NU Reflect: engaging with reflective practice

ePortfolio is being redeveloped and relaunched as NU Reflect for September 2021 to help support personal, professional, and academic reflection in both modular and non-modular contexts. For improved functionality and ease of use, the system will be split into two landing pages in Canvas:

The NU Reflect landing page will provide the opportunity to record and share reflections, recognise and categorise personal skills being developed, e.g., against the Graduate Framework, and to participate in Groups and collaborate with other students in Communities.

The Personal Tutoring and Support landing page will provide options to engage with tutors/tutees, create and manage individual and group meetings, and for students to access School specific and global support and guidance materials.

The benefits of reflective practice

Incorporating reflection in programmes and modules provides an effective way to support students to understand their own learning processes, and to develop their awareness of their own skills and abilities and evidence these, applying theoretical knowledge to real experiences and supporting employability. Guidance and case studies on how colleagues at the University have incorporated reflective practice are available.

If you have any questions regarding NU Reflect, please contact ltds@newcastle.ac.uk

Coming soon: NU Reflect

Man working on laptop

Driven by a need to engage better with reflective practice, a strategic review of the University’s current ePortfolio system has taken place. In line with the outcomes of the review, and feedback from colleagues and students, the system will be redeveloped and relaunched as NU Reflect for September 2021.

NU Reflect will be relevant to all students and provide the tools to support personal, professional, and academic reflection in both modular and non-modular contexts, as well as providing opportunities for students to discuss their personal development.

Incorporating reflection in programmes and modules provides an effective way to support students to understand their own learning processes, and to develop their awareness of their own skills and abilities and evidence these, applying theoretical knowledge to real experiences and supporting employability.

NU Reflect will also support Personal Tutoring as colleagues can use the system to create and record meetings with any student. Meetings can take place in a variety of contexts, such as Personal Tutor meetings or group meetings for student projects. It will also offer access to individual records of all tutees including their UCAS Personal Statements, assessment marks through NESS, timetable, and student information from SAP.

Guidance and case studies on the use of reflective practice are available, and further information about NU Reflect will follow soon.

If you have any questions regarding NU Reflect, please contact ltds@newcastle.ac.uk

Reflective Writing

Chris Whiting, Professional Development Adviser, Learning and Teaching Development Service

The importance of reflection and the importance of writing.

Learning is not exclusive to education. It is something we start engaging with as babies and will continue to engage with every day for the majority of our lives. It is, in many small ways, a daily activity and in these small ways goes unconsidered, like breathing. Acquiring new knowledge and skills may require us to consider how we are learning, but the developing and refining of knowledge and skills is often allowed to pass without a second thought.

David Kolb’s widely accepted theory of the experiential learning cycle (1984) presents learning in four stages: Concrete Experience; Reflective Observation; Abstract Conceptualisation; and Active Experimentation. Graham Gibbs’ (1988) Reflective Cycle expands on these four stages with six prompts that develop our thinking behind this learning experience: Description; Feelings; Evaluation; Analysis; Conclusion; Action Plan. Finlay (Finlay, 2008, 2003, Finlay and Gough, 2003) offers a comparable mode of thinking about reflection in three stages: Introspection; Critical Reflection; and Reflexivity. Finlay further emphasises the importance of progressing through the entire cycle so that reflections do not simply reaffirm current beliefs (introspection) or lack a productive outcome (introspection and critical thinking).

Image showing the elements of reflection described in the paragraph above

Whichever way you find most comfortable to think about reflection (and there are other modes and models available), a thorough and complete reflection of experience is a powerful tool to fuel, enhance and motivate your learning. As such, reflective skills are an essential aspect of developing autonomous learners so that they can guide and drive their learning within and beyond formal education.

But if reflection is a mental exercise then why do we need to write?

Essays, theses, compositions, experiments, etc… are all products of mental exercises but are not explicitly derived from them. That is to say, we do not write essays in our heads. We think, write, edit, think, write, edit… until we are satisfied (or we hit our deadline). Our thinking diverges and converges. The essay is a product of both thinking and writing, and it is through writing that it comes into being and is refined. As we write we enter into a learning experience. We read our words and ask ourselves: ‘are we happy with this?’; ‘does it say what it needs to say?’; ‘could it be improved?’ and we take actions based on our answers. The writing is therefore an extension of our thinking. It allows us to scrutinise our reflections in a way that it is extremely difficult to achieve as a mental exercise.

Further to this, thinking is a fleeting experience and only relevant to the moment. When the idea is committed in writing, it commits you to a reflexive action (more so than just thinking) and is a marker from which you can trace your learning and navigate in the direction that you are intending.

Finlay, L. 2003. The Reflexive Journey: Mapping Multiple Routes. In: Finlay, L. a. G., B. (ed.) Reflexivity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Finlay, L. 2008. Reflecting on ‘Reflective Practice’. Practice Based Professional Learning Centre. January 2008 ed. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Finlay, L. & Gough, B. 2003. Reflexivity: A Practical Guide for Researchers in Health and Social Sciences, Wiley.

