Implementing an Interactive Reflection Model in EAP: Optimizing Student and Teacher Learning through Action Research
Implementing an Interactive Reflec tion Model in EAP: Optimizing Student and Teacher Learning through Action Research
Hale Kizilcik 0 1
0 Middle East Technical University
1 Hale Hatice KIZILCIK Ays?egu?l DALOG?LU Middle East Technical University , Turkey
Implementing an Interactive Reflection Model in English for
Academic Purposes Courses:
Optimizing Student and Teacher Learning Through Action Research
Abstract: In this article, the authors, a teacher-researcher and an
English Language Teaching (ELT) professor, report on a
colloborative action research study which investigated how
integrating systematic reflection into academic English courses at the
tertiary level fostered both teacher and student learning. Using
constructivist theory as a framework, they developed an interactive
reflection model in which the students and teacher engage in a
twoway process of reflection to improve their performance. Through
reflective dialogue and reflective writing tasks, students explored
their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the tasks they
performed. Reflecting with students and on students? reflections
became a journey of discovery for the teacher-researcher and
contributed to her professional development. Drawing on data from
students? oral and written reflective work, the teacher?s reflective
journal and students? evaluation of the effectiveness of the reflective
tasks, the authors identify how adopting an interactive reflection
model contributes to the learning process.
The information age is characterized by the speed information becomes obsolete.
What matters is not knowledge itself because it becomes out-dated at a rapid rate but the
ability to learn how to learn
(Cowan, 1985; Scales 2008)
. Thus, in order to meet the demands
of the age, higher education should focus on the development of higher-level skills that will
enable individuals to explore, evaluate and create. Reflection promotes the development of
these skills and is at the heart of higher education in the information age (Cowan, 1985;
Illeris, 1999; McGill & Brockbank; 2007)
Reflection is closely associated with the growing emphasis higher education puts on
Hullfish and Smith (1961)
assert reflective thinking is
?man?s sole way of providing for a continuity of learning that will carry beyond the
classroom into the continuing affairs of life?, and it must be emphasized at all stages of
education (p. 229). By providing students with opportunities to reflect on the quality of the
written and oral work they produce and to self-assess their performance, teachers can help
students increase their reflective capacities and equip them with tools to become lifelong
learners. Teachers should also become lifelong learners. They should be willing to learn and
re-learn and be capable of doing so in order that they can adapt to change
(Bailey, Curtis &
Turkey is attentive to the pressing demands of the information age on higher
education. The Council of Higher Education, (CoHe), is involved in international
organizations to improve the standard of higher education in Turkey and to attain
internationally set standards. The Bologna Process is one of the outcomes of this mission.
Together with 47 partner countries, Turkey has taken part in the implementation of the
Bologna process since 2001 (CoHE, 2010) and the university where this study was
conducted, is also involved in the process. The 2011-16 Strategic Plan has identified the
adoption of instructional methods and assessment practices that encourage students to take
active roles in their learning as a major strategy. Furthermore, the plan has set the academics
engaging in reflection as a goal.
In this study, the case for reflective learning is based on constructivist and social
interactionist principles. von Glasersfled, a leading constructivist, (1995), criticizes
behaviourist approaches and indicates that learning ?requires self-regulation and the building
of conceptual structures through reflection and abstraction? (p. 14). Teachers should not
focus merely on the performance of students but observe and listen to them in order to
understand their conceptual structures (beliefs, attitudes and knowledge). Without such an
understanding, it is not possible to change these structures. One way to achieve this
understanding is to ask students to reflect on their experiences. In this way, teachers can
cooperate with students to modify their conceptual structures and improve their performance.
Vygotskian concepts of inner speech and scaffolding are also the foundation of the
stresses the importance of inner speech in facilitating reflective
thinking. Inner speech is closely linked to thinking; it helps ?mental orientation, conscious
understanding? and aids problem solving (p. 228). As learners verbalize their inner speech,
the teacher has an opportunity to gain an insight into their conceptual structures. The
theoretical basis for the use of written reflections is also grounded in Vygotsky?s work. As he
states, by translating inner speech into written speech through reflections, it is made
comprehensible to others. Furthermore, his views on the role of instruction and others in
development are at the heart of this study. As
indicates teachers and peers
can contribute to individual learning and with their scaffolding, learners can perform better
than they would do if left alone.
Constructivism underlines the importance of teachers becoming aware of their beliefs,
attitudes and knowledge and draws attention to the importance of reflection for teachers?
(Williams & Burden, 1997)
. In congruence, this study does not
limit its scope to student reflection and involves the teacher in the reflection process.
Sch?n?s Model of Reflective Learning
In this study, Sch?n?s model of reflective learning is used as an overarching model of
states that when confronted with a problem and
?unexpected result?, ?we think critically about the thinking that got us into this fix or
opportunity; and we may, in the process, restructure strategies of action, understandings of
phenomena, or ways of framing problems? (p. 28). In this way, reflection leads to learning
and professional development.
dwells on different kinds of reflection. The first one is
reflection-inaction which refers to the practioner?s, in this case, the teacher?s spontaneous reflection as he
or she is engaged in a teaching related activity.
distinguishes reflection-in-action from reflection-on-action and states
that reflection-on-action is the ability ?to produce a good verbal description of? reflection (p.
puts it reflection-on-action is ?meta-thinking about what happened? (p.
14). Reflecting-on-action, is a further dimension of reflection (Sch?n, 1987).
points out practitioner reflection is essential for eliminating the
power division between researchers and practitioners. He is critical of the superior position
given to researchers and believes that the knowledge of practitioners, which can be disclosed
through reflection-on-action, is invaluable for contributing to the development of scientific
knowledge. Reflection empowers practioners not only by creating opportunities for learning
from experience but also by preparing the ground for sharing this expertise. In this sense,
action research (AR) is an ideal research metholodogy to promote professional development
Defining Reflective Thinking, Reflective Learning, Reflection, Self-assessment and
In literature, the terms reflective thinking, reflective learning and reflection are used to
refer to overlapping concepts. Various definitions of reflective thinking and reflection
highlight that reflective thinking and reflection consist of careful exploration of knowledge,
beliefs, attitudes and experience to arrive at conclusions based on evidence and reasoning
(Dewey, 1933; Cowan, 1998; McGill & Brockbank, 2007)
. Drawing mainly on Cowan?s
explanations, in this study, reflection is defined as the analysis and evaluation of work and
personal experiences with an attempt to make generalizations from that thinking so that one
becomes more skilful or better informed and more effective in the future. Reflective learning
is ?the intentional use of reflection on performance and experience as a means to learning?
(Rickards et al., 2008, p. 33)
There are very close links between reflection and self-assessment. Boud states that
there are so many similarities between self-assessment and reflection that it is not useful to
consider them ?as entirely separate ideas? (as cited in Rickards et al., p. 34). He indicates that
self-assessment is a kind of reflective activity ?when well designed? and indicates that
selfassessment is a ?specific subset of? reflection (p. 34). Citing from Alverno College Faculty
web-page, Richkards et al. (2008) note that ?both reflection and self-assessment depend on
careful observation, but the purpose of self-reflection is understanding, in contrast to the
judgment, the evaluation of performance on the basis of criteria, that is the purpose of
assessment? [italics in the original]
(as cited in Rickards et al., 2008, p. 33)
. The same
distinction between the terms self-assessment and reflection is made in the present study.
