Year

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

The exploratory qualitative case study investigated a previously untested framework to scaffold reflective writing about professional practice. The framework was based on the concepts of paying attention and noticing events in practice and used a theoretical framework informed by a number of researchers (e.g. Boud & Walker, 1990; Boud et al., 1985; Rodgers, 2002b; Tremmel, 1993). Recommendations from a small preliminary study, in which reflective strategies were used to scaffold the development of a professional portfolio, also influenced the design of the intervention in the main study.

A variety of methods were used to analyse the data collected, including descriptive statistics, coding systems, content and thematic analysis, and constant comparative analysis, thus contributing to the quality of the outcomes. The analysis particularly focused on determining the levels of reflection demonstrated in participants' writing, analysed using a hierarchal taxonomy based on frameworks developed by Sparks-Langer, Simmons, Pasch and Colton (1990), and Hatton and Smith (1995). The content of participants' reflections and their experiences of undertaking the reflection were also examined.

Overall, the approach to reflective writing by the participants in this study indicated that they engaged in noticing their experiences, and through analysis of these wer3e able to gain new knowledge about their practice, make decisions based on that learning, and also set goals for future actions. Furthermore, all participants indicated that they found the reflective framework useful for assisting them to write reflectively, claiming it provided structure, and most intended to engage in reflective writing in the future. However, the study also found that lower levels of reflection were more common in participants' writing than higher levels of reflection. This finding is similar to others' research (e.g. Hatton & Smith, 1995; McCollum, 2002; Sparks-Langer et al., 1990; Ward & Cotter, 2004) and highlights the difficulties in supporting reflection. The outcomes of this research study suggest that reflective processes can be successfully scaffolded and supported to promote reflection, professional learning and reflective practice, but more needs to be done to support the process. It should also be acknowledged that this was a small scale exploratory study and the findings may be specific to the particular context in which it was conducted. For this reason the final chapter of this thesis includes suggestions for further research.

This research study contributes to current knowledge about the use of frameworks and feedback for supporting professional learning and reflective practice. Written reflections about practice most commonly demonstrate descriptive reflection, and studies have shown that achieving higher levels of reflection is challenging. This research explored an approach to reflection that included the act o noticing or being mindful when reflecting about practice, and attention to feelings. These dimensions of reflection are considered important for encouraging practitioners to engage meaningfully with their experiences, deepen their reflection and learn from them. Therefore, the aim of the research was to explore whether encouraging paying attention and noticing events influence the quality of reflections.

The participants were seven post-graduate education students enrolled in a multimedia design subject in a Masters of Education programme and their lecturer. The reflective framework was integrated into the assessments for the subject, and used to structure and prompt written reflections about practice experiences. The subject lecturer provided written feedback on each written reflection. The written reflections together with other assignment work comprised an electronic design portfolio, developed over the course of the subject as evidence of practice. This student work, together with the written feedback from the teacher, responses to an initial questionnaire and interviews with the students and teacher comprised the dataset for the study.

A variety of methods were used to analyse the data collected, including descriptive statistics, coding systems, content and thematic analysis, and constant comparative analysis, thus contributing to the quality of the outcomes. The analysis particularly focused on determining the levels of reflection demonstrated in participants' writing, analysed using a hierarchal taxonomy based on frameworks developed by Sparks-Langer, Simmons, Pasch and Colton (1990), and Hatton and Smith (1995). The content of participants' reflections and their experiences of undertaking the reflection were also examined.

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