Different modes of critical reflection – web 2.0

The idea of being a critically reflective practitioner is fundamental to many professions. In terms of work based learning, we talk about the different theoretical and practical approaches to reflection, whether that is Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, or Schon’s reflection in action. However, social networking provides us with some interesting curveballs in terms of critical reflection.

How do we use web 2.0 to encourage reflection on our own practice, facilitate it with others or impact on the behaviours of others around us. Riedinger (2006) suggests that web 2.0 applications, such e-portfolios ‘…open wide the possibilities for reflections of all types: in action, before action, after action, in solitude, in consultation with peers, in consultation with instructors, coaches, and advisers, written, spoken, videotaped, or graphically represented’ (Riedinger 2006: 93)

The ability to undertake reflection using a variety of instruments, whilst suggesting that we might be spoilt for choice, also encourages us to use the tools or mediums we are most comfortable with, whether that be text, audio, video or simply sharing experiences with others using chat or skype. Tosh and Werdmuller (2004) argue that the combination of these tools as instruments of learning is an extremely powerful form of critical reflection, where we are engaged not just as consumers of information but as evaluators and creators. They call this multi-platform space a ‘learning landscape’, where ‘…learners engage in the whole process both academically and socially should increase the opportunity to build one’s learning instead of just being the recipients of information’ (Tosh & Werdmuller 2004: 7).

Have we considered the role of engagement in this process of critical reflection? To this point, we have assumed we are engaged in our practice, keen enough to ask questions and seek to improve it. However, Jenny Moon (2001) suggests that learning can occur, at a less detailed level, when we simply ‘notice’ things. A deeper level of learning we need to make sense of the things we notice, construct meaning from them, work with that meaning and finally transform our practices (see Jenny Moon, http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/researcher-development/students/resources/pgwt/reflectivepractice.pdf). These deep layers of learning occur when we engage and become connected to the practices of reflection and the outcomes of that reflection

In the context of our wider discussion about facilitating reflection using web 2.0 platforms, let’s look at two very unique notions with reflection, feedback and collaboration. They both bring other people into the reflective circle. They widen they scope of contemplation past out own navels and into our community, our networks, our peers or our leaders. Feedback positions our practice within a wider structure of other practices and asks others to critically evaluate it, feeding back to us the output of that evaluation. Collaboration at its simplest level is informed by the old cliché that ‘two heads are better than one’, but at a complex level accesses the power of the whole, the work of teams, the creative energy that can flow from the collaborative process and innovation and excitement that comes from working with some one.

Kroop, Nussbaumer and Fruhmann (2010) expand on these two notions in the context of learning by breaking down the reflective processes that a web 2.0 environment can enable, which support the practices of feedback and collaboration. They include ‘…discussing, arguing, disputing, revising, reviewing, assessing, writing, reworking and producing articles’. (see http://mature-ip.eu/files/matel10/kroop.pdf). These active processes are enabled by the tools we use in social networking and social media. In general, they also require an engaged approach to reflection, not simply absorbing information or noticing it, but becoming involved in its production and sharing.

I found this youtube video by accident. It is a well evidenced argument that the modern student engages in a different way of thinking, consumes more information digitally and reflects in a different way on their experiences and practices. Have a look.