Reflection can be done individually or with others. Reflective dialogue (RD) is a
reflective conversation between two or more people in order to promote reflective thinking. It
is an invaluable tool to create the conditions for reflective learning
(Sch?n, 1983; McGill &
. Especially when students are inexperienced in carrying out reflection, RD
can help students learn how to reflect. In RDs, the teacher can scaffold reflection by asking
questions that lead students to think reflectively, which is vital to the development of
students? reflective thinking skills
(Hullfish & Smith, 1961; McGill &Brockbank, 2007)
example, to reflect on a presentation they delivered, students may be asked a set of questions
focusing on the preparation stage including how they prepared for the presentation and how
their preparation contributed to or hindered their performance. Another set of questions may
focus on the actual performance. They may be asked questions such as what their strengths
were and the key to their success. What needed to be improved and reasons behind things that
did not go well can also be probed. Future and action-oriented questions such as what they
would do differently in their next presentation should be asked. Another way to scaffold
reflection is to guide the students to focus on the task expectations and assessment criteria.
For a successful RD, the power dynamics need to be observed carefully. Adversarial dialogue
should be avoided, and the teacher should encourage students to express their way of thinking
before passing on his or her views (McGill &Brockbank, 2007).
providing concrete evidence and data is important for the success of the dialogue, which is
also likely to reduce controversies.
Design, Implementation and Asssessment of Reflective Activities
Scholars agree that proper introduction of reflective activities is essential to their
success. Students need to know why they are carrying out reflective activities, and they need
to be guided on how to reflect
(Cowan, 1998; Moon, 2004; McGill & Brockbank 2007)
Research studies stress the importance of training for the success of reflective activities
(Rickards et al., 2008; Lo, 2010)
Research on feedback and assessment in reflective learning highlights the limitations
of feedback practices that tell students what is wrong and right. In this way, students remain
dependent on teacher feedback. Furthermore, it is very difficult to give clear feedback that
students can utilize to improve their work (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick).
Assessment of reflective activities is also a challenge.
reflective learning is personal learning and very subjective, and thus it is difficult to
determine criteria to assess it. However, for the successful implementation of reflective tasks,
despite the challenges, the expected outcome and the assessment procedures for reflective
activities should be identified
(Sparks-Langer, et al., 1990; Bourner, 2003; Moon, 2004; Lo,
. Students may complete their reflection in the oral or written form, and a holistic rubric
specifying the features of effective reflection can be used for assessment purposes.
Discussing the rubric with students and analyzing good and weak samples help students
identify what characterizes reflective thinking.
There are different findings in relation to the perceptions of practioners? regarding the
effectiveness of reflective activities. It is reported that students benefit from reflection, and
engaging in reflection helps students develop reflective skills and take responsibility for their
(Ayan, 2010; G?n, 2011)
. However, there are also research findings suggesting
that not all students perceive them as useful. Personality factors, level of proficiency and not
understanding the rationale behind reflection are listed as the possible reasons for students?
resistance to reflection
(Kato, 2009; Gunn, 2010)
. Also, problems in the design and
implementation of reflective activities may impede their success.
Action Research as a Research Paradigm
In literature, there are various definitions of AR that include complementary and
contradictory views. Based on his comprehensive review of literature,
defines educational AR in the following way:
From the point of view of teachers and teaching, it involves deciding on a
particular focus for research, planning to implement an activity, series of
activities, or other interventions, implementing these activities, observing the
outcomes, reflecting on what has happened and then planning a further series of
activities if necessary. (p. 7)
Reflective practice and teacher as researcher are concepts fundamental to AR and in
AR, teachers explore their own context adopting a systematic approach to deal with a
problematic situation or issue
. Another important feature of AR is its cyclical
and action-oriented nature. The first phase is the identification of the problem. In the second
phase, the methodology is planned, which is followed by data collection and analysis (phase
three). Based on the findings, an action plan is made and put into action (phase four). The
next phase is reflecting on the results of the action taken and staring a new cycle, if
necessary. This paper reports the first three phases of the AR.
AR can be conducted by an individual teacher or groups of teachers
Farrell, 2005; Burns 2010)
. In this study, a colloborative design was implemented, and the
teacher-researcher collaborated with an ELT professor. This team work contributed to the
quality of the research by combining not only the expertise of the two researchers but also the
perspectives of an insider, the class teacher, with an outsider. With this collaboration, the
researchers also aimed to address the skepticism regarding the legitimacy of AR as a serious
research tradition (Richards, 2003).
AR is contrasted with traditional research paradigms and criticized for its lack of
. However, a growing number of experts acknowledge the strengths of
AR as a research paradigm and its importance for improving education
(Holly, Arhar &
. AR is context sensitive and does not aim to make general statements
(Wallace, 1998; Somekh, 2006)
; therefore, it needs to be evaluated against a different set of
criteria which is discussed in the trustworthiness section. Furthermore, it is a powerful tool in
effecting educational change since it is ?persuasive and authoritative, since it is done by
teachers for teachers? (Mertler, 2012, p. 20). Finally, AR promises a compromise in the
ongoing ?theory vs. practice? debate, and it enriches educational research and empowers
The problem that the teacher-researcher identified was students? limited use of the
feedback provided by her leading to limited or no improvement when performing similar
further tasks. She collaborated with the second researcher, an ELT professor to remedy the
problem. They decided to integrate reflective tasks into the syllabus to encourage students to
practice reflective thinking assuming that such an intervention would aid students in utilizing
feedback and gradually decrease their dependency on teacher feedback. In addition, the
teacher-researcher would reflect on the intervention with a particular focus on her feedback
practices. They also decided to inquire the teacher-researcher and students views on engaging
in reflection tasks. The research questions were specified as:
1. To what extent does the ?reflective dialogue? between the teacher and the student
promote reflective learning?
2. To what extent does engaging in reflective writing facilitate reflective learning?
3. To what extent does reflecting with students and reflecting on students? reflection aid
the teacher?s professional development?
Context of the Study
The study was carried out at the Department of Modern Languages (MLD) of a
topranking international university in Turkey. The language of instruction is English and
students are required to take an English proficiency exam recognized by the university before
starting their departments. If their proficiency level is below B1+, they study in an intensive
language preparation program. Students who pass the exam and start their departments take
English for academic purposes (EAP) courses offered by MLD.This study was conducted in
ENG 101 Advanced Reading and Writing Skills I, a thematically organized integrated-skills
course, which is the first level of the three compulsory EAP courses offered by MLD.
ENG 101 is an introductory level course where the students practice academic writing
and speaking skills. A process approach to writing is adopted, and students write expository
paragraphs, reaction-response paragraphs and a non-documented expository essay. The
speaking component of the course includes two mini-presentations, and due to space
limitation, this paper primarily focuses on these presentations and related reflective tasks.
However, it is not possible to altogether exclude other reflective work from the picture since
reflection was integrated into all course components (See Table 1 for tasks students carried
out in the semester).
In the first presentation, students described an online avatar of their own choice and
speculated on what it revaled about its owner. In the second one, they presented a cartoon by
describing it, identifying its message and reacting to its message. In order to address the issue
of public speaking anxiety, the first presentation was set at two minutes, and in the second
one, the time was extended to four minutes. In both presentations, performance was evaluated
in relation to content, organization, delivery, visual use and language, and the assessment
criteria were discussed with students prior to the presentations.
