Reflection on a business education course

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Reflection according to Walker E. S (2006) p 216 has been defined as "a process regarding thinking about and exploring an issue of concern, which is triggered by an experience". This simply means that for there to be a reflection, there has to be an experience, irrespective of it being positive or negative. Leaver- Dunn et al were also noted in Walker E. S (2006) p 216 that reflection has the ability to distinguish between the expert practitioners and their peers.

To start with and looking way back to the beginning of this particular course it is interesting to note that being an international student from Nigeria and studying Marketing Communications in the University of Bedfordshire was an experience never to be forgotten, i have been through various forms of transformation, since the session started in September 21st,2009.

Transformation theory, that was initially developed by Jack Mezirow, "identifies a process of change that begins with an experience one cannot incorporate into the mental matrix built from prior life experience, and which usually includes the following components: a disorientating dilemma, self examination, a critical assessment of assumptions, the recognition that others have gone through similar processes, the exploration of options for forming new roles, relationships or actions, the formulation of a plan of action and reintegration into the experience with new, transformed perspectives". Fuguan Tan (2009)

Talking about transformation, i personally come from a country that the educational system is totally different from that of Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. I was able to come to terms with the fact that there existed a school calendar that will be strictly followed and i saw myself in an organised setting. At first i had problems coming to terms with being the only Nigerian girl in my class until later when i was joined by another fellow from my home country, this gave me a bit of confidence as to facing the challenging course.

In the words of Aileen C. and Elaine E, (2004) they wrote that thoroughly reflecting on practice is actually a central feature of effective learning, they went on to define reflection as focusing on the immediate, thereby presenting the details of a problem or task. As an individual i agree with the need to reflect or rather focus on the immediate, this will definitely help to make corrections for the future and not make the same mistakes already made if at all there was any.

Further in the words of Horton-Deutsch. S and Sherwood Gwen (2008, p 947) reflection involves "thinking about experience, which leads learners to a fuller understanding of what they know and increases their potential for leadership". Also true in my perspective is the argument of Horton-Deutsch, who wrote that it is important to reflect or think back on the experience, which will in turn improve the individual's knowledge about a particular situation or increase the potential for greater heights.

In most cases it is believed that the experience for studying abroad has great potential for transforming international student. I must say i went through some stages of transformation such as encountering change, engaging in reflection, reconfiguring perceptions and re-acclimating to the situation. Fuguan Tan (2009) Worthy of note is the point that throughout my study in my home country , there has never been an opportunity for me to reflect, this made it rather impossible for me to have a re-think on my mistakes, and there was also no opportunity to make corrections.

5.2 WHAT DOES REFLECTION MEAN?

Cunliffe, (2004, p. 414) defines reflection "as the means or process through which an experience in the form of thought, feeling, or action, is examined to analyze its meaning while it is happening or subsequently". Kember et al., (2000), wrote that reflection does represent a point on a learning continuum which is then characterised by habit at one end and critical reflection at the other. To Schon (1983) reflection is referred to as the ability to rethink one's prior thoughts and action in context, both to surface assumptions as well as to make meaning.

Reflection, as written in Klenowski V and Lunt I (2008) is mostly defining with regards to conceptual components and theoretical perspectives. Horton-Deutsch S and Sherwood Gwen (2008) explained that "Reflection is about learning from experience, a critical aspect of knowledge development and a skill essential to leadership development". They both went on to argue on the basis that reflection goes far beyond ordinary empirical knowing, but it also combines personal and ethical ways of knowing. Korthagen F and Vasalos A (2005) wrote that the essential importance of reflection is to learn from experiences.

Woerkom M (2010) referred to reflection in Deweyan's perspective as instrumental learning; he went further to note that it is the assessment of assumptions implicit in beliefs about how to solve problems. In this particular definition, reflection thus also includes an element of criticism but refers more to instrumental thinking, which is concerned with how to solve a problem. In contrast, Mezirow defines critical reflection as addressing the question of the justification for the very premises on which problems are posed or defined in the first place and examination of their sources and consequences.

Critical reflection cannot become an integral element in the immediate action process but requires a hiatus in which to reassess one's meaning perspectives and, if necessary, to transform them. Critical self-reflection refers to the most important learning experience. It means reassessing the way we have posed problems, our own meaning perspectives, as well as reassessing our own orientation to perceiving, knowing, believing, feeling, and acting.

