Refining my reflections

Here is an example of my reflective thought process from rough reflections to more and more clear, elaborated and insightful reflections. This process normally happens very quickly, but I have deliberately slowed it down to show you how I think through what I write. I will divide it up into stages from the initial rough reflection through to a polished, reflective piece of writing, and I will explain each stage of my reflective process.

1. Initial rough idea: Just putting my idea down on paper (without worrying about spelling, grammar, etc.).

“Relationship is crucial for good teahicng”

2. What needs clarification or elaboration: What do I mean by…?

‘Relationship’, ‘crucial’, ‘teaching’ and ‘good teaching’ all need clarification. They are fairly vague and I haven’t said what I mean by them

“A positive, supportive relationship between students and teachers will improve student learning”

3. Where can my statement use more examples: What is an example of…?

This is still pretty abstract and I am not sure what I am referring to. I need to make this concrete as well.

“A positive, supportive relationship between students and teachers will improve student learning. For example, a supporting relationship would be created if the teacher learns the names of their students, and shows that they care about their students by asking them how they are going, listening to their answers, and offering support or encouragement where needed.”

4. Where does this need reasons? Why do I think …?

I also realised that I have not given any reason why someone should believe what I am saying (or even why I think this is correct), so I need to add reasons as well.

“A positive, supportive relationship between students and teachers will improve student learning. For example, a supporting relationship would be created if the teacher learns the names of their students, and shows that they care about their students by asking them how they are going, listening to their answers, and offering support or encouragement where needed. This sort of relationship will make the student feel cared for, and if they feel cared for they can engage better in their learning.”

5. Where can my statement use more examples: What is an example of…?

My idea is getting more and more sophisticated as I reflect on what I mean. But now my reasons are too abstract and it needs an example to illustrate what I mean.

“A positive, supportive relationship between students and teachers will improve student learning. For example, a supporting relationship would be created if the teacher learns the names of their students, and shows that they care about their students by asking them how they are going, listening to their answers, and offering support or encouragement where needed. This sort of relationship will make the student feel cared for, and if they feel cared for they can engage better in their learning. For example, if John feels like the teacher cares about him and cares that he is doing well, then John will be willing to do tasks that he may ignore if the teacher did not care, and he may be willing to take risks and try out ideas that he might be unwilling to try out if he thought the teacher did not care about him. And if John does these things he is likely to learn more.”

6. What further questions could I address to enhance my reflection? Another question this raises is…

What do I mean by supportive? Supportive of what? Of whom? What exactly is being supported? Who or what is doing the supporting?

What does it mean to improve student learning? What does it mean for Tim to get better at learning? He understands more quickly? Is it a speed thing? He understands more deeply? Is it about depth of understanding?

Do I have any evidence that being cared for leads to better learning?

(and lastly – double checking spelling, grammar and whether it makes sense to a reader)

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About Clinton Golding

Clinton Golding is Associate Professor at the University of Otago Higher Education Development Centre. His previous positions include Philosopher in Residence at Rangitoto College in Auckland, and Thinking Coordinator at Queen Margaret College in Wellington and St. Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, where he worked to develop the thinking of staff and students. He was also a senior lecturer at The University of Melbourne where he received 5 local and national teaching awards.
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