Participants of the Study
The AR was carried out with the participation of the class teacher and 71 freshman
students taking the ENG 101 English for Academic Purposes course in her three sections.
Throughout the paper, the terms teacher-researcher and teacher are used to refer to the class
teacher. The students were from the departments of Geological Engineering (GE), Civil
Engineering (CE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME). All the students were Turkish and
despite having passed an English proficiency exam, there were students particularly
struggling in writing and speaking.
Multiple sampling procedures were applied for different sets of data. When selecting
students for recording the RDs, purposive sampling was used since it ?increases the data
exposed and maximizes the researcher?s ability to identify emerging themes that take
adequate account of contextual conditions and cultural norms?
(Erlandson et al., 1993, p. 82)
RDs were held with all the students who did mini-presentation 1 (50 in total), and 15 were
recorded for obtaining in-depth information on the RDs.
After the RDs, students completed written reflections on their first mini-presentation.
The content of these reflections was analyzed to support the analysis of the RDs, when
needed; however, they were not used to trace how reflection promoted learning because since
they were written after the RDs, they were likely to be highly shaped by teacher feedback.
Reflection and self-assessment were new experiences for students, and it was expected that
they would display a tendency to value teacher feedback more than their self-assessment
because teachers are perceived to have the expertise and thus power to carry out the
evaluation. As discussed earlier, one goal of integrating reflection into the course was to
gradually reduce students? dependency on teacher feedback and foster reflective thinking
skills that will lead to effective self-assessment. Therefore, RDs were planned as a means for
modelling reflective thinking and further reflective writing tasks were assigned before teacher
feedback and scaffolded by written reflective questions.
All the remaining reflective writing submitted was analysed. However, in this paper,
the discussion is narrowed down to written reflections on mini-presentation 2 (63 reflective
paragraphs), students? evaluation of reflective tasks (57 forms) and teacher journal.
Various reflection tasks related to the tasks specified in the ENG 101 syllabus were
developed (See Table 1), and students wrote reflections on all the tasks they completed. To
scaffold students in the process, a specific lesson was allocated to discussing what reflective
thinking is and how it is relevant to successful learning. In addition, a set of reflective writing
tips was shared online with students (See Appendix 1). Prompts to encourage reflection were
provided in the reflection tasks together with the features of reflective writing. In addition,
the teacher-researcher gave feedback on the reflective writing tasks guiding students to meet
the criteria. As a sample, the reflection task for the second mini-presentation is presented in
Appendix 2. As stated above, in this paper, the focus was on the mini-presentations and
related reflective tasks, which are marked with asterisks in Table 1.
When developing the reflective tasks, the literature was reviewed for sample reflective
writing prompts and pieces
(Moon, 2004; Cowan, 1998; Thorpe, 2002)
. The reflective
writing prompts aimed to help students go beyond the descriptive level; that is, merely
describing what they did. Students were prompted to reflect on both the process they went
through and the product they created in order to identify the strengths and weak points in
their preparation and performance. However, identifying the strong and weak points was
only the first step in this reflective process. Especially, in case of weaknesses, they were
asked to trace the possible reasons of the problems identified and brainstorm solutions. For
example, in the reflection task for the second presentation, the first prompt asked students to
compare their two presentations highlighting the link between the two experiences:
Reflect on your first and second mini-presentations. Can you identify any
improvements in the second one? If so, in what areas has there been an improvement?
Another prompt guided students to focus on persistent problems and make an action plan:
Are there any persistent problems? What are they? Please, be specific. How are you
planning to deal with these problems? Are they problems that can be solved in the
short-term or do you need to make a long-term investment?
By asking students to focus not only on problem setting but also on problem solving,
the development of a learning culture in which students became action learners was initiated
(See Appendix 2 for the Reflection Task for Mini-presentation 2).
A holistic rubric that describes the qualities of good reflective writing was developed
to assess the reflective writing tasks:
A good reflection:
displays numerous evidence of the thinking process and awareness of strengths and
weaknesses in relation to the tasks
traces the possible reasons that may have caused problems and/ or that may have
contributed to successful performance
links new learning to prior knowledge and experiences
is solution and learning oriented
expresses emotions clearly
is written using correct and clear English.
Spark-Langer et al.?s (1990) framework for reflective thinking was adapted to scale different
levels of reflection. A reflective paragraph which met all or almost all the features of a good
reflection received full credit (three points). A reflective paragraph that met some of the
criteria was decribed as ?emerging? and got two points. Reflections that remained at the
descriptive level were classified as ?in need of improvement?, and their grade was one point.
Work that remained at the descriptive level and/ or lacked any evidence of reflective thinking
process was regarded unsatisfactory.
With the exception of the first one, reflective writing tasks were graded as quizzes and
constituted 10 percent of the students? overall grade. Three reflective paragraphs with the
highest scores were taken into account for the final grading and one-point completion grade
was given for the final evaluation task. The ELT professor who collaborated in the research
and another ELT expert reviewed the reflection tasks and the rubric and revisions were made
in light of their feedback. The revised tools were piloted in the previous semester.
For RDs, students came to the teacher?s office. During the RDs, they watched the
video-recordings of their mini-presentation 1, and the teacher-researcher used the stimulated
recall technique to promote self-reflection
(Gass & MacKey, 2000)
. First, she gave students
brief information about the technique and how and why they would carry out the RD. She
paused the video when needed to encourage them to reflect on their performance and
experience. Students could also stop the video to ask questions and make comments. Then the
teacher gave the rubric back to the student and asked him or her to complete the
minipresentation reflection task and submit the rubric and reflection within a week. Students
revised their initial self-assessment when necessary. Excerpts from RDs are presented in the
data analysis part.
Students? Evaluation of Reflective Tasks
At the end of the term, students were given a final reflection task in which they were
asked to evaluate the effectiveness of engaging in reflective activities.
Teacher?s Reflective Journal
The teacher kept a journal during the pilot study and the actual study, which served
both as a data collection and analysis tool
(Bailey, Curtis & Nunan, 2001; Richards & Farrel,
. Following the stream-of-consciousness approach (Richards & Farrel, 2005), the
teacher wrote entries in her journal as needed
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985)
. At times, the entries
were very brief and in the form of scribbled notes. Such notes were taken mostly during the
lessons when checking student work, or during the RDs. At other times, the entries were
extended into reflective paragraphs. These cases emerged especially when the teacher was
dealing with a problem she needed to solve. Parts from the teacher journal are provided in the
The first data source was the RDs. RDs were transcribed using a simplified version of
Jeffersonian transcribing conventions. Following the inductive coding process, the teacher
closely read the transcribed data and identified the emerging themes
general categories were derived from the research questions, and specific categories were
derived through multiple readings of the transcribed data. When introducing the results of the
data analysis, illustrative excerpts from the transcripts were included to discuss the themes.
The second source of data was students? second mini-presentation and their
reflections on these paragraphs. For mini-presentation 2, students were not called for RDs.
