Reflective Learning: Adding Value to the Openings Experience?

Alden, Bethany (2009). Reflective Learning: Adding Value to the Openings Experience? MRes thesis The Open University.



Thinkers have long sought to illuminate the ways in which the practical is linked to the theoretical. There are many instances of where these ideas have involved the activity of reflection in transforming experience into knowledge (Habermas, 1974; Van Manen, 1977; Kolb, 1984). More recently, models of reflective learning have proposed that critical reflection is a requisite for ‘transformational endeavours’ such as higher learning (Brockbank and McGill, 1998, p. 53).

Work done by the Centre for Widening Participation (CWP) at the Open University offered an opportunity to study reflective learning in higher education. As a point of entry for Open University study and as a bridge into higher education for students with low educational qualifications, the Openings programme within CWP may be the first experience some learners have had with reflective learning at this level. This dissertation employs a qualitative approach as it tries to illuminate this phenomenon by looking at the extent to which Openings students feel the reflective tasks have added value to their learning experience.

Data were collected from twelve recent Openings students through the use of telephone interviews. Participants’ responses were analysed across four sub-questions that dealt with: 1) understanding reflective learning 2) orientating to reflective learning 3) valuing reflective writing and 4) perceiving the role of the tutor in promoting reflective learning.

Findings suggested that some Openings students find reflective tasks challenging when they are presented as self-assessment exercises. Some learners rank reflective tasks as a lower priority because they are presented as separate to the content-based tasks and because some of the reflective work is not assessed. Some respondents perceive reflective tasks as pointless activities because it keeps them from the actual coursework. Finally, Openings students seem to be dependent on written feedback from the tutor in order to fully engage in the reflective learning activities.

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