Dr Iain Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Nottingham Trent University
I attended my first Association of National Teaching Fellows annual symposium earlier this year, which was hosted at De Montfort University. I was extremely grateful and honoured to have my abstract accepted and be able to talk about my Scholarship sabbatical work.
Self-reflection is essential for supporting whole person development (e.g., Cole and Coulson 2022). However, there are challenges with reflections being descriptive (e.g., Thompson and Pascal 2012), not future-focused (e.g., Corker and Holland 2015), and treated like a tick-box exercise instead of being used for learning (e.g., Maguire, Evans and Dyans 2001). The solution that I developed was The Synthesised Model of Reflection (SMoR).
The SMoR is a four-stage process which provides a proactive approach to reflection. This assessment for learning guides students to reflect upon where they start and their journey, up to the point of submitting their work.
Stage 1 – This involves the learner conducting a self-evaluation to understand their strengths and experiences, consider the directions they are considering for their future and identify development needs, informed by this direction. The development needs then inform goals prior to any experiences being completed.
Stage 2 – Experiences (yes more than one) are identified which are appropriate for addressing the development goals in a proactive way. The experiences are reflected upon individually once completed, using any appropriate model of reflection (e.g., Gibbs 1988).
Stage 3 – This is the process of synthesising the learning from the multiple experiences to draw conclusions about overall learning. To start, learning about the role of the learner is examined (What was their role? What have they demonstrated? What have they learned?). This is followed by analysing and evaluating the context (social, organisational, political, cultural, etc.) to understand what enablers or barriers were in place.
Stage 4 – Conclusions are drawn to answer whether the development goals have been met or not. Regardless of the outcome, the learner also considers how they have developed overall and can evidence progress. Even if they learned nothing from their experiences, they will have developed overall. Once development needs have been re-evaluated, new goals can be set to start the process again.
I asked delegates to consider their experiences as leaders in Scholarship, and consider contexts which influenced their development (An activity which can be found in Workshop 3, available here: Staff guidance for delivering workshops supporting the Synthesised Model of Reflection (SMoR)). Fascinating discussions emerged, considering individual interactions, to institutional support and values. Feedback highlighted the value of reflecting beyond one’s own actions and considering the environment and contexts in which they work. They also appreciated having space and time to examine this aspect of their experiences. Overall, the workshop was received positively with three delegates asking for more information as they are considering integrating the SMoR into their curricular.
So, are there any benefits of using a new model of reflection? In using the SMOR with my own students, I have seen an improvement in the quality of written reflections, and students have fed back that they prefer the SMoR to their previously used Gibbs’ Cycle, as it provides them with a better overview of how their experiences link together for their overall development. More detailed evaluation is underway, so although it is too early to say definitively, the SMOR offers a promising approach, and I hope soon to be able to say “yes” of course!
If you are interested in using the SMoR, have questions or feedback or are interested in collaborating in an evaluation of the SMoR, I would be delighted to discuss this further. I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
References: Cole, D. and Coulson, B., 2022. Through and Beyond COVID-19, Promoting Whole Person, Lifelong and Life Wide Learning. Journal of Innovation in Polytechnic Education, 4(1), pp. 45-50.
Corker, C. and Holland, S., 2015. Introducing students to employability, skills and reflection: A case study from history. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 4(1), pp.1-16.
Gibbs, G., 1988. Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford
Maguire, S., Evans, S. E. and Dyans, L., 2001. Approaches to learning: A study of first year geography undergraduates. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 25(1), pp. 95-107.
Thompson, N. and Pascal, J., 2012. Developing critically reflective practice. Reflective Practice, 13(2), pp.311-325.