Instead, each student had a copy of the video recording of his or her presentation and the
rubric and was asked to re-assess the presentation on his or her own (initial self-assessment
was done in the class after the presentation). They completed a written reflection on their
second mini-presentation after watching the video. The collected data was analysed through
The third source of data, which was the students? evaluations of the reflection tasks,
was analysed through coding and clustering the emergent themes
(Miles & Huberman, 1994)
For data analysis, a matrix was created by typing the coded research questions in the rows
and student names in the columns. The second coding was done two weeks after the initial
coding. At this stage, the student evaluations were re-examined and re-entered into a separate
matrix. Then, matrix one and two were compared to check for intra-rater reliability. Several
inconsistencies were identified, and these were highlighted on the matrix. Following this, a
second rater independently analysed the parts where inconsistencies were identified. Then,
the codings of the raters were compared. There was one disagreement between the first
raters? second coding and the second rater?s coding, which occurred when the data was
inferential. In this case, the relevant part in the source was read together for negotiation and
upon negotiation a new code was created.
Based on the results of the intra and inter reliability check, the matrix and the codes
were revised and given its final form. Then the frequency of the codes was counted, and the
percentages were calculated. This information was transferred to a new table. Representative
quotations that clarify student responses were identified and entered on a separate sheet.
Finally, the content of the journal entries was analysed and extracts were presented
with the relevant data.
The present AR falls under the naturalistic paradigm and therefore, to establish the
trustworthiness of the study, instead of using the conventional criteria which is mostly
associated with quantitative research, alternative criteria were taken as a point of reference
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Greenwood & Levin, 2007)
. Among the procedures Lincoln and
Guba suggest for achieving credibility, prolonged engagement, triangulation, peer debriefing
and referential adequacy were used. First, having spent sufficient time in the context to
familiarize themselves with the culture of the instutition, both researchers met the prolonged
engagement criterion spent. The teacher-researcher was the class teacher and had been
teaching the course for four years. Second, triangulation was achieved through different data
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Suter, 2006; Mills, 2007; Stringer, 2008)
. Student reflections
on various tasks were collected and a teacher journal was kept.
Another credibility procedure was peer debriefing. A colleague who had a PhD in
ELT read the study and commented on the trustworthiness of the conclusions. In the peer
debriefing, there was one conclusion that was questioned by the peer-debriefer. She pointed
out that different from the researchers, she thought that the presence of other students in the
room during the RDs was not always positive. These students who were called critical friends
participated in the RDs as a third party. The researchers reanalyzed the data, agreed with the
comment and revised their initial conclusion. Finally, referential adequacy was achieved by
archiving all the raw data for later recall.
The second criterion for trustworthiness is transferability, which is concerned with
how outcomes discovered in one context can be transferred to another context
. To this end, a thick description of the context and the participants was provided
for the readers so that they can compare the context of the present study with their local
contexts and decide how applicable the findings are to them.
To achieve dependability, the third criterion, a number of procedures were carried out.
RDs were conducted in Turkish, in students? mother tongue and translated into English. The
translations were made by the teacher-researcher and checked by the second researcher for
translation reliability, and special attention was paid to preserve students? voice. Information
about non-verbal language was included in the transcripts. Second, as explained above, in the
analysis of the data collected through students? evaluations of the reflective activities, two
raters were involved. Furthermore, direct quotations were provided to support the conclusions
arrived. Finally, as discussed, an ELT expert was asked to read the analysis and results parts
to give feedback on the reliability of the conclusions.
The fourth criterion met for trustworthiness was confirmability. Among the
Lincoln and Guba (1985)
describe for dealing with values and achieving
confirmability, data triangulation and reflective journal were used.
Contribution of Reflective Dialogue to Learning
The main aim of RDs was to model reflective thinking and help students to self-assess
their performance by prompting reflection. Through RD, the teacher challenged students?
assumptions regarding their strengths and weaknesses as presenters and encouraged them to
reconsider their initial self-assessment. However, the process did not always flow as
smoothly as expected. In the first place, there was the effect of both the teacher?s and
students? inexperience with RD. Also, years of acculturation in a teacher-centered education
was an obstacle for students, and they still expected feedback from the teacher who was
viewed as the power-holder. However, there were also successful episodes where both the
teacher and students unfolded their practice through RD. At times, students? questions,
answers and comments helped the teacher to gain insights into why they behaved in a
particular way. Moreover, as she transcribed the data, she had the opportunity to reflect on
the way she held the dialogues and the way she gave feedback. As a result, she made action
plans to improve her practice. This process of self-discovery is revealed in the analysis of the
transcriptions below and in the section titled shortcomings of teacher feedback.
RDs created opportunities to discover problematic areas that called for remedial work.
In the data analysis, general categories were specified as student behaviour that leads to
problems in presentations, obstacles to self-assessment, students? inner thoughts regarding
developing ineffective action plans, previous communication problems with students, the role
of critical friends in RDs, teacher errors in assessment and shortcomings of teacher feedback.
Under the general categories, specific categories were identified. In the next part, the data
collected through the analysis of the RDs are presented with illustrative extracts from
student?s reflective writings and teacher?s journal.
Discovering Student Behaviour That Leads to Problems in Presentations
The RDs highlighted certain student behaviours that led to problems in their
Failing to Understand Task Expectations: A common problem students had with the
content of their presentations was not understanding task expectations. In the task sheet for
mini-presentation 1, it was stated that the students were required first to describe the avatar
they had chosen and then discuss what the avatar revealed about the personality of its owner.
Some students elaborated only on the first part. When the teacher redirected them to the
explanations on the task sheet, students were usually able to spot the problem.
The dialogue between the teacher and S1 about the content of his presentation
provided in extract 1 illustrates how this problem was discussed in RDs. When the teacher
wanted S1 to re-assess the content of his presentation, S1 first wanted her to clarify what was
meant by content (line 1). She first tried to explain what content was and then referred him to
the task sheet to remember the questions to be addressed in the presentation. When S1
reflected on the questions, he realized that the second part of the task was incomplete and
expressed this discovery (lines 4). The teacher continued the dialogue by reminding what he
did while presenting and highlighted his success in doing so, but he was interrupted by S1
(line 5). As seen in lines 7 and 8, the teacher and S1 started to speak simultaneously and both
used a transition signaling that a contrast was to follow (but and however). The teacher
stopped speaking and left the floor to S1 to complete the reflection and he clearly indicated
the specific problem. Before they moved on to discuss another aspect of the presentation, the
teacher wrapped up the problem; that is; task was not fulfilled (line 10).
Extract 1: S1
1 S1: Content? What do you mean with content?
2 T: Content is what is included ((translates the word into Turkish)). Did you answer the
3 questions? How did you answer them? ((shows the questions on the task sheet))
((S1 reads the questions))
4 S1: I mean overall I tried to explain but I mean for the user ((of the avatar) I did not
5 say he is not like this ((or)) he is like this.
6 T: You successfully informed us about ying-yeng.=
7 S1: =[But the user?s]
8 T: [However]
9 S1: Did not explain why he ((uses)) that.
10 T: Yes. Therefore, indeed? half of your presentation is indeed missing.
This dialogue also demonstrates the challenge of conducting a reflective dialogue
when both the teacher and students were novice in the experience. Teacher?s initial plan of
going over the rubric with the student to promote reflection was instantly impeded by S1?s
apparent lack of understanding of the key terms in the rubric. However, she still made effort
to model reflection by asking reflective questions, but the gaps in the reflection process was
filled in by teacher feedback.
