain efficiency and flexibility. Providing feedback/feedforward to a large number of students can be time-intensive and so reflection at scale needs efficient approaches for students to improve their reflective capabilities throughout the unit.
Reflection can be challenging to implement at scale as students have different levels of reflective capability, and so a lot of support is needed to help all students understand expectations and develop appropriate reflective skills. The amount of time required by teachers to provide feedback and support for students’ reflections is an important consideration particularly when reflections are done regularly throughout the semester. Additionally, the enabling technology needs to be as seamless and easy to use as possible for both students and teaching staff.
Provide students with clear expectations and support resources/activities for their reflections, alongside feedback/feedforward throughout the semester to help them improve. Generate motivation for students to undertake high quality reflection, e.g. tie to student development of a professional identity and/or assessment grades.
Reflection at scale can be implemented with different variations to customise it to the emphasis you wish to place on reflective learning and the level of support that students will need. Below are some customisation options to consider.
Approaches to vary the points and rhythm of reflection throughout the semester to align with intended learning outcomes:
- Cumulatively build up the reflection entries each week to a final product or as part of a final toolkit that students can take away at the end of the unit.
- Prompt students to do their reflections at strategic points throughout the unit.
- Have reflections at the start and end of each weekly module to help students understand what they have learned that week.
Approaches to support efficient student development of reflective capabilities:
- Provide feedback in batches rather than every reflection.
- Provide formative feedback both individually and combined for the whole cohort.
- Provide students with formative feedback during the semester and only provide marks at the end of semester.
- Implement SINGLE DAY WORKSHOP SCHEDULING and/or MICRO-DEADLINES so that student reflections are all submitted at the same time and defined expectations can be set for students as to when they’ll receive feedback (including feedforward).
When introducing the reflections, help students to appreciate the value of reflective practice within the unit and later in life. Provide students with introductory resources, including a rubric and exemplars.
Deploy appropriate enabling technology or let students choose what technology to use (e.g. H5P, SRES, blog, video). This technology should be as simple as possible to set up each semester and for students to use (to minimise administration and technical support) while also have sufficient functionality to meet the requirements (e.g. text vs. multimedia reflections).
Set a defined schedule for student reflections and formative feedback. If reflections are submitted regularly (e.g. weekly) then feedback can be provided in batches that cover multiple submissions.
Provide opportunities for students to receive formative feed-forward to help them improve their reflective practice.
Examples of pattern in use
Foundations of Digital Business (INFS5002)
This pattern was developed iteratively. We acknowledge the Unit Coordinator, Sebastian Boell, from the Business Information Systems discipline and the teaching team.
This pattern was evaluated in one semester of a first-year postgraduate foundation unit (Digital Business Foundations). The unit had around 150 online students.
This unit follows a project-based learning approach in which students work in groups to design a Business Information System for an industry partner.
Students were required to complete a weekly reflective online journal using a blogging tool. Previously, students had completed their reflection using a paper-based journal. The shift to online reflection meant that new processes for marking and feedback needed to be developed, as the paper-based journal had allowed tutors to perform marking and feedback in-class by walking around the class during the in-class activities and this approach wasn’t viable in the online tutorials as it would have overly disrupted the students undertaking the in-class activities.
While the reflections were submitted weekly, they were marked in batches by tutors so that students received feedback/feedforward at three stages in the semester – for their posts in weeks 1-4, then for their weeks 5-8 posts, and finally for weeks 9-12. For each of these batches, text feedback was provided indicating where the student performed well and identifying ways for the students to improve the areas that needed more work. Their performance was also indicated on the rubric, and students could track any areas of improvements via changes to this across the three batches of feedback. This was done to help encourage students to focus on the feedback and level of performance, rather than their progressive mark (Jacobs et al, 2013). At the end of semester the whole blog was reviewed and students received a mark as well as feedback.
Students also completed a final reflective essay at the end of the unit in which they synthesised their experiences and learning within the unit and connected this with their personal goals and professional development.
Technology and resources
Visual design and representation was a key part of the reflection blog, and so an online blogging tool was selected as the simplest option that provided support for both multi-media and text. An external blogging tool was selected after a review of institutional and external options. The institutional ePortfolio system was deemed overly complex for this task, and the other institutional options allowed text-only input for students.
Students submitted their weekly blogs using the HTML submission within the Canvas LMS assessment tool. This took a snapshot of the blog post at the time of submission, as well as providing an HTML link to the post for the marker in case there were any elements that did not display correctly in Canvas.
The reflection was supported with a rubric and explanation of what reflective writing entailed. Additionally, exemplars were collected throughout the semester and a video developed in Week 8 to provide students with exemplar blog posts that showcased good reflective practice within this unit. Permission was gained from the students to showcase these exemplars in this semester and also in future semesters.
The teaching team reported that students improved their reflective practice throughout the semester and that in the final reflective essay almost all students were able to effectively connect what they learned in the unit with their own goals and professional development.
Students noted that the weekly reflections helped them to keep on task “I do like the fact that we have reflections weekly and group assignments weekly; it just keeps you, it just keeps pushing you to actually do your best in class and actually work with the group” and that completing the reflections was “really helpful for us to improve our group assignment.” Additionally, the use of the rubric to indicate the level of performance against each assessment criteria (in addition to written feedback) was seen as useful as it indicated “which aspect you have to improve“, although some students did request additional detail in the rubric to help them understand exactly what to improve.