Final Reflection: a meta-post

This week’s assignment is to reflect on the act of reflective writing itself, which is either perfectly timed to force me to pause in my headlong rush towards final due dates, or designed to trip up my momentum.

As I’m writing this I’m also working on an environmental scan for our management case study, but I have a live feed of the European Cross Country Championships playing in the background. It’s the final event of the day, the senior men’s 10km, and even though these are the world’s fasted men they hardly look like their moving. When you’re running a distance like a 10km it can be equal parts frustrating and exhilarating. On one hand you feel like you’re hardly moving, you become so focused that you begin noticing everything, the spectators, the countryside, the hardness of the ground, but on the other you can’t believe how fast you’re moving and the thought of keeping it up for another few kilometres becomes the biggest mental challenge.

Do you see where I’m going with this? [By the way, Michael Mulhare just came 15th]

If we hadn’t been required to pause and reflect during this, our first semester, I doubt that most of our class would have paused at all. Time has flown by, one minute it’s Monday morning and then it’s Thursday night, but once a week (or twice in my case) we have to sit down and think about our readings. Reflective writing, as I see it, is like writing in a diary with an audience in mind. The writer is forced to explain what they normally wouldn’t and to write in clear, correct grammar to do so. In running that’s called a race recap, something that many elite runners (often marathoners) do to analyse what went right and what went wrong. Something else is does is show the thought process of an elite runner while there running, something that’s very difficult to imagine when you’re watching them. My favourite recent race recap is this one by Rob Watson on his Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon because he manages to give good advice, good reflection on his performance and reaction, and do it in an entertaining manner.

Halftime

We’re now halfway through the term and it’s an ideal time to look back over my reflections of the past five weeks and reflect on my voice, writing, and how successful I’ve been reflecting on my readings, what I’ve learnt, and our discussions in class. It’s that point in the game where the players stop for water and the fans line up for beer; I’m not sure what crowd I belong in.

Our instructor has asked the question, what makes us uncomfortable about this type of writing? and my answer is that I’m uncomfortable about how comfortable it is. I struggle with the ingrained idea that academic writing should be a struggle and should require a lot of editing and research. To borrow the opening metaphor from Watton, Collings, and Moon’s Reflective Writing: Guidance Notes for Students, I feel like I’m in a Pensieve when I should be hooked up to that machine from The Cell. I’m made even more nervous after reading some of the resources for reflective writing and learning journals provided by my instructor because they all focus on the academic requirements, the Grading Rubric for Reflective Assignments even has a suggestion for page length. As much as I focus on making my assignments readable with an engaging voice and good ‘flow’ it’s always been a comfort to me that if I follow the requirements for font size, paragraph style, length, and references then I’ll meet some expectations. In university, the arts is always the hardest area to achieve 100% in because unlike maths or sciences there is no right answer.

In Jennifer Moon’s document on Learning Journals and Logs from UCD’s Teaching and Learning Department, she discusses deep reflection and a phrase jumped out at me that made me think of VARK, “familiar forms of learning” (Moon, pp. 8). She writes,

“We
 tend
 to
 use
 reflection
 when
 we
 are
 trying
 to
 make
 sense
 of
 how
 diverse
 ideas
 fit
together,
when
 we 
are 
trying 
to 
relate 
new
 ideas 
to 
what 
we 
already 
know 
or 
when 
new
ideas 
challenge
 what 
we 
already 
know” (Moon, pp. 8)

and I immediately thought of what I wrote about my Kinesthetic result from my VARK test a few weeks ago. I interjected myself and added the following note,

Note: I would say that I prefer Kinesthetic because I have trouble grasping abstract concepts and I learn something faster if I can relate it to an experience.

So even though I’m uncomfortable with mixing the academic concept of reflective writing with the personal nature of reflection and the blogging format it’s perfectly suited to my learning style. And I find that what I enjoy most is being able to include asides about humourous aspects and connections to popular culture.

For example, in another class last week I used Jim Carrey’s famous Self-Defense skit to describe the pitfalls of controlled experimentation in usability testing.

References

 

Albert-Peacock, Betsy. (2007). Grading Rubric for Reflection Assignments. Educ 1100 Human Diversity. Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/~balbert/humandiversity/grading_rubric.html.

Moon, Jennifer. (2010). Learning Journals and Logs. UCD Teaching and Learning: Resources. Retrieved from https://elearning.ucd.ie/bbcswebdav/pid-870447-dt-content-rid-60191_1/courses/IS40370/Learning%20Journals.pdf.

Watton, Pete, Collings, Jane, and Moon Jennifer. (2001). Reflective writing: guidance notes for students. Retrieved from https://elearning.ucd.ie/bbcswebdav/pid-872987-dt-content-rid-2101328_1/courses/IS40370/reflective-writing-guidance.pdf.