The short narratives below tell stories of learning and highlight the type of learning that took place through the process of the reflection. The accomplishments of each of the four dimensions of reflection – thinking back, thinking forward, thinking inward and thinking outward – are described at the end of the narrative.
Corey, a recent College Graduate, decided to spend a year traveling before she settled into her career. After spending time in three foreign countries, she returned home with an impressive collection of photos and artifacts for her ePortfolio. She knew that her knowledge about herself and the world had increased immensely, but she found it difficult to describe to people the insights that she had gained. It wasn’t until she spent time thinking back to specific moments of her journey, and purposefully reflected on her keepsakes and blog posts that she could finally describe what she had actually learned. Being able to adequately put the learning into words added value to the time and money she had spent on her travels.
Thinking back to experiences may lead to the following upgrades in learning:
- The learning is clarified.
- Memories turn into nuggets of learning.
- Past learning becomes meaningful to present circumstances.
Theresa was enjoying her graduate studies in Education immensely but she knew that her theoretical studies were not impacting her daily routines in her classroom as much as they should. Old routines are hard to change. As she reflected on a recent course she had taken on assessment for learning, she kept returning to the question, “if I had known this before, how would I have done this with my students? Theresa knew that many of her former teaching methods were tried and true and she didn’t want to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ but she did want to incorporate some new strategies. The new theories made a lot of sense and it seemed that certain students could really benefit from them. Focusing her teaching portfolio reflections on specific students’ needs, she was able to pinpoint theories of assessment that could be put into practice for certain lessons without completely redoing her course. One step at a time she implemented new and improved assessment for learning ideas within her existing curriculums.
Thinking forward may lead to these implications of learning:
- The learning is solidified through practice.
- Gaps in learning are identified.
- The learning changes behaviors.
- New goals for learning are created.
Studying literature was Luke’s passion so every novel, story, or poem he was required to read for his English course was an enjoyable part of the learning process. He found it easy to identify the “aha” moments in the literature when he could completely empathize with a character, or could totally relate to the author’s key point. By the end of the term, however, the list of key ideas had grown so long that the learning he’d gained from each piece of literature was fading. A requirement of his Professor was to revisit key ideas of each literature selection and complete reflective writing on the top five ideas that are most relevant to life circumstances. Luke was annoyed with the assignment, at first, since it seemed that he had already done this in his original reflections. However, after reflecting on the emotional highsand lows from his original reactions to the main ideas, Luke gained new insights. He was able to describe how the author’s ideas related to his personal beliefs and values. Afer this second round of literature analysis, Luke knew that he had now personalized the concepts and would not forget them.
Thinking inward about prior learning may open up the following new levels of learning:
- The learning is connected to personal core beliefs.
- The learning becomes more relevant and meaningful.
- The learning creates new perspectives.
Stress was an undeniable element of Jill’s work life as soon as she entered the door of her workplace. It was difficult to understand, since the atmosphere was usually pleasant, the daily work was fine, and even her relationship with colleagues was comfortable. Jill reflected daily about the tensions she was feeling for her personal development portfolio. It wasn’t until she reflected on the points of view of co-workers, the manager and the owner of the business, that Jill was able to uncover the source of the stress. Looking at her job from other points of view led Jill to consider how the owner and the manager of her company might view her and her role within the company. She realized just how differently the two men viewed work projects and how contrasting their perspectives were to the goals of the company. Understanding that the source of the stress she feels every day was stemming from this internal conflict actually brought Jill some relief. She was not the cause of the stress, nor could she do anything about it. Reminding herself daily of this truth helps Jill deal with the stress she feels more effectively.
Thinking outward may allow for these expansions of learning:
- The learning creates a greater self – awareness.
- The learning generates understanding of others.
- New or different concepts can be understood.