Some of the scholars perceived reflection, as critical reflection or critical thinking. It is therefore often not clear what the difference is, or even if there exist a difference, between these terms. Dewey, who is perceived as the founder of the concept of reflection, sometimes uses the terms "reflective thinking" and "critical thinking" interchangeably. Scott. G.S (2010)

5.3 RECOLLECTIONAND PROCESS OF REFLECTION OF REFLECTION

The theoretical framework for reflection according to Korthagen F and Vasalos A (2005, p48) is referred to as ALACT model. This model is said to rely on the assumption that "by nature people reflect on their experiences". The model also describes a structured reflective process, but on the other hand, the model did not take note about the content of reflection. On the other hand Scott. G S (2010) p 434 argued that the benefit of reflection has got extensive theoretical support in literature, though Scott's definition of reflection is not without its own argument.

He went on to write that the critical theorists' reflection is considered to "require the surfacing of assumptions relative to situations and surrounded firmly power relations, control and the transformation of belief and values". Reflection was interchangeably used by management theorists as "personal, psychological change rather than social change" Scott. G.S (2010) p 434

The role of student reflection is an integrated learning process, and reflection has three stages: a review of experience, analysis, and re-evaluation (Peltier, & Drago, 2004; Peltier et al., 2005). The initial stage of this process is the review of experience and presupposes awareness. That is, it presupposes that the experience in question has been brought into consciousness. The term 'reflection' is frequently used very loosely and this can easily obscure the disciplined and challenging nature of such learning.

Reynolds (1999) distinguishes between critical reflection an approach in which both experience and its social and political contexts are examined, reflection which focuses on the individual and gives little attention to social or political processes, and critical thinking, a term which he argues is 'usually used to signify a disciplined approach to problem solving' (Reynolds, 1999, p. 173). He went on to claim that in the management literature "critical reflection" is being used in the weaker sense to describe thoughtful analysis or problem solving' (Reynolds, 1999, p. 177).

With regard to reflection and learning, Argyris and Schon distinguish between

single loop and double loop learning. For the exercise of single loop learning it is possible 'by observing and reflecting on our own actions, to make a description of the tacit knowing implicit in them' (Schon, 1987, p. 25).This enables us to analyse and evaluate such knowledge. However, double loop learning involves not only reflecting on one's actions, but also exploring the assumptions and 'theories-in use' which are embedded in those actions. Walsh (2009)

5.4 PERSONAL FEELINGS AND LEARNING FROM THE EXPERIENCE

The discomfort that was felt at the beginning of the dissertation was overwhelming. It all started the first day that we were told to prepare for the first dissertation presentation, as i faced the fear i still was able to gather knowledge. I wondered in the beginning if i could cope with the work ahead of me, but with the encouragement of mentors i was able to face it and carry on.

Reflective thinking is to be used to enhance decision skills, cultural sensitivity, and teamwork, not simply express feelings or record in a diary what occurred, McInnis-Bowers et al. (2010) In the words of Scott S G (2010) reflection, is referred to as "the process of rethinking one's prior thoughts and actions in context to surface assumptions and make meaning. Reflection represents one point on a learning continuum that is characterized by habit at one pole and critical reflection at the other". During the course of my study particularly during the period i was writing up my dissertation, the experience i had has thought me to believe in myself and stop thinking i cannot do it. It has thought me to always face my tasks with whatever challenges that come with it. From this experience i have realised that there is no two ways about succeeding except through hard work and there is a saying that goes thus Proper, Preparation, Prevents, Poor, Performance 5P's.

The first feedback i had with my group members for the progress in the Trident campaign which marked the kick off for the final dissertation. It did not seem a good start to me, because my group had a lot of things to work on and it was obvious not every group member was willing to work. Although the feeling did not serve as a drawback it only meant i had to work harder. On that day we were advised on the three vital aspects of the dissertation which included the campaign plan and report, literature review and finally the reflection.

Before we attended the second feedback, myself and the other three group members met on three occasions where we delegated work to each member on the task ahead, most of the time it was two of the four members that was active, and on several instances i personally encouraged them to put in more effort so we all can achieve success at the end of the piece of work. The second feedback which was on the tenth of March, was attended by two supervisors and again i was not happy with myself as no thorough research was done, my input was not good enough and when we were asked what our campaign strategy meant, none of my group members could respond, this became a bit depressing.

Looking forward to a sixty unit module i felt really down, but then it became a challenge. The problem that was posed was the inability to put literature together to back our arguments up but at the latter stage things got better.