The RD with S2 followed a similar pattern. When the teacher prompted S2 to reflect
on his presentation by asking if he had talked about the personality of the owner of the avatar,
he stated that he did not and added that it was a problem. Another problem in S2?s
presentation was time. Since S2 did not reflect on the time issue which was an important
problem in his presentation, the teacher resorted to feedback. She pointed out that if he had
completed the second part of the presentation, the timing problem would have been solved.
Failing to Choose an Avatar Suitable for the Mini-Presentation: Another problem that
emerged in the RDs was the students? having chosen somehow a problematic picture or topic
for their presentation. In S3?s case, the avatar she presented did not allow her to make
conclusions about the owner?s personality. She stated that because of this, she was not able to
elaborate on the second part of the task. She explained that she tried to find an avatar that
reflected her personality. However, in her opinion, the picture she found did not allow her to
make inferences. S4 also had problems because of the avatar he had chosen and in his written
reflection, he wrote that for his next mini-presentation, he would pay attention to choosing a
topic that was more appealing to his audience.
Failing to Eliminate Information that Crowds the Content: Another content-related
problem was students? failing to sift through the information to be included in the content.
Especially in the description part, some students attempted to present more information than
feasible and desirable. When they did so, they were not able to address the second part of the
task effectively due to time constraints. S1 was one of the students who experienced this
problem. When the teacher told him the importance of eliminating information that crowds
the content, S1 did not understand the comment and asked if there were irrelevant parts in his
presentation. At this point, the teacher preferred to give feedback rather than using reflective
questions and explained that it was not a problem of relevance. S1 extended the background
information beyond the time limit allowed. She warned him about the importance of being
selective when preparing his presentation. In her journal she wrote when she thought that the
dialogue was going on for longer than desired and becoming confusing for the student, she
stated the problem and sometimes the solution herself. However, she also wrote ?sometimes I
seem to lose my patience. I need to wait more before providing answers. I need to be more
tolerant of silence. We all need some silence to think?.
There was a similar problem in S5?s mini-presentation. S5 had used the photograph of
a heroic leader for his avatar presentation. In her notes, the teacher had written that he gave
too much biographical information and little information on what using such an avatar
revealed about the user. In the RD, she wanted to discuss this issue with him. S5 said that
although he accepted that there was a need for the use of more transitions, he did not think
the information was too much or irrelevant. Similar to S1, he associated eliminating
information with taking out the irrelevant parts rather than selecting the essential information.
Unfortunately, the teacher failed to focus on this issue and in her journal, she recorded this
session as a weak RD. She wrote that she should have provided explicit feedback clarifying
the issue because S5 was not clear about what the problem was, and the dialogue was not
helping him to spot it. In the RD, S5 stated that he understood the teacher?s comments on the
content and time-limitation link; however, in the written reflection he completed afterwards,
he did not mention the selection and elimination of the content material as a weak point of his
presentation, confirming the teacher?s opinion that the RD was not successful.
Not Knowing How to Prepare and Use Notes: Students? lack of training in preparing
and using notes was another prevalent problem. Students? notes usually hindered their
delivery. Two students, S2 and S6, complained about their notes indicating that if they had
not had notes, they would have performed better. They discussed why writing down the
whole text instead of preparing notes hindered their performance. Then, referring to a part on
the video, S6 explained at that moment how he suffered because he was trying to remember
the exact word he had written down.
S7 did not prepare any notes, which caused some problems while she was presenting.
She stated that she deducted points for the organization because she jumped from one topic to
another while presenting. She explained how she forgot what she was supposed to say in the
first place and how saying these things as she remembered them along the way hindred her
performance. The teacher suggested preparing short notes that she could use as reminders. S8
did not use any notes either. The fact that he constantly avoided eye contact and looked in
front of him during his presentation had grabbed the teacher?s attention. When she asked S8
why he had done so, S9, another student in the room, said that the avatar on the screen in
front of S8 helped him to make links and remember. S8 confirmed this observation. To the
teacher?s surprise, the picture was used as a memory tool. When she suggested using notes,
S8 shared a traumatic presentation experience he had in the past, for which he blamed the
Discovering Certain Obstacles to Self-Assessment
Through the analysis of the transcripts of the RDs, five major obstacles in front of
accurate self-assessment were identified.
Students? Misunderstandings Regarding the Rubric: Despite the introduction in the
lesson, it was seen that some students had problems in self-asessment because they had
difficulties in understanding the rubric. S7 was one of these students. During the RD, the
teacher wanted S7 to reassess the content of her presentation. According to the teacher, S1?s
content was better than she believed. As they discussed, it turned out that S7 deducted points
for the content for frequent use of fillers while speaking, which was indeed a delivery
problem. When the teacher referred S7 to the rubric and questions on the task sheet, she
reassessed the content and changed her initial assessment.
As S7?s case exemplifies, RD provided students with the opportunity to go over the
rubric and understand unclear parts. This clarification aided the negotiation process because
to be able to negotiate, the parties involved need to be speakin
g the same language (Marzano,
). In this case, the rubric was the language for mediation.
Students? Concern about Overrating their Performance: The RDs revealed that one
reason students had problems with self-assessment was their concern about overrating their
performance. For instance, when the teacher asked S7 why she gave a very low grade for her
language, she first said that she had no idea. After some reflection, she explained that she
assumed to have made grammar mistakes because if she made grammar mistakes when
writing, she certainly made mistakes when speaking. However, in her notes, the teacher had
not noted down any language mistakes.
In the RD with S10, the teacher wanted to question why he gave 2 points for the
content since she had found the content of his presentation quite successful. S10 thought for a
while before he answered the question, and first he could not present a reason. Then he said it
did not deserve three points. This explanation did not satisfy the teacher. She challenged S10
by stating if she had been a student, and S10 had been her teacher, she would have demanded
a clear explanation so as to what was lacking in the content. Reflecting on the content again,
S10 could not specify anything missing. He added that he indeed answered all the questions
effectively. Therefore, like the teacher, he would also go with three points for the content.
Students? Focus on ?Sticking to the Plan?: Some students downgraded their
presentation because they diverted from the plan they had made. For instance, S6 stated that
he did not like the organization because he could not say the things he had planned to say.
The teacher told him that parts he left out or changed did not spoil the flow of the
presentation, and he should not feel forced to follow his plan word for word.
Students? Comparing themselves with Other Students: Students? comparing
themselves with other students rather than the standards set in the rubric also affected their
self-assessment. To illustrate, S7 told that she deducted points in her self-assessment because
she compared her presentation with S10?s and concluded that hers was not as good as his.
Therefore, she believed that if S10 got full points for the content, then she needed to get a
lower grade. The teacher told her that she should not compare her performance with her
friends? and that she had to refer to the rubric instead. However, in her journal, she noted that
?even teachers have a tendency to compare students with each other when grading; therefore,
it is only natural that students do the same thing. However, they should be encouraged to
avoid doing this?. The students should be reminded to compare their performance against the
set achievement criteria rather than their friends? performance.
Difficulty of Self-monitoring while Presenting: An obvious challenge when
selfassessing a presentation was the difficulty of performing and monitoring performance
simultaneously. S5 raised this issue and said he deducted points for language since he did not
have the opportunity to monitor his presentation while presenting, he thought that he
probably had made a lot of mistakes.
