Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reflecting on e-learning theories and practice

Today's module is a chance to discuss case studies and look deeply at reflecting on our practice.

I have decided to blog my notes on this module as a way of reflection.
As I prepare for 2012 and the development of blended learning environment, with a mix of face to face and online learning, I need to be aware of my purpose, my design and my delivery. My course needs to:

  • be accessible and brief (presented in chunks);
  • allow for beginners; 
  • online to allow for 24/7 learning;
  • include tips for improvement of online learning;
  • reflect current pedagogical practice;
  • utilise case studies.
I also need to be aware of the following:
  • inducting learners online;
  • socialising learners including cyber safety;
  • discussion forums, with small assessment tasks attached to increase participation;
  • interacting via skype as discussion forum, 
  • email as supplementary teaching strategy;
  • how to evaluate learners interaction and participation.
Developing an online learning component allows ubiquitous learning.  We need to be aware of the learner's WIIFM (what's in it for me).  
I envisage an online learning environment that is developed with the learners, by the learners and for the learners.  
Today we looked at models of experiential learning, focusing on the role of reflection.  If you try something new and it goes well, do more of it.  If it doesn't go well, reflect on it and identify changes needed for it to go well.  Experiential learning is a continuous spiral, reflection over the whole journey.  

"Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it.  It is this working with experience that is important in learning.  The capacity to reflect is developed to different stages n different people and it may well be this ability which characterises those who learn effectively from experience."  (Boud, Keogh & Walker 1985)

We need to move from reaction to reflection, just as we need to move from a description of events to reflective practice.  Reflection is higher order thinking requiring a lot more thinking than reacting.  Reflective diaries or logs or blogs can aid reflection.  

Today we looked at a range of models:
I readily identify with the cyclical nature of Gibb's model.  I can see this will be very useful to work through with learners as they reflect on their learning journey. 

Again, the cyclical model from Kolb and Fry as a progression from experience, to reflective observation, to abstract conceptualisation to active experimentation is easy to follow.  

Jarvis's model challenges me greatly to follow, but I like that it's ultimate purpose is transformation.

In summary, reflective practice is a must for educators and learners alike.  We must:
  • move beyond describing events and incidents;
  • think and think about our thinking (metacognition)
  • Question - why do I do things; how do I do things; how do I know when things go well; how might I do things differently another time.
Reflective practice benefits:
  • helps us rationalise or explain our experiences;
  • allows for inquiry;
  • helps refine our strategies;
  • ensures exploration of our personal teaching/learning partices;
  • leads to informed strategies;
  • consolidates our beliefs, attitudes and assumptions; 
  • places our work in context;
  • allows for more worldly context - reflecting on practices of others globally.
I really enjoyed this model of my paper: Authentic E-learning pedagogies out of University of Tasmania.

As I reflect on this module I ask myself the following:
  • How do I model reflective practice to my learners?
  • How do I build in explicit opportunities for reflection on learning?
  • How will I allow for class, group and individual reflection?
  • How do I ensure that all learners develop their ability to reflect?
  • How can we ensure reflection can be as varied and individual as possible and build on and extend our own reflective practice?
In the past I have used reflective journals with a class with limited success.  I now have a renewed enthusiasm for experimenting with reflection in a myriad of ways.  Roll on 2012 - the year of reflection... 
I chuckled as I wrote that last sentence, as 2011, a year on study leave has perhaps been the most reflective year of my life!  It really has been an amazing opportunity to reflect on where I am heading.

I would love to hear of how others are reflecting with their learners...


  1. Thanks for taking the time to reflect online Anne, by sharing your thoughts it not only empowers others to do the same but 'ignites the spark of curiousity' for others to delve further into the readings and theorists you have shared. Your first two models are clear and easily 'consumed' which I can relate to. I look forward to reading more. The changes that lie ahead with the move to E-learning PD being delivered as a blended approach will certainly pose challenges but ones I look forward to grappling with.

  2. Thanks Paula. I really enjoyed the opportunity to reflect and blog this module. It made me wish I had blogged them all - maybe that is something I will do retrospectively which will enhance my learning. I too look forward to the exciting and challenging opportunities that lie ahead...

  3. Hi Anne. Thanks for the models brings back memories . I have found that the more I explore the world through the Internet the more I stumble upon. I have found it difficult to reflect however, I find that the needs for assessment of my learning do not allow enough time for me to engage, absorb, discuss, reflect, consider, reflect(my pattern). I have found that as my learning grows and the more I discover the less time I have for reflection and the online learning environment blocks a lot of reflective discussion, and as I have not yet built confidence in Twitter I feel a lot of my learning passes by without consideration. I have learnt for me that discussion around an idea after the learning helps with my reflection. Perhaps we need a reflectwitt for reflection. just where we can post thoughts for random comment for reflection.

    Thankyou for sharing your reflections with us.