Again in the beginning it looked like we had difficulty interpreting the brief, as we came up with several propositions, objectives and strategy which seemed not to make sense, for this reason the task became more competitive as the other two groups had the same topic and it seemed my group was not making a head way.

5.5 GROUP DYNAMICS AND LEARNING FROM THE EXPERIENCE

Within my group i happened to be the only female amongst three guys and i thought this reason will make them more active than i am but the reverse was the case, this was the reason why in the beginning i had mixed feelings about working within a group, as it seemed everyone had a level of understanding and this means it takes a brilliant one to be able to achieve success. I had no choice at that point as we had a little group of twelve in the entire marketing communications, masters' degree class, which made it really obvious to be able to distinguish between the brilliant and dull students. Several times i was not happy with the groups i fall into, but with determination to excel i usually face it, and i never regretted my decisions as i never failed a group work.

According to Moon (2004, p. 136) "when considering the university perspective on experiential learning and reflection, it becomes apparent, that the fact 'that all education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative' he also argued that a distinction needs to be made between what she terms 'informal reflection' and 'academic reflection' the latter being a formal process". Walsh (2009)

At a point during the group meetings i became so unhappy and i told other group members i was no longer interested in the work though this was not a true statement from my heart, i was probably too upset, but with time i was able to calm myself down and cope even though things did not work out as planned

On several occasions there existed misunderstanding and i personally found out that there was need for these misunderstanding as it helps in moving forward most of the time. Again many at times a member within the group was used to saying he works better under pressure and this did not go well with me as i do not work well under pressure, instead i do the opposite meaning i plan my time and i appreciate time management and not fire brigade approach in carrying out my task. Many times after a misunderstanding there exist dialogue and apologies will be made by the necessary group members and then the task continues, interestingly we tend to achieve more at this time.

Another point worthy to note at this time is that working within a group gives a knowledge about the office environment, where one will be working with other members of staff and if a task is to be carried out, there will be no opportunity to choose who to and who not to work with. Each time i think of this i am encouraged to cope within any group i find myself and try to corporate and have a good team spirit.

Reflection then, in the words of Scott G S (2010) p 432 is the process or means by which an experience, in the form of thought, feeling, or action, is examined to distil its meaning while it is happening or subsequently. Reflection is fodder for self-regulation in an environment where what we define as useful and effective behaviour changes continuously. With reference to the words of Scott (2010) i had different reactions to every situation that i was faced with, always thinking back that i had a degree in a different educational setting and now a masters in Europe.

At that point it was obvious something was not right as the first and second feedback did not yield a positive result, but something i held on to was the words given by the supervisors, which i pondered on, i went on to sent my piece of work to the tutors over the internet, again little improvement was made, it all became worrying but i never give up.

What happened next? I suggested we needed to meet a tutor and start afresh, interesting, we approached him and he was happy to lead us aright, every group member attended this meeting and things began to change. From the proposition, target audience, strategy and very many useful advices was given. Most importantly we were told to include some theories of learning and reflection to buttress some points, this period was a well cherished one as it marked the beginning of a turn around.

My role within the group was a very vital one as the other members do contact me to know what the next step was, i was always be called upon to divide the task and explain what we did so far including the future plan. I enjoyed doing this as i have always seen myself as a charismatic leader, of course a leader by example.

5.6 LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE PROJECTS

When one talks of success story, that does not literarily mean the results for the dissertation is out already but the fulfilment and the joy that comes to mind knowing basically that the group work and the individual part was done and submitted in due time is worthy of note. Soon after the summer holiday started two of the four group members did travel to their home country leaving just two people to deal with the work. Sincerely things went slow but at each time a meeting was arranged and there was progress at every meeting coupled with misunderstandings.

On the eighth of June, we had a final group presentation with feedback, which marked the final day of the course, to our greatest surprise the proposition we have changed time and time again, target audience segmentation and the tag line began to communicate, it became obvious that the group was on track even though the actual presentation got lost in a missing flash drive. The group was advised to do more research and understand the target audience and what needs to be done to communicate the brand (Trident chewing gum) is the strategy and implementation. Throughout this same month and July communication continued online as it became a bit difficult to meet in the university since the library closed earlier than usual. Each part of the campaign was dealt with rigorously and the power point slides were put together then the report followed afterwards.

Scott G. S (2010) p 433 was earlier quoted in the report where he noted that John Dewey is considered a key originator of thinking about reflection. Dewey argued in his own words that reflective individuals have certain characteristics, which includes open-mindedness, which illustrates the will power within an individual to accept intellectual responsibility for one's own views, wholeheartedness this simply means, a willingness to face fears and uncertainties, and finally enthusiasm.