Gibbs, G. 1988. Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods, FEU.

Kolb, D. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Eportfolio redevelopment workshops

The ePortfolio system is being redeveloped and relaunched for academic year 2021/22 and we would like your feedback. We aim to develop a system that emphasises reflection and supports students to capture and develop their learning activities whilst at Newcastle University, supporting employability in the future.

After consultation with colleagues and students, prototype designs have been created to show how the key tools within ePortfolio will appear in Canvas.

The ePortfolio team will be holding 30-minute workshops for colleagues on Thursday 20 May to explore the prototype designs and to answer any other questions. To sign up, please declare your interest in this sign-up sheet.

Workshop times:

  • 09:00 – 09:30
  • 09:30 – 10:00
  • 12:00 – 12:30
  • 12:30 – 13:00
  • 16:00 – 16:30
  • 16:30 – 17:00

Your feedback is valuable in helping us to redevelop the system to support student reflection and enhance skills development.

If you have any questions regarding ePortfolio, please contact ltds@newcastle.ac.uk

Have your say: staff focus groups on enhancing the student learning experience

With increased emphasis on online and remote learning, and the need to focus on innovative ways to support students, Newcastle University is currently reviewing the use of student data to support students’ learning, and how to incorporate reflective learning as part of staff and student practices.

We need your input…

The University is running focus groups that will offer you the opportunity to contribute to two topics that impact on the student learning experience and provide you with the tools to enhance student engagement and attainment. Please see below for details.

Using data to support student learning

We would like to invite you to take part in an online focus group on the use of student data to support teaching and learning. Newcastle University aims to understand whether staff and students would benefit from the use of a learning analytics system to enhance teaching, personal tutoring and student attainment.

Learning analytics can be understood as the process of making meaning of students’ participation in online content and activities with the aim of providing informed feedback to optimize learning.

The focus groups give us the opportunity to share ideas, needs, and challenges with the use of learning analytics, and your valuable opinions will help inform the University’s investigation into the use of student data to enhance the student learning experience. 

DateTime
Monday 30 November 202010.00 – 11.30
Monday 30 November 202013.00 -14.30
Tuesday 1 December 202010.00 – 11.30
Tuesday 1 December 202013.00 -14.30
Wednesday 2 December 202010.00 – 11.30
Dates and times of analytics focus groups

If you are able to take part in a learning analytics focus group, please complete the following form by Thursday 26 November 2020: data focus group sign-up sheet 

Re-defining ePortfolio

We would like to invite you to take part in a focus group on how best to incorporate student reflective learning, both academic and personal, within your practice.

Driven by a need to engage better with reflective practice, the University’s current ePortfolio system is under review. We are returning to a baseline of what we need to achieve to support students and staff to understand, undertake, provide evidence for, and in some cases assess, reflective practice.  

This gives us the opportunity to share ideas, needs and challenges with reflective practice in order to identify what is needed from a ‘system’ that is relevant to all students. Furthermore, we aim to identify technology that will work in parallel with current University systems to ensure streamlined working processes for staff and students. 

We need your valuable opinions to help shape the University’s ePortfolio review process. If you are able to take part in a focus group, please complete the following short form by Thursday 3 December 2020: ePortfolio focus group sign-up sheet

DateTime
Tuesday 8 December 202010.00 – 11.00
Tuesday 8 December 202015.00 – 16.00
Wednesday 9 December 202010.00 – 11.00
Wednesday 9 December 202015.00 – 16.00
Dates and times of ePortfolio focus groups

If you have any questions about the focus groups, please contact ltds@ncl.ac.uk 

What is reflective practice?

There are substantial benefits in being a reflective student. Research shows that students who are reflective when learning will have a deeper understanding of their subject.

What does being reflective mean?

There is a lot of research around reflective learning.

David Kolb – Experiential Learning

David Kolb is an American educationalist whose work focuses on experiential learning. Experiential learning is learning that takes place from experiences. He developed a learning cycle that shows learning taking place initially from experiencing a situation, then reflecting on that situation, forming generalisations and concepts, and then applying the knowledge learned. (click the image to enlarge)

Kolb experiential learning cycle

 

Donald Schön – Reflection-in-action/Reflection-on-action

Reflection does not just take place after an event. Schon explained that reflection, albeit quick and less considered reflection, can take place during an event as well.

Graham Gibbs – Reflective Cycle

Gibbs expanded on Kolb’s experiental learning cycle. He described a structured debriefing process to enable reflection. (click the image to enlarge)

Graeme Gibbs Reflective Learning Cycle

 

Further reading:

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books.

Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. in C. Cooper (ed.), Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, . London: Further Education Unit.