S11 thought that during her presentation, she was able to maintain eye contact, and
when the teacher told her that her eye contact was limited, she was rather surprised. However,
she also recognized the problem as she watched her video. In her written reflection, S11
reflected on the issue and wrote ?The eyes looking at me made me nervous I guess? and
added that she ?would like to have more eye contact with the audience?.
Discovering Students? Inner Thoughts Regarding Developing Ineffective Action Plans
The RDs enabled the teacher to eavesdrop to students ?inner thoughts?
. As the teacher and students reflected on the presentations, the teacher had the
opportunity to interfere with cases where the students attributed the problems they
experienced to wrong causes. She focused on these problems because she believed that if the
students did not identify the root of the problem accurately, they were very likely to develop
ineffective or even risky action plans. For example, when S4 attributed the problems in his
presentation to not having read from the text he prepared, the teacher told him that reading
would have caused bigger problems. Similarly, through RD, as discussed above, the teacher
learned about S8?s concerns about using notes when presenting. In such cases where the
students did not seem to have the resources to identify and fix a problem, the teacher
integrated explicit feedback in the RDs.
Discovering Previous Communication Problems with Students
The analysis revealed that RDs helped to surface certain communication problems
that could have gone unnoticed otherwise. For example, during the RD, it was discovered that
S6 misunderstood a comment made by the teacher. This misunderstanding, unfortunately,
shaped the way he assessed his performance. S6?s dissatisfaction with his presentation was
evident at the very beginning of the dialogue. He believed that the only good thing about his
presentation was remembering to greet his friends (Extract 2, line 2). The teacher told him
that she did not remember if his presentation was as bad as he thought (line 5). Then S6 told
that she had asked him if he had not prepared at all (lines 6, 7). However, she did not
remember having made such a comment (line 8, 10). Indeed, she was rather surprised for
having said something of that sort and thought making such a comment was insulting (line
12, 14). The teacher?s disbelief was evident in the way she repeated asking if she had really
made such a discouraging comment. When the teacher expressed her sadness, S6 said that he
understood why the teacher behaved like that and probably in an effort to comfort her
teacher, added that he would have behaved the same way (line 13). The teacher suggested
checking what actually went on in S6?s presentation as they watched his video.
Extract 2: S6 & S2
1 T: This is good. You greeted ((your friends))
2 S6: That is all I did.
3 S6, S2, T: ((laugh)).
4 S6: We were talking with ((S2? name)) as well. I greeted people. And then=
5 T: =Is it really that bad? I do not remember.
6 S6: I mean you had said that? I mean? ((you said)) did you come without having
7 practiced at all?
8 T: Did I say that?
9 S6: I ? Indeed, I came without having practiced at all.
10 T: Did I say anything of that sort?
11 S6: Yes.
12 T: That is shameful. How could I say anything like that? ((surprised))
13 S6: No, teacher. You are right. If I were you, I could have said ((something worse)).
14 T: I should not have said anything like that. It is insulting.
15 S6: It is not insulting.
16 T: I... Did I really say that?
17 S6: ( )
18 S6, S2, T: ((laugh))
As they watched the video, it was discovered that S6 misheard the teacher?s comment,
and she did not say anything suggesting that he was not prepared. As the dialogue went on
how much S6 was shattered by the misunderstood comment came to the surface. He told the
teacher that he could not get over his distress for a week. She told S6 and S2 treating a
student like that did not suit her personality and apologized for the misunderstanding.
The RD with S3 is another example showing how previous misunderstandings were
disclosed in RDs. When the teacher advised her to point the picture on the acetate on the
OHP, S3 was surprised by the teacher?s comment and told her that in class she had told them
to keep away from the OHP when presenting. The teacher clarified herself that they were not
supposed to stand in front of the light, but they could stand near the OHP since it eased both
pointing at the picture and placing the notes.
As seen in the cases above, the RDs were opportunities to discover and fix
misunderstandings. The communication problems probably would have never been revealed
Discerning the Role of Critical Friends in Reflective Dialogue
The RDs enabled the teacher to reflect on the role of critical friends in assessment.
Critical friend refers to a student who was present during the RDs in addition to the student
whose work was being discussed and who was also engaged in the reflection process. As a
principle, one student was allowed in the room during the RDs to prevent stress that might be
caused by the presence of peers. However, at times, on students? request, she allowed their
friends to stay in the room. As the teacher and peer debriefer agreed, in S12?s case, the guest
student did not contribute to the RD. On the contrary, because of the guest student, S12
became more defensive. However, in other RDs, guest students were involved in the dialogue
and contributed to it. For example, when S13 told that she memorized the text she presented,
the teacher said that it was not like memorization. Then, S13 told that in the final part, she
had to talk because she could not remember what she had planned to say. The teacher stated
that she found that final part successful. At this point, S14 joined the conversation and
expressed her agreement with the teacher saying that S13 ?got stuck more often at the parts
she had memorized?. This comment was welcomed by S13. Furthermore, the additional
support coming from a second assessor and a peer increased the credibility of the judgment
passed by the teacher.
The RD with S15 diplays another example of the contribution of a critical friend in
reflection. S3 suggested him holding his cards in his hands so that he stopped playing with
his button. Later on, when the teacher and S15 were reflecting on the organization of the
mini-presentation, S3 interrupted the video to ask S15 how the presentation was organized in
his notes and prompted him to reflect on the nature of his notes.
As seen in the examples above, involving a third person, a critical friend in the RD
benefited the students and the teacher in a number of ways. In her journal, the teacher
reflected on critical friends:
I think the presence of a critical friend creates a less threatening environment. I
feel less stressed because I do not feel alone. The power issue is always a challenge to
deal with when giving feedback. When there is another student who helps me, I feel
as if I am sharing the power with somebody else and I think I feel less dangerous.
Also, the students may feel safer when they have a friend whom they like and trust.
Discovering Teacher Errors in Assessment
The RDs increased the reliability of teacher assessment. As the students reflected on
their presentation and explained their self-assessment, they also operated as a second rater
who evaluated the performance. The discussion over the performance and grades allowed the
teacher to go over her assessment creating an opportunity to check for intra-rater reliability as
well. The RDs created opportunities to disclose the shortcomings in the teacher?s initial
The RD with S8 illustrates how the teacher felt the need to change the initial grade
she had given for the content upon reflecting on the presentation with the student. There was
a disagreement between the teacher and S8 about the content. The teacher told S8 that the
part where he was supposed to talk about his inferences regarding the personality of the
avatar owner was missing. S8 was not convinced and wanted her to explain what was
missing. When the teacher hesitated, he listed what he included in his presentation to refresh
the teacher?s mind. The teacher realized that S8 was right and admitted that probably because
of the organization problems, she failed to make an accurate evaluation. The content grade
Teacher?s Discovery of the Shortcomings of her Feedback Delivery
As the teacher reflected on the transcribed data of the RDs, she discovered certain
things that she would like to change about the way she managed the RDs. First, the amount of
teacher talk was a problem. She was critical of herself for not listening attentively and
patiently. There were times the teacher found the feedback she gave unclear and even
misleading. As she transcribed the RDs, she highlighted these parts. For example, she told
some students that they were capable of talking ?h?zl?? (fast) to praise their speaking skills,
which could be misleading. However, reflecting on it, she decided that the right word should
be ?ak?c?? (fluent) since speaking fast can indeed be a problem when presenting. Moreover,
certain statements she made while conferencing seemed to be incorrect. To illustrate, she had
told S4 that ?stammering is not very important?, which is not true.