Reflection is concerned with practices and actions, especially professional practice in fields such as school teaching (Allen, 1992; Beyer, 1989; Collier, 1999), nursing (Burns & Bulman, 2000), social work (Fook, 1996), and management "communities of practice" (Welsh & Dehler, 2004). Reflection also generates inquiry and a search for meaning; it provides the potential to see things in a way they have not been understood before. More simply, reflective practice contributes to learning.

What i have learnt that will be forever useful to me is the ability to dialogue, this a very important instrument particularly in a group work scenario. Again it is good to listen to the leader as two wrongs can never make a right, it is totally unfair when team members refuse to listen to the leader, and obviously things will not go well. I have also learnt that in the future i understand clearly the basis of my task before i kick off with work on it, as this delayed my group from moving forward during the presentation, as though we were moving around within the same circle, before we got our priorities right.

"The means of reflection is most often dialogue through which subjective and objective experience is processed, questioned, and meaning is made of it. Reflection through dialogue demonstrates students' learning through their ability to conceptualize what they have learned, the meaning it has for their present and future, and the recognition that they are neither the same person as they were a few years previously nor should they expect to be a few years hence. Baker, Jensen, and Kolb (2002) labelled this approach to learning "the inside-out approach." Scott G. S (2010) p 433

5.7 CONCLUSION

In concluding this reflection report it is interesting to note that "learning can be considered as a process of argumentation in which thinking, reflecting, experiencing and action are different aspects of the same process". It is also a practical argumentation with oneself and in collaboration with others that actually forms the basis of learning. (Pavlica et al. 1998: 145) in Corley A and Eades E (2004, P 138)

During the review of literature it was noted according to Jeffrey D et al. (2000) that reflection is not an entirely new process and some writers trace it to the work of Socrates, they went on to describe reflection "as a process of disengaging from or stepping back from an experience and taking time to deliberately and carefully review it, think about it and construct meaning from it, however reflection is said to have a past, present and future element.

In this report the writer has been able to reflect generally about the past experience, looking through the beginning of the marketing communications master's degree first impression, through to the present time which has to do with the experience while writing up the dissertation, it is also interesting to note that the writer also discussed briefly of future expectations and learning from the past experience that can positively affect the future work.

Having reflected on my experience from first day of university up until the days of my final dissertation, i will say i have actually enjoyed the entire process. Meeting friends from other parts of the world was a good thing to remember, with no exceptions of my tutors who were always there, and willing to help with whatever need we might have during the course of study. However i quit e agree with the idea of personal reflections as it gives the opportunity to think back and make amends as required. This in turn will have a positive effect on an individual.

REFERENCES

Miriam Catterall, Pauline Maclaran, and Lorna Stevens (2010) Critical Reflection in the Marketing Curriculum Journal of Marketing Education, Vol. 24 No. 3, December 2002 184-192

Scott. G Susanne (2010) Enhancing Reflection Skills through Learning Portfolios:

An Empirical Test. Journal of Management Education 34(3) 430-457. The Author(s) , http://www. sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav

Fuguan Tan (2009) Tri-fold Transformation: An International Adult Student's Reflections on Online Learning.

Walker E. S (2006). Journal Writing as a Teaching Technique to Promote Reflection Journal of Athletic Training Vol. 41, No 2 p216-221

Klenowski Val and Lunt Ingrid (2008) Enhancing learning at doctoral level through the use of reflection. Taylor & Francis

Walsh Anita (2009) Modes of Reflection: Is it possible to use both individual and collective reflection to reconcile the 'three-party knowledge interests' in workplace learning? European Journal of Education, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2009, Part I _1389 385

Aileen Corley and Elaine Eades (2004) 'Becoming' critically reflective practitioners: academics' and students' reflections on the issues involved. Pp. 137-144. Human Resource Development International, Taylor and Francis Limited

Horton-Deutsch Sarah and Sherwood Gwen (2008) Reflection: an educational strategy to develop emotionally- competent nurse leaders. Journal of Nursing Management, 16, 946-954

Doyle, Wendy; Young, Jeffrey D (2000).Managing Development: Making the most Experience and Reflection. Fall2000, Vol. 25 Issue 3, p18

Marianne van Woerkom, (2010) Advances in Developing Human Resouces. The Concept of Critical Reflection and Its Implications for Human Resource Development Advances in Developing Human Resources Vol. 6, No. 2 p 178-192

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