The following is a summary and perhaps some reflection upon Osman and Koh (2013). It’s part of the thinking and reading behind the re-design of the ICTs and pedagogy course I help teach to pre-service teachers.
65 business (MBA/Egyptian) students participated in collaborative blogging over 5 weeks. Analysis (content analysis for critical thinking and theory/practice links) support the potential of blogs as a tool “for reflection and learning in practitioner-oriented courses. Implications for the design of blogging tasks are discussed.
Thoughts and todo
Provides some empirical evidence for the use of blogs for reflection and connecting theory and practice. Though the findings are generally what people would expect.
The task for these students was somewhat like a forced connection. You must post 1 topic and comment on two others. I wonder if this was more open/flexible/student controlled more contributions would arise? Perhaps only if appropriate support/connection made.
- Look at Ho and Richards (1993) for a framework specific to journals of student teachers.
- Look at framework of Greenlaw and DeLoach (2003) and also Osman & Duffy (2010)
- Look at Osman & Duffy (2010) for the idea that theories are not actively taken up by students and remain detached areas of knowledge, not integrated into decision-making.
- Loving et al (2007) another framework for evaluating evaluation.
Problems in practitioner courses in combining theory and practice. Need to encourage reflection etc.
Reflection has some plusses. Uses Moon’s (1999, p. 155) definition
a mental process purpose and/or outcome in which manipulation of meaning is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas in learning or to problems for which there is no obvious solution”
Blogs are a recent tool for this, benefits of blogs from the literature are listed and referenced
- empowering students by giving a voice and venue for self-expression.
- increasing sense of ownership, engagement and interest in learning.
- may facilitate enriched opportunities for communication, challenge, cognitive conflict, deeper thinking and knowledge construction.
But scarcity of studies that investigate “empirically”. Many relying on self-report data or anecdotal evidence. Few studies critically examine the quality of students’ reflection, especially in management education. Few provide explanations and thus limit guidelines that suport the design of blogging tasks to facilitate reflection and learning.
Starts with references to the problem of MBA programs problem of combining academic rigor and practical application. A problem that teaching programs have had for a long time. Critical reflection is seen as a way to bridge this.
The rest is broken into the following sections
- Blogging and reflection.
Individual journals a common approach. Privacy provides a sheltered place but limits sharing/collaboration etc. Blogging provides some affordances that address this. Value is accepted by enthusiasts, but limited analysis. Some studies mentioned. A few using coding frameworks are mentioned. One shows blogging has a positive impact on reflection, but peer comments has a negative impact.
- Critical thinking through blogging.
Critical thinking defined as “development of a habit of continuous reflection and questioning”. Few studies of blogging looking at critical thinking.
- Fostering theory-practice linkages in management education.
Explains the use Kolb’s learning cycle in this study.
- How critically evaluative were the reflections of graduate business students when they engaged in blogging?
- In their reflections, to what extent did these students link theory and practice? What phases of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle did these students focus on?
Students blogged for last 5 weeks of 10 week term. 20% of assessment for the task. Guidelines kept to a minimum. Graded on the quantity and quality of postings. Students introduced to reflective practice and Kolb’s cycle prior.
Blogging groups (max 8) were self-assigned and access to the blogs limited to the group. During first week the instructor moderated blog posts. Discontinued as a threat to student ownership.
Students had the opportunity of opting out of their blog contributions from being analysed for the research. 54 provided signed consent.
Blog archives coded by two independent coders.
The assessment task required students to initiate one topic and comment on two posts submitted by other groups per week. 65 students expected to make 325 posts and 650 comments. In the end 144 topics and 399 comments. Students only posted 543 times, 44% less than anticipated.
RQ #1 – how critically evaluative were posts
A peak at simplistic alternatives/argument (30%) and basic analysis (26%). About 14% theoretical inference i.e. building arguments around theory. Apparently this was the expected level.
No significant differences between posts and comments.
RQ #2 – To what extent did students link theory and practice
Focused on higher level critical thinking posts. Used a “Kolb-based framework”.
Significant differences between posts in types of reflection. Students seemed more comfortable considering theory with experience, observation or experimentation.
Results support use of blogging as a tool to encourage reflection. Mmm, not sure it’s innate to the technology, though the affordance is there.
Few posts off task – but I think that’s probably a result of asking those questions in other areas. But author’s compare this with content oriented posts in discussion forums only being 40/50% of posts. Again, possibly the design of blogs in this context suggesting it’s not the place to raise non-content questions. Authors do point out that this was a blended context, the discussion forum references were totally online. And they pick up my point.
Surprising level of students reflecting on their learning via blogs. Mostly positive, but a prominent concern was a desire for feedback, especially from the instructor. Suggests some reasons: novelty of reflection requiring reassurance; a by-product of culture.
Some suggestions around student confusion because of reasons from the literature: what to write in a blog post, low self-efficacy re: the worthiness of their contribution; difficulty generating topics.
In this study students wanted instructor to post discussion questions. i.e. the instructor needs to be more active in scaffolding struggling students.
Guidelines for designing blogging tasks
The article closes with the following list of guidelines (p. 30)
- Explain the importance of reflection a vehicle for learning and continued professional development.
- Provide different forms of scaffolding. Many students are new to reflection and critical thinking as a more formal activity. In addition to giving them a framework and guidelines to inform their reflections, examples that illustrate quality reflection and critical thinking might be necessary. Students in this context seemed to especially need help with building theory based arguments, evaluating theories, and addressing ethical concerns for business issues.
- Give prompts to encourage reflections. Some students are often apprehensive about initiating reflections.
- Promote reflection and critical thinking over longer durations. A reflection task that extends for part of the semester might not be sufficient to adequately develop students’ reflective and critical thinking skills.
- Relate students’ reflections to class topic so that students see the value of reflection as an integral and legitimate ingredient of learning.
- Provide technical orientation at the beginning of the session. Although we assume that our students are tech savvy, they might not be.
Nothing to surprising there, it’s what I’ve done in the past and will aim to do next year.
Osman, G., & Koh, J. H. L. (2013). Understanding management students’ reflective practice through blogging. The Internet and Higher Education, 16, 23–31. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.07.001
Ho, B., & Richards, J. C. (1993). Reflective thinking through teacher journal writing: Myths and realities. Prospect, 8, 7–24.
Greenlaw, S. A., & DeLoach, S. B. (2003). Teaching critical thinking with electronic discussion. The Journal of Economic Education, 34(1), 36–52.
Loving, C. C., Schroeder, C., Kang, R., Shimek, C., & Herbert, B. (2007). Blogs: Enhancing links in a professional learning community of science and mathematics teachers. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(3), 178–198.
Osman, G., & Duffy, T. (2010). Scaffolding critical discourse in online problem-based scenarios: The role of articulation and evaluative feedback. In M. B. Nunes, & M. McPherson (Eds.), IADIS International Conference e-Learning 2010: Vol 1 (pp. 156–160). International Association for Development of the Information Society.