Reflection Posts in Practice – Do They Work?

Originally posted on April 3, 2010 by Brian Beatty

What do graduate students write about when asked to reflect upon their learning in a course of study? Does the style or substance of their reflections change over time, or when is it made public to others in their course? I recently completed an initial study of the reflections posts assigned to students in graduate courses in SF State’s ITEC MA program. I applied qualitative and quantitative analysis measures to student-generated data to understand the significance of using online reflection posts to encourage student reflective practice in a HyFlex course.

Students are required to post a reflection (essentially a journal entry) each week to an online forum. Weekly participation accounts for 10% of their course grade. The assignment complements additional content/application posting requirements for online students and content-focused discussion participation for in-class students. Reflection posts are public to course peers; the LMS sends out daily email digest (all posts that day). When asked, most students report reading these email digests. Students have the option of replying to other students’ reflection, but are not required to read or reply to others.

Here is a student reflection comment about their course experience that references this assignment:

“This term has been a valuable one for me, and this class played no small part in my success. I would have to go out on a limb and say that what I lost in social interaction by attending online was more than made up for by the process of reflection, essays, and blog posts. It is surprising to me the power of being able to record my thoughts for posterity. The intentionality of posting a thought or request is surprisingly effective in directing one’s actions and goals. Perhaps it is just as important that these posts were tempered with the knowledge that they were in a public forum and I would be accountable for my statements. Thank you all for the wonderful semester.”

In any semester, about 90% of students complete most of all of these assigned posts. Some students clearly do not see the value in completing them and choose to sacrifice part of their grade instead of complying. But most find value in reflecting publicly on their learning. The study I completed looked at 300 posts completed by 24 students in one recent semester. I wanted to know what kind of posts they were writing (social, content-focused, metacognitive, or application oriented), how much they posted, and whether or not their patterns changed over the course of a semester.

The results … I’ll post next week!

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