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Reflective Learning

Reflective Learning

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Reflective Learning
Reflective Learning

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Published by: muscoban on Jan 16, 2010
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Reflective Practice, Vol. 5, No. 3, October 2004
Reflective learning journals: fromconcept to practice
Karran Thorpe*
The University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
Reflective learning journals are recognized as a significant tool in promoting active learning amongnursing students. Essentially, nurse educators strive to encourage students to think about pastexperiences, current situations, and expected outcomes of their actions so that they can explainwhat they do in the clinical setting and why. In other words, nurse educators seek to promoteprofessional practice that is reflective rather than routine.The purposes in this paper are to discuss the application of two models of reflection to a set of reflective learning journals and to offer some recommendations for educators, researchers, andstudents. Using a three stage model of reflection (Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997), 52 nursingstudents explored managerial concepts. The major findings indicated that students may becategorized, according to Kember
et al.
(1999), as nonreflectors (i.e., lack evidence of deliberateappraisal), reflectors (i.e., demonstrate insight through analysis, discrimination, and evaluation),and critical reflectors (i.e., indicate a transformation from initial perspective).
The foundations for professional practice begin within the educational system.Educators begin the process of assisting aspiring professionals to learn how to learn.Reflective learning journals have become a significant tool in nursing education topromote active learning among students. Essentially, nurse educators strive toencourage students to think about past experiences, current situations, and expectedconsequences of their actions so that they can explain
what 
they do in variousprofessional settings and
why
. Put another way, nurse educators seek to promoteprofessional practice that is reflective rather than routine.The purposes of this paper are to discuss the application of two models of reflection to a set of reflective learning journals and to offer some recommendationsfor educators, researchers, and students. The two models include the three stages of reflection (Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997) and the three levels of reflection (Wong
et al.
, 1997; Kember
et al.
, 1999).
*School of Health Sciences, The University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge,Alberta, Canada, T1K 3M4. Email: Thorpe@uleth.caISSN 1462-3943 (print)/ISSN 1470-1103 (online)/04/030327-17
2004 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10/1080.1462394042000270655
 
328
K. Thorpe
Reflective learning
In most academic settings, there is considerable energy expended as studentsemploy critical-thinking skills to explore complex concepts central to their discipline.When students systematically engage in critical thinking, they tend to developinsights not only into the concepts but also the learning process as well. Educatorsuse various strategies in seeking the one best technique to engage students activelyin their learning. Scho¨n (1987) recognizes the significant contribution of criticalreflection in the development of professional knowledge and clinical expertise.Educators in education and nursing employ reflective learning journals to enhancecreative and critical thinking among students in the classroom (e.g., Allen & Enz,1986–1987; Hahnemann, 1986; Meyers, 1986; Meyers & Jones, 1993; McCrindle& Christensen, 1995) and in the practice setting (e.g., Alm, 1996; Sedlak, 1997). Afew writers provide support for educators themselves to become inquiring teachers(e.g., Scho¨n, 1987; Henderson, 1992) and other writers create models to enhancethe teaching–learning process (e.g., McCaugherty, 1991; Hutchinson & Allen, 1997;Riley-Doucet & Wilson, 1997; Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997; Wong
et al.
, 1997;Kember
et al.
, 1999). It is important to note that this strategy of reflective learningjournals promotes students to become active learners.
Definition
Despite the frequent use of reflection and reflective learning journals in the litera-ture, there is no consensus regarding how to define these terms. This lack of claritycreates tremendous difficulty in terms of operationalizing the concepts and also incomparing research findings (Getliffe, 1996). Boyd and Fales (1983) definereflection as ‘the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern,triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self andwhich results in a changed conceptual perspective’ (p. 100). This definition is widelyused and appropriate to this research exploring the application of the Scanlon andChernomas (1997) model. For purposes of this research, reflective learning journalsrefer to written documents that students create as they think about various concepts,events, or interactions over a period of time for the purposes of gaining insights intoself-awareness and learning.Regarding reflection as both complex and elusive, Pierson (1998) suggests thatreflection is ‘a purposeful inter-subjective process that requires the employment of both calculative and contemplative thinking’ (p. 169). She expresses concern thatcalculative thinking (e.g., listing daily activities) instead of contemplative thinking(e.g., employing an interactive, conversational style of writing to develop self-aware-ness and understanding) may be more the norm in practice. Reflective thinkingrequires a trusting relationship if one is to write about individual thoughts, feelings,and experiences honestly; adequate time to consider ideas critically; active partici-pation; involvement of self; and commitment.
 
Reflective learning journals
329
Table 1. Theoretical models of reflectionTheoretical Models of Reflection
Three Stages of Reflection
1. Awareness2. Critical Analysis3. New Perspective(Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997)
Three Levels of Reflection
1. Non-Reflectors (i.e., Habitual Action, Thoughtful Action, and Introspection)2. Reflectors (i.e., Content Reflection, Process Reflection, and Content and ProcessReflection)3. Critical Reflectors: (i.e., Premise Reflection)(Wong
et al.
, 1997; Kember
et al.
, 1999)
Theoretical models
There are a number of models described in the literature directed to promotingreflective thinking and practice. Hutchinson and Allen (1997) developed theReflection Integration Model to enhance reflective learning among education stu-dents. Their model is based upon experiential learning theory and comprises fourcomponents: pre-experience, experience, reflection, and integration. The model,applicable to any experience, ‘can be the essential ingredient for turning experiencesinto meaningful learning’ (Hutchinson & Allen, 1997, p. 228). McCaugherty (1991)also discusses an experiential teaching model to promote the integration of theoryand practice among nursing students. Using patient case reviews, McCaughertyengaged students in reflective-thinking activities that necessitated students to de-scribe what care they provided for their patients and the rationale behind that care(i.e., they discussed the
what 
and
why
of their nursing practice). This model fostersa student-centred approach that requires their active participation in learning aboutpatients in a real setting, thereby learning from experiences and gaining confidencethrough their increased understanding of nursing practice.Other models pertain to reflective-learning processes that occur in terms of thecontext of the classroom and related assignments. Based upon the work of Atkinsand Murphy (1993), Scanlon and Chernomas (1997) described a model of reflectivelearning used in nursing education. This model comprises three stages of reflection:awareness, critical analysis, and new perspective (see Table 1). Awareness initiatesthe process of reflection when an individual acknowledges a discomfort or lack of information in explaining something. Curiosity or excitement regarding a need tolearn more about something also triggers the first stage of this model of reflection.Scanlon and Chernomas (1997) note that ‘Awareness is the cornerstone of reflection. Without awareness, reflection cannot occur’ (p. 1139). The second stageof reflection entails critical analysis of the concept, situation, event, or need forknowledge, taking into account one’s current knowledge and the application of newinformation. Several skills are incorporated into the process of critical analysis, such

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