Monthly Archives: October 2008

Taking it into the community

I have been puzzled by this question  – how do I take a private conversation with a student researcher into the wider context of the online community so that all can benefit and contribute? Since we are held up in using Moodle until everyone is registered and enrolled, and so do not have a proper private community for just us, I am reluctant to post the details in this pubkic arena and thus find myself a bit frozen. It underlines for me how important the respect and trust between participants is and how tricky it can be to control.  I’ll probably end up just using email until we’re sorted…


Today, Mark, Richard and myself were reviewing the learning contracts produced by student researchers and relating them to the first module ‘intended learning outcomes’ and ‘assessment criteria’.

Not long into the activity we were sidetracked into a discussion about ‘jargon’ – in particular the two words synthesis and analysis.  We could just about agree that simplistically these two words amount to a process of ‘taking apart and identifying key components and relationships – and putting together to create new understanding’ although this is a gross over simplification.  I will let Richard and Mark discuss the finer points…

For me a key question is to what extent do we need to support your ability to use such terminology with confidence.  One way of looking at it is as jargon, another, and the one I subscribe too, is that it is a necessary part of your professional armory that will enable you to confidently express yourself in both  academic and practice-orientated contexts?

Reflective practice

The internet, book publishers and journals abound with material on reflection – the choice is bewildering but as a starting point these authors and web resources are a good starting point:

Donald Schon (schön)

Donald Schon made a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the theory and practice of learning. His innovative thinking around notions such as  ‘the learning society’, ‘double-loop learning’ and ‘reflection-in-action’ has become part of the language of education.

The Higer Education Academy What is reflective practice?

Moon defines reflective practice as “a set of abilities and skills, to indicate the taking of a critical stance, an orientation to problem solving or state of mind” (1999: 63). This encapsulates the wide range of activities associated with thinking about your learning. Cowan suggests that learners are reflecting in an educational sense “when they analyse or evaluate one or more personal experiences, and attempt to generalise from that thinking” (1999: 18). However, as Biggs points out, “a reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original” (1999: 6).


Shirley’s explanation of double-loop learning reflects my understanding and links very well with the double-loop learning theory.  I have used double-loop reflection to help challenge my own assumptions.  This helps to be more critical and to ask questions about initial findings.  It is basically a tool I have found useful for digging deeper.


Single loop reflection – generally a model of reflective writing such as Gibbs, Kolb – variations of Plan, Do, Review

Double loop – a key feature is examining assumptions, beliefs and values – your own, and those expressed through your work place.  Double loop is a terrible name for it – it is more like adding a layer, where the assumptions behind the planning are taken into account.  In the arcane language of social science (I make no apologies for being a little suspicious of ideas that cannot be elegantly expressed), one would look at governing variables and the locus of control.

You may be lost already – but once you get the hang of it this is a model of how you probably reflect already.  The formalisation of the model can be useful, and looks impressive in academic work 🙂

I hope this fits with other people’s understanding – although further exploration of how to explain double-loop without losing the plot would be very useful to me.


Reflection is a much abused term, and I sometimes think that we might usefully differentiate what we are talking about by using the term critical reflection – although as with everything in academia this is debated.  The point I am trying to make is that reflection is more than thinking about something in ‘passing’  (setting aside reflection in action which is another deabe), reflection is a deliberate act as described by Shirley and Colin above.

Another approach I have used in the past is “Systematic social Introspection” (Bocher and Ellis, in Denzin and Lincoln, 2001). This structured reflection requires the researcher to “work from an ethnographic wide-angle lense, focussing outwards on social and cultural aspects of their personal experience; then they look inward, exposing a vulnerable self.”  My interpretation of that was to describe an experience and then critically reflect/analyse it from the two perspectives, the latter including me identifying the ‘chips on my shoulder’ that had influenced my actions.  This is simply another approach…

Masters in Learning with Technology Course Handbook

The course handbook is in three parts, saving as PDF creates a new document where the pages are landscape rather than portrait. In time, we wil also make this available through a hyperlinked website but for validation we were required to produce a word document.

Course handbook part 1

Course handbook part 2


IEC Statusometer

Hi, a bit of fun with a serious side when you have a few minutes. Sam has developed the IEC Statusometer which is variety of social software app. My take on it is that it allows groups to share our various ‘presences’ and support the development of a community field.

It is beta beta at the moment, but working well. You need to log in via this link and use something called OpenID. If you haven’t come across this before, it is touted as a ‘light weight’ approach to online identity management (again my interpretation) which many of you will have heard about for years, be struggling with your own, or even find it a work challenge.

In the ‘sign in field’, simply paste the URL of a web service with open ID that you have an account for. Yahoo is a good one so flickr and more are listed here as well as an explanation. You then need to follow the prompts and will in effect be using an account elsewhere to give you access to the tool. Then chose the Masters in Learning with Technology group…

Hotseat – learning with technology future-gazing…

The first hotseat with Professor Liber is scheduled to start this Monday, 13th October. However, there are three slight complications:
1. As a knock on effect of the slow admissions / registration process we can’t host the hotseat in Moodle as we had intended. It will instead be in a private WordPress blog for the first week accessible only to student researchers on the Masters in Learning with Technology programme.

Thereafter, it is proposed that Institute for Educational Cybernetics staff at the University of Bolton will also be able to join in. At this point, the hotseat will be viewable to the www, but any comments or questions asked in the previous week will be either anonymised or deleted as requested to enable you to freely participate. We haven’t tried this approach before but thought it might be a good marketing tool as well as provide a valuable and freely accessible resource to others – thoughts please;

2. You will need to sign up for an account if you haven’t already got one at – it takes only a few seconds. This doesn’t require you to have a WordPress blog, but it does allow us to invite you to the private Hotseat blog through the email address yo registered with – email Stephen using the account you registered with;

3. Oleg has been off work ill last week and we will not know if he will be well enough to participate until Monday – if there is a problem, we will advise you of the revised schedule.


Analysing the Professional Context (30 credits)

The Moodle site (image left) is the intended online place for much of the course. However, we don’t all yet have University accounts and so it isn’t possible to use it yet.

For now, the best option is to use the induction blog to start thinking about the first module and have a discussion about how it can be applied to your own work context.

Download the PDF learning guide for Analysing the Professional Context – this is taken from the Moodle site.  It outlines the purpose of the module including intended learning outcomes, assessment criteria, and suggested learning activities.

You also need to download the template personalised-learning-contract. You will use this to plan your inquiry and negotiate your learning activities and outputs with your learning facilitator.  I suggest this is best done using Google docs to enable you to share with other student researchers and learning facilitators for comments and suggestions.

Initial thoughts and questions?