The teacher also discovered that she repeated certain words or phrases frequently and
decided that not using them would increase the quality of her feedback. Only in the RD with
S1, he used the phrase ?akl?nda bulunsun? (keep this in mind) four times. Similarly, she
decided to avoid using ?bilmem ne? (whatsoever), ?di mi? (is not it?) and ?falan filan? (etc.,
etc.) when giving oral feedback. Moreover, she found out that she used terms like ?mekanik
linkers? (mechanical linkers) and ?net gramer? (clear grammar)? which did not make sense.
About these phrases, in her journal, she wrote ?sometimes even I do not understand what I
am talking about?.
Contributions of Reflective Writing to Learning
In this part, the results of the analysis of written reflections on the second
minipresentation are discussed in order to inquire how they contributed to both students? and
teacher?s reflective learning. These findings are presented with illustrative examples from
student work. In the extracts from student work, to preserve the originality of the work, the
language mistakes were left unedited most of the time. If there were any changes made to the
original to clarify the meaning, these changes were indicated in square brackets.
Improvement in Self-Assessment Skills
RDs and reflective paragraphs on mini-presentations contributed to students?
selfassessment skills. Each mini-presentation was worth 10 points. Six bands were formed based
on the discrepancy between the student and teacher grades. Table 2 shows the distribution of
students over the discrepancy score bands in the two mini-presentations. When the
discrepancy scores of the first and second mini-presentations were compared, it was seen that
overall the discrepancy between the teacher and student grades decreased. For example, in
the first mini-presentation, 22 (44%) students were in band 1 (0-0.75) whereas in the second,
this number increased to 32 students (70%). On the other hand, four students were in band 4
(3-3.75) and one student was in band 6 (5). In the second mini-presentation, there were no
students in bands 4 and 6, and there was one student in band 5 (4-4.75). The results revealed
that the students had a better understanding of the assessment criteria in the rubric and needed
less scaffolding. This improvement can be attributed to reflective activities.
Developing a Systematic Way to Include Students? Self-Grades in Formal Assessment
Reflecting on the written reflections enabled the teacher to gain insight into the
reflection process behind the grades given by the students. This aided her when finalizing the
students? presentation grades. In their second mini-presentations, most of the students were
quite accurate with their self-assessment and most of the time, they justified their grades in
their written reflections. Therefore, in the grading of the second mini-presentation, the
teacher regarded the students as the primary raters.
When there was a discrepancy between the teacher and student grades, the written
reflections helped the teacher negotiate the grades. She developed a set of principles for this
negotiation. To illustrate, some students identified a problem in their presentation and
reflected-on it in their writing without deducting any points for it. When the problem was a
minor issue, the teacher did not change the grade given by the student. For example, S16
spotted that at one point, he put his hand in his pocket and wrote about this in his reflection.
However, he did not lose points for this. The teacher also thought this mistake was tolerable.
However, there were cases in which the student was unable to identify a major issue in the
presentation. In such cases, the teacher changed the grade given by the student and gave
written or oral feedback depending on the complexity of the required explanation. For
example, in his mini-presentation, S17 only described the cartoon and did not respond to its
message. Therefore, an important part of the content was missing. However, he still gave
himself 2.5 out of 3 for the content. In this case, the teacher explained why the content of the
presentation could not get 2.5 points and deducted points for the content.
Promoting Assessment for Learning
Assessment has a powerful effect on students? learning, and it ?directs attention to
what is important? and creates motivation for learning
(Boud & Falchikov, 2007, p. 3)
Asking students to reflect on their work and assessing their reflections led to positive impact.
One of the benefits of having students write reflections was helping them to see the
interconnectedness of learning experiences. The traditional assessment procedures reinforce the
tendency to focus on the final grade received in a test rather than how the test results can be
used to further improve learning. On the other hand, requiring the students to complete a
written reflection on their mini-presentation encouraged them to think about the completed
task. They needed to revisit the way they prepared, gave and evaluated their presentation in
order to be able to write a reflection on them. In the reflection task, they were asked to
compare their final presentation with the one(s) they had given previously. Thus, in a way,
they were given an opportunity to view a test as a link in a chain rather than an end itself.
S18?s written reflection shows how she compared her first and second
minipresentation, and how she reflected on the improvements and problems she observed.
My last presentation was better and more successful than the first one in terms
of content and delivery. Since I had prepared an outline before the presentation
I knew what [I] would say. Therefore, I had more relevant and clear examples
and explanations for my major ideas? Moreover, although there are still some
problems, my speech became more natural at second time with the help of one or
two rehearsals I had made individually before the presentation. Also, these
preparations made me more relaxed. However, there are still two persistent
problems: my body language and voice tone. I know something about them, but I
could not apply, and I do not have any idea [sic] to correct this situation except
paying more attention to them.
Encouraging Students to Make Action Plans
When the students were comparing their first and second mini-presentations, some of
them made references to the development plans they had made as well. For example, in his
written reflection S12 went over his development plan and reflected on to what extent he was
able to stick to it.
I [was] able to stick to the development plan a lot. After my first presentation, I
planned to develop the topic more effectively, to keep eye-contact, to use
transitions effectively, to keep eye-contact with the audience, to not smile [sic]
needlessly, to talk loudly and to remember to thank the audience. I tried to carry
out all and I achieved to do most, but I repeated to smile needlessly and
somewhere to not [sic] keep eye contact with audience [in] the second
However, not all the students believed that they made progress. There were students
who stated that there was no or little improvement in their second mini-presentation and some
other students stated that their second mini-presentation was worse. To complete the written
reflection, they traced the reasons for the failure they observed in their presentation (s).
Reading the written reflections also enabled the teacher to identify ineffective action
plans of the students. In these cases, she made suggestions to the students. To illustrate,
although the teacher warned S19 about the risks of memorizing in the RD on
minipresentation 1, S19 wrote that memorizing the speech was a solution to loosing
concentration. As feedback, the teacher wrote that memorizing was likely to create problems
especially in longer presentations, and her speech might sound unnatural if she recited a
memorized text. She advised S19 to try using an outline.
Some of the students set realistic expectations to achieve observable progress, which
plays an important role in the development and maintenance of motivation. For example, S20
did not feel that he was making any progress, which would probably have demotivated him.
He believed that his first presentation was better than his second and explained the reason for
this saying that if he had prepared as good as he had done for the first mini-presentation, he
would have been more successful. Having found the reason of the problem and its solution,
he was positive that he would do better next time.
In their written reflections, the students had the opportunity to express their feelings,
and the teacher had a chance to respond to them. For example, S21 shared how the
presentations made him feel happy and increased her ambition, and S14 expressed how her
audience increased her motivation and self-confidence. S6 reflected on his fear that his dread
of talking in front of public would never cease.
