6.3 Looking at reflection through assessment

Reflective learning enables learners to examine and explore a topic or issue, in view of their own experience and perhaps those of others with whom they can identify. It helps them to clarify and perhaps challenge their understanding of that topic or concept. Developing the ability to reflect on an action or practical and theoretical issues enables the learner to build on their critical thinking skills. It also helps them plan new approaches to a situation in the future. Questions such as ‘what would you do differently in this situation next time’ or ‘what steps might you take next based on what you have learned’ are typical for reflective learning activities.

In tutor supported learning this kind of question can be assessed via essay type questions or a reflective log, however in an open online course when tutor support is not provided, the essay option is not suitable. However encouraging a learner to write down their thoughts in a reflective log is still a useful option (a ‘self-assessment’ activity) in the online setting as it develops the learner’s ability to reflect, feeds the learner’s understanding and ability to answer summative quiz questions, and provides the learner with a personal record of their own thinking and development. In other words the reflective log (whether done as a series of blog pieces, filling in a downloadable log file or just writing thoughts on a piece of paper without sharing it with anyone) is one part of how reflective learning can be encouraged in an open online course.  

Other examples of reflective learning in an open course can include providing a case study of a situation with a series of questions which promote reflective thinking and analysis (this can be assessed using a quiz) or asking a series of questions which require the learner to reflect on the concepts explored in the course and choose, based on their thinking, from a selection of answers.

The following is an example of what a case study reflective learning assessment activity might be:

Instructions to learner:

Read the following case study about how this person coped with the effects of their illness. Write down your thoughts on the situation in your reflective log based on the principles discussed in this section and answer the quiz questions in light of your conclusions.

Case study text

Quiz questions

Responses graded based on criteria in the quiz settings

A version of reflective learning is often found in self and peer assessment.

6.2 Formative and summative assessment

6.4 Peer review and peer assessment