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Reflection as defined by the Oxford English dictionary (1993) means 'idea arising in the mind' and mind means 'seat of consciousness, thought, volition, and feeling'. It seems therefore that reflection, in an every day term is about thinking that involves volition and feeling, therefore reflection is very personal as we are all unique individuals.
So, if reflection is thinking why are we being assessed on it, and how can it be assessed as surely we all think differently. Are reflective framework models, an aid to help me think or an aid to help the assessor's asses me? Am I being cynical or is cynicism accurate observation? Have we forgotten how to think? Are we living in an age where the pace of life is so fast that people don't have time to think any more? Is that why reflection is now being incorporated into curriculums or is it to enhance learning and the forming of concepts and connections? Is it to make me realise what my own ideas are, and which are somebody else's? Or is it as King and Kitchener (1994 cited Moon 2001, p.8) propose to challenge my learning and thereby improve my cognitive ability?
At first I thought that reflection was a complicated issue, but then I learnt that it was about thinking. When I first received this assignment I 'thought' that I would really enjoy it, as I would be able to be creative but whilst reflecting during the action of compiling my portfolio, and researching for my reflective essay, I have become resentful, not because I am resistant to change but because I feel that it is intrusive and a little patronising to give me somebody else's model or recipe of how to think. It seems that Moon (2001, p.16) would agree with me as she suggests
Are students told to reflect when actually they will simply follow a recipe (e.g. set questions; strict adherence to the Kolb cycle (Kolb, 1984))?
Do students own their reflections as children own their play? From my personal experience I would beg to differ as when I used the reflective model of Price (2002) to reflect upon my unit A assignments I found it stifling and found myself over-inflating my beliefs of segregation so that I would have something to write about in that part of the framework.
Bolton (1998) would suggest that my defensive attitude is 'a coping strategy' and that I am resisting 'change and development'. Whereas Lifton (1961 cited Atherton 2003) describes the process of thought reform as 'brainwashing'. For me these models are common sense and therefore I have been resentful towards them.
During one of our lessons we were given a sheet of paper with reflective models on it and asked to choose one to reflect upon our presentation. Personally, I had already reflected upon my presentation briefly immediately after I had finished it, then again in more depth in my car on the way home and then again in even more depth when I discussed it with my husband, read all the presentation handouts, and compared my presentation with everyone else's. Therefore personally I don't feel that I learnt anything by using Price's (2002) reflective framework model. However I have since learnt upon reflecting on my learning style that the majority of my learning characteristics are that of the 'dreamer' (Cottrell 2003, p.63).
One of the strengths of the 'dreamer' is to reflect and evaluate well. Therefore I can appreciate that Price's (2002) reflective framework model may be more beneficial to perhaps, the leaner with 'logician' characteristics as Cottrell (2003, p.63) proposes that their learning area to be developed is 'personal reflection'. However I do not feel that students can be pigeon-holed into certain learning types, although I must admit that most of my characteristics were spot on with Cottrell's (2003) dreamer learning style. It would seem that reflection has been beneficial to me after all, as it has made me aware of my learning style or styles and made me realise that the use of reflective frameworks are stifling for me, therefore I have thought about, 'reflected upon' and learnt something from 'the experience'. It seems that my learning experience is related to Boud et al's (1985) definition of reflection as they defines it as
A generic term for those intellectual and effective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to a new understanding and appreciation (Draper 1999).
It seems that Boud et al view reflection from the learner's point of view, emphasising the relationship of the reflective process and the learning experience. For example I have learnt from the experience of using reflective framework models that I find them stifling.
Whereas Dewey (1993) defines reflection as
An active persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends (Draper 1999).
Dewey views reflection as experiential learning and that each experience influences future experiences. For example Dewey may agree that from the racial prejudice that I discussed in section two that I take this experience with me to future experiences. For example through seeing some of the black citizens of Africa deformed via not being inoculated against polio I have not hesitated to inoculate my children against diseases such as polio, mumps, measles and rubella.
Therefore a past experience can inform a present experience, such as whether I should allow my teenagers to be inoculated against meningitis.
Schön (1993, 1987 cited Moon 2001, p. 3) focuses on reflection in professional knowledge and its development. He has identified two types of reflection. These are 'reflection in action' and 'reflection on action'. Schön proposes that these types of reflections are used in unique situations, where the practitioner is unable to apply 'theories or techniques previously learnt through formal education' (Moon 2001, p.4). It would therefore seem that 'reflection in action' and 'reflection on action' are highly beneficial to the care and educational industries as practitioners are working with individuals who are more often than not, text book examples. Reflection is a fundamental part of my childcare practice as I work with children and families who are individuals with unique qualities. This means that every time I do an activity I may need to do it differently as I will need to consider the individual needs of the child/children and that of their parents.
For example, if you were a factory worker and you packed cakes your reflection in action wouldn't take as long, because you would be working with inanimate objects. Therefore your reflections may be more pragmatic whereas in my job I am dealing with infants, toddlers, children and adults, therefore my reflections are constant and are more likely to be based upon emotions, as I am working with individuals who have emotions too. As the main ethos of my practice is to treat each child and family member as individuals, I therefore reflect 'in action' throughout my working day and reflect 'on action', sometimes immediately after an action, and sometimes later in the evening. For example when a parent arrives they may inform me of the hectic weekend that they have had. This information that I am provided with affects my reflection in action. For example if I have been informed that a child is likely to be very tired today and I have planned a hectic day, I would be thinking on my toes and adapt the days activities to fit a sleep in for that child.
It would seem that reflection is a paradox as there are many different meanings and types of reflection, the above being only a few. What is apparent though is that reflection is very complicated which is ironic considering that thinking is very easy. Perhaps then it is not the process of reflection that is hard, 'the thinking' but, it is dealing with the emotions that reflection brings. Perhaps I am being assessed on my reflection abilities as they are important to my holistic personal, education and practice development. Perhaps my cynicism in the introduction is healthy as,
No man who worships education has got the best out of education... Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
I certainly feel that I have got my initial contempt for reflection out of my system as I have realised that reflection has helped me make connections such as the link between my learning style and putting the practical writing of assignments off for as long as possible.
Reflection has as King and Kitchener proposed 'improved my cognitive ability', as I now have a better understanding of reflection and myself. I also feel that students do own their reflections as they own their past experiences which they draw upon during reflection. Personally I do not like reflective framework models but I appreciate that they can be very beneficial for students who find reflection difficult.