3.3 Reflexivity in SoTL
Reflexivity is a term commonly used in conjunction with being reflective. Reflection is ‘thinking about’ something after the event. Reflexivity, by contrast, involves a more immediate, dynamic and continuing self-awareness.
Reflexivity works at two levels: being self-reflexive about your own beliefs, values, assumptions and ways of interacting (Cunliffe, 2016), and being critically reflexive about underpinning institutional practices, policies and social structures, and the intended and unintended moral and ethical consequences (Cunliffe, 2020). Both self-reflexivity and critical reflexivity are important in SoTL to assess and evaluate the impact of teaching and other academic practices within an institution on student learning.
The second context in which reflexivity is important in SoTL is when conducting a SoTL inquiry. Researchers bring their own experiences, preconceptions, culture, preferences and understanding to the research process, and to the process of consuming others’ research. In this context, Fook and Askeland (2006, p. 45) define reflexivity as ‘an ability to recognise our own influence – and the influence of our social and cultural context on research, the type of knowledge we create, and the way we create it’.
It is vital to be reflexive during research so that you can explicitly acknowledge and interrogate the likely impact of your experiences and preferences on all aspects of the research process (Musgrave, 2019). For example, when analysing qualitative data from interviews, observations and workshops during a SoTL inquiry, this blog post ‘Reflections from the field: questions to stimulate reflexivity among qualitative researchers [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ (Roller, 2014) provides questions to stimulate reflexivity. Clarke and Braun (2013) encourage reflecting on these aspects as a reflexivity exercise ahead of analysing research data: (1) the assumptions, if any, the researchers hold about the research topic; (2) their values and life experiences, and how all this might shape how they read and interpret the data.
The concepts of reflection and reflexivity will be applied and revisited in the other sessions of this course.