The students in Health and Life Sciences have to learn reflective writing; contemplating their placement experiences. One of the biggest problems most students have is linking their experience to theory and research. That problem places writing sometimes into the category: deliberations in a teenage-diary. The students are not happy with their writing, and often express frustration that they sound corny, cheesy, and repetitive. Expecting the students to use the Gibb’s cycle for reflection, just makes the matter worse, not at least because this model redefines ‘evaluation’ and ‘analysis’. Analysis—as commonly defined—the: establishing of ‘What is?’ should come before ‘evaluation’ the value-judgement of ‘What is?’. So besides the messy terminology, the six steps make the model very mechanistic and most students become stuck in the actualities of dealing with the model instead of focussing on their actual reflection.
Now I devised a group-work activity that should address the issue of linking reflection and theorising. I made fortune cookies from four different coloured felt pieces. The first colour I am going to fill with poor reflective writing (52% mark), the second colour will have somewhat better writing, third colour will contain writing from a strong student paper (78% mark) and the final colour contains excerpts from journal articles referring to the different scenarios.
The students have to read their fortune cookie and then find the class-mates with the suitably fitting fortune cookies: combining the appropriate scenario, reflection and theories. Subsequently, the students have to share which scenario they used, how they reformulated the crude reflection, and link it to the journal article excerpts (which I will choose so that various combinations are possible). After this we are going to discuss the issues that emerged from the exercise.
As usual I will post how the session went, and if it worked the way I thought. The instructions for the fortune cookies I got from Curlybirds website.
I have used this exercise with both groups in the first year programme.
First group: I asked the group not to find the right colour but to find the scenario, reflection and possible literature that would fit to their piece of writing. This was too much for first years students and they were very insecure and confused about the task. So we spend a long time going through the different examples and discussing the strengths and weaknesses.
Second group: To make it easier I used the same quotes but colour coded it, asking the students to have all the yellows, oranges etc coming together. Read all the quotes and decided on the quality of the writing. This was still to demanding for my first years’. I was a bit worried to learn that most of the students had difficulties discerning between the poor quality writing and actual journal article quotes.
So the conclusion for this exercise is that my students would have needed much stronger scaffolding of the exercise and I need to find a better way for them to focus on the different levels of language.