Shared online critical reflection and discussion (SOCRAD): analysis of qualitative data.

This source preferred by Jacqui Taylor

Authors: Taylor, J. and Mair, C.

Start date: 6 July 2011

Publisher: Brunel University Business School

Place of Publication: Brunel

One of the key aims of Higher Education is to develop students' ability to become 'critical reflective thinkers'. This is typically private and ignores the benefits of collaboration. Our project extended innovative reflective techniques to students collaborating at two universities. At one University, reflective practice is focused on using a structured, adaptable spreadsheet via the virtual learning environment (VLE). At the other University, the VLE Discussion Board facilitates asynchronous online discussion via the VLE; during which students are encouraged to reflect on each other’s postings. This paper presents the findings of a study designed to enable students to learn from each others' as well as their own reflections, through both online discussion and sharing of reflections, between students at different Universities. Prior to the study, participants completed a semi-structured questionnaire on their current reflective practice. They were randomly assigned to one of four groups comprising students from a single university or both universities. Via the VLE, students engaged in critical discussion over a 2-week period and simultaneously recorded reflections within an individual electronic reflection sheet. At the end of this period, participants were asked to share and discuss their individual reflections for a further week. Finally, a post study questionnaire on reflective practice was completed. Many researchers rely on quantitative methods to investigate reflection, for example using evaluation or assessment methods to indicate changes with regard to reflective content, activity or development of reflection skills. It is argued here that qualitative techniques are more appropriate to investigate when and how reflection is occurring and to identify how reflection relates to other factors such as student perception, learning and performance. The analysis described in this talk will focus on these factors, as well as the differences between students at the two Universities. The analysis is currently taking place on the wide variety of qualitative data collected, including: discussion transcripts, reflective spreadsheets and pre-study and post-study questionnaires. It is clear from our preliminary observation of the online discussions that there are many novel insights expressed by the participants regarding their own reflection skills and many instances where participants have learnt something new from other’s views. At a practical level, cross-University collaborations are of great value to students and staff, however the setting-up of such projects is not easy due to different cultural, administrative and pedagogic environments and system security issues. We suggest recommendations regarding the implementation of future systems to enable students to share reflections online. Keywords: qualitative analysis, reflective practice, online discussion, cross-University collaboration, VLE

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