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A reflection on reflection

May 28th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Reflection is increasingly seen as a key process in learning, particularly for work based or practice based learning. This involves reflecting of what you have done and what it means. Reflection may be especially important in making explicit tacit learning and in scaffolding new knowledge and ideas.

Yet reflection is not always an easy learning process. It may be particularly sterile when learners are told to go and reflect! Whilst it is possible to teach or practitioner the skills involved in reflection – active listening, questioning, commentating – reflection is difficult to undertake on demand.

Furthermore, the forms that we use to report on academic learning – essays and papers – may either not be particularly conducive to immediate reflection or may be far too time consuming – especially for work based learners.

Personally I see reflection as a conversation, with myself or with others. And that works best for me out of the office or at the end of the day. That is when I think on what I have done and what it might mean. I often sit in my local pub with my iPod Touch or just a back of an envelope and furiously scribble notes or more often somewhat chaotic mind maps. The fact that I often never look at the results (and sometimes cannot read them anyway) does not seem to matter – it is the process which counts.

This is where I think audio can come in. I have been greatly impressed with the Jisc funded Sounds Good project.  The main aim of Sounds Good was to test the hypothesis that using digital audio for feedback can benefit staff and students by:

  • saving assessors’ time (speaking the feedback rather than writing it)


  • providing richer feedback to students (speech is a richer medium than written text).

The project has in general been extremely successful. But if speech is a richer medium for staff providing feedback then why not for students reflecting on learning.

And the increasing availability of easy to use recording technologies utilising mobile devices makes this process simple. Anyway here is a short audio reflection on e-portfolios and data security and on using audio for reflection!

Here is an audio comment from our colleague Jenny Hughes “Reflections on Reflection”:

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3 Responses to “A reflection on reflection”

  1. If the reflection is to be audio and the feedback is to be audio, why don’t we move from asynchronous to synchronous and do it face to face when we can?

    Anne Marie

  2. Graham Attwell says:

    Interesting point Anne Marie. And of course in formal education feedback is often oral and simultaneous. But one of the big issues for work base learners is that they do not have access to tutors at times which are convenient for both.

    I also think that the act of recording the ‘reflection’ is slightly different to that of a conversation – it is more intense and forces thinking back – what did I learn – what does that mean. So it has added value … and can help in the learning process.

  3. jen hughes says:

    My response left on audio……

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