Students? Evaluation of Reflective Activities
Out of 57 students who evaluated the reflective activities, 53 (93%) stated that they
thought engaging in reflective activities helped them monitor and manage their own learning
and these tasks helped them improve their performance. Five students indicated that first they
did not think that the reflection tasks were useful, but then they realized their benefits. Their
explanations included: improving their ability to see their strengths and weaknesses and
helpeing them to correct their mistakes (n= 43), encouraging them to revisit their work and
think carefully about it (n=7), helping them not to repeat their mistakes (n=6) and supporting
self-evaluation and criticism (n=6). For example, S20 wrote that writing reflection is more
effective than reading teacher feedback because he had to think more when writing. Other
stated benefits included improving language skills (n=3); improving problem-solving skills
(n=1); improving writing skills (n=1) and showing the importance of asking the right
questions for reflection (n=1).
Forty students answered the question which reflection task was the most useful.
Twenty-two students (55%) indicated that they favoured mini-presentation reflections. Some
of these students pointed out that mini-presentation reflections increased their self-evaluation
skills and self-confidence. Six students stated that they were all useful. Five students thought
that essay reflections were more effective, and five students thought that reaction-response
reflections were more effective. However, two students did not think that reflective activities
were useful. S22 and S23 expressed their dissatisfaction with them. S22 thought that
reflections wasted his time because teacher feedback would be enough while S23 stated that
they should be voluntary.
Thirty-seven students (65%) students stated that reflective activities had a positive
impact on their attitude towards the lesson and increased their motivation. Eleven students
expressed that they sometimes increased their motivation and at other times, the activities
decreased their motivation. Increasing their attention (n=6) and confidence (n=4) were two of
the ways reflection motivated students. S12 stated that seeing that he improved his work
through reflecting on it increased his motivation.
Six students found the reflective activities demotivating. Eight students noted that
there were too many reflective activities, and they were time-consuming. S24 was critical of
the amount of feedback teacher provided. He wrote ?to be honest, reflective activities took all
of my enthusiasm for English lesson. I think that my teacher make [sic] more corrections than
necessary on the reflections?.
Fifty students (87%) were satisfied with the feedback teacher gave for reflective
writings tasks. Helping students to see their own strengths and mistakes, objectivity,
encouraging students to make a plan to improve their work, positivity and thoroughness were
specified as the strengths of the given feedback. On the other hand, two students thought that
teacher feedback was average, and three students did not find it helpful. S23 and S24 stated
that reflections were not necessary, and the teacher should only provide feedback rather than
asking the students to reflect.
Discussion and Action Plan
The study revealed that reflection is a tool for hearing students? inner voice
. For example, RDs and written reflections, enabled the teacher to have
insights into how students prepared for tasks, what they attributed their success and failure to
and what their action plans were. Reflecting with the students and on their reflections created
an opportunity for discovering students? conceptual structures and thus supported effective
(von Glaserfled, 1995)
. Furthermore, engaging in reflective activities strengthened
the communication between the teacher and students. Although it is not always possible to
claim that students changed their misconceptions, or they improved their performance as a
result of engaging in reflective tasks, it can be said that such misconceptions were at least
brought to light and viewed from a different perspective
(McGill &Brockbank, 2007)
In line with previous research, it was seen that students needed to be scaffolded
effectively before asking them to use rubrics for self-assessment
(Leahy et al., 2005; Arter &
Chappuis, 2006; Airasian & Russell, 2008)
. Talking about the rubric and how it should be
used during the RDs helped the students understand the rubric. The decrease in grade
discrepancy between teacher assessment and students? self-assessment of the
minipresentations suggested that reflective tasks aided the development of self-assessment skills.
It was observed in their written reflections following the RDs that students could
express opinions that they did not discuss in the dialogue. One of the possible reasons for this
can be that they did not want to confront the teacher in face-to-face conversation. As
discussed earlier, the power dynamics in the RDs need to be carefully observed since in most
contexts, the teacher is perceived to be the authority figure. This belief shapes both the
teacher?s and students? behavior in the RDs. For successful RDs, teachers should create
spaces for students to get more active and equal roles in the dialogue. Active and effective
listening, sufficient wait time, probing through reflective questions are some means to open
such dialogic spaces. Another reason may be that having a chance to reflect on the
presentation and the dialogue individually, they may have made new discoveries or arrived at
new conclusions. Therefore, it can be said that the RDs and reflective writing tasks
complemented each other.
Engaging in reflection contributed to the teacher?s professional development in a
number of ways. Although the majority of the students stated that the teacher?s feedback was
satisfactory, the teacher discovered that there are problems with the way she gave feedback
and realized that she needs to continue to monitor her oral and written feedback.
Including the students in self-assessment enabled the teacher to fix some parts of her
grading. Therefore, the findings in this study confirm
, 2008) research studies
that highlight the importance of training students as the second raters. Furthermore, as
points out, ways to use students? self-grades for official grading were explored.
The RDs in which critical friends were present showed the potential value of critical
friends in assessment. The involvement of a critical friend in the RDs made certain
contributions to the process. First, the atmosphere created by the position of the teacher as the
sole holder of the power changed
. Second, when they confirmed the teacher?s
feedback, the credibility of the judgment passed by the teacher increased. Sometimes critical
friends helped the teacher by drawing her attention to an issue she had overlooked. It was
observed that at times, critical friends supported their friends and helped them clarify
themselves. They also contributed to their friends? learning by making suggestions, sharing
their own experience and prompting reflection. It was also seen that critical friends should be
Confirming Ayan?s study (2010), the majority of the students reported that reflective
tasks were effective in helping them monitor and manage their own learning. The students
listed benefits of reflection tasks for them as increasing their confidence, requiring them to
think carefully about their work; helping them monitor themselves and look at their work
with a critical eye; encouraging them to revisit their work and become aware of their
mistakes; and improved their performance. However, three students were particularly
negative about reflection. Unfortunately, since the evaluation was carried out at the end of the
semester, the teacher did not have a chance to talk to these students about their negativity.
Despite the limitations in the implementation, reflective activities were successful, but certain
modifications should be made in the implementation to ensure that students do not lose their
motivation. Since the majority of the students noted that there were too many reflective
activities, and they were time-consuming, decreasing the number of written reflection tasks
and adding some variety can help increase student motivation.
As the present AR evolved, the authors developed an interactive reflection model
which draws on the constructivist principles and contributes to the field of ELT by presenting
a framework which outlines a process in which the students and teacher engage in reflection
both as an individual and social activity in order to improve. Figure 1 demonstrates the
cyclical process of reflection and how the students and teacher interact in the process.
Through reflection students? inner voice is vocalized and their conceptual structures
are disclosed. In the process, learners are scaffolded, and this scaffolding is gradually
decreased. Moreover, at every stage, the teacher reflects with students on their action and
reflects-on his or her own action. In this way, the teacher not only pursues professional
development but also as a researcher of his or her own context, gains important information
with which he or she can contribute to the body of the educational research
Appendix 1: Tips for Reflective Writing
Go through your work thoroughly and check if there are any persistent problems. If
there are such problems, identify them clearly in your reflection. Then brainstorm the
possible causes of the problem together with how you are planning to handle the
problem in your future work.
Remember to focus on your strengths as well. If you think that you are particularly
good at something, you can trace your background knowledge, previous experience,
planning prior to the task and performance to find out the key to your success. Then
this information can be shared with your friends who may benefit from it.
It is important to be specific in your reflections. For instance, a statement like ?my
grammar is weak, and I have to improve it? is not of much use. Similarly, ?my topic
sentence is weak? is not