The process of learning should be not only interesting but also effective, which can be achieved by different means of teaching students. One of such methods is the reflection in the learning process. Nowadays more and more online universities appear where such method of teaching students is widely used. This paper shows the role of reflection in the learning process. The object of this research is the fictional online university, where the reflection method is implemented, and used as one of the main methods. This paper is based not only on academic researches, but also on personal observations and some polls made by the researches. Besides, this research will contain some recommendations for the teachers, namely how to make the reflection method more effective and how to implement it correct into the process of teaching. Some terms that are used in this paper need to be explained.
“Learning” – the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught;
“Reflection” – a thing bringing discredit to someone or something;
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“Metacognition” – awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.
The importance of the reflection learning was described by Sherry Swain: “reflection enables us to evaluate experience, learn from mistakes, repeat successes, revise, and plan” (Swain 2002). There are three main reasons why reflection should be implemented in the process of learning:
- Reflection can help to fill the gap between the practice and theory, it can help to implement in life what a person has studied in theory and to understand whether it is worth implementing or not.
- Reflection can help cope with stress and changes. In practice, students have to cope with new problems, which are not described in the theory part, that is why they should reflect new information and find the ways to cope with it.
- Reflection leads to critical understanding. Reflection helps students to look critically at their own behavior and successes.
As it was mentioned above, reflection is widely used in different kinds of online universities as one of the main methods of studying. Different online universities enumerate not only advantages of the reflection method, but claim that this method is very effective while applying to the university. The university which was taken as the object of studies gives the following list of advantages of the reflection method of studying:
- Reflection can help a student to understand his or her strong and weak sides.
- Identify and understand better personal beliefs and values.
- Reflection can help a student to challenge personal assumptions on which his or her ideas are based, and to acknowledge them if necessary.
- Recognize the most significant areas of bias.
- Reflection helps the student to understand his or her fears and fight with them.
- It helps a student to identify potential areas of personal improvement.
The reflection method in studying is not new. It was implemented in the last century, but only in kindergartens and primary school. This method helped teachers to make children learn, help them understand the world surrounding them. Children are used to reflect the adults and it is more like a game for them, and not studying. With the development of the Internet and appearing of the online universities, this method became widely used in the online studying. To understand this phenomenon many researches were made. Many scientists agree that the most widely used method of the reflection is discussion or forum. In such classes students are given a topic to discuss, a teacher is supposed to create a conflict “…when conflict creates ambiguity, a reflective intellectual can move toward reducing ambiguity by considering alternative perspectives instead of depending upon personal experience and assumptions” (Sinclair 2009). On the other hand, reflective learning has also disadvantages: it takes a lot of time and can maintain some personal risks “because the questioning of practice requires that practitioners be open to an examination of beliefs, values, and feelings about which there may be great sensitivity” (Peters 2001). To other disadvantages of reflection method one may add:
- Reflection method is very subjective, but it requires students to become objective in the end, which may be very difficult for them.
- Reflection method requires writing diaries that may be read in front of the class. Thus, some students may disagree to write there their own feelings, but write in the diaries fake emotions.
- A teacher should make clear guidelines for students, which is not sometimes possible, because some teachers are not aware of such a method of learning.
In this paper some advantages and disadvantages of the reflective method of studying were highlighted and explained. Although, this method is widely used nowadays in the online universities, and it has as a lot of advantages as some disadvantages. One may put into the advantages of this method of studying that thanks to the reflection method a student can learn all the materials better and become more self-confident, cope with his or her fears, and besides this method may help a person to cope not only with the new situations at work that are not described in theory, but also be able to implement theory in practice. The main disadvantage is that such method is time-consuming. Besides, this method requires some preparations for a teacher, and hard work for a student.
The online universities use the reflection method very often, but most of the students are now aware of it, that is why it is necessary not only to explain the advantages of this method, but also explain to the students what they should do to make their studying better, using the reflection method. Here are some hints to study better in an online university and cope with everything:
- A student should have a reflection diary, where he or she writes down not only what happened, but also his and her attitude to all the events. This will help a student to understand what he or she wants and what are his or her weak and strong sides. In the online universities, web blogs may become such a reflection diary (also known as a reflection journal).
- A student should have a partner to share his or her experience with. This will help a student to look at himself or herself from the other side and understand his or her behavior better.
- Donald Schön in his book “The Reflective Practitioner” explains how this method is used for solving complex problems. He explains that every problem may be solved if the problem is discussed and different ways of solving it are proposed.
The main recommendations for improving student’s studying, using the reflective method, are using a diary and discussing all the problems. On the one hand, a diary may help a student to understand better what to strive for and what area of studies to choose, on the other hand, discussions will help a student to communicate with the others, share thoughts and ideas. If a person follows these advices, the reflection method of studying will become one of the most efficient during the online studying, and help a student not only become a scientist or achieve something in the field of studies which is interesting for a student, but also understand himself or herself, which is one of the most important aspects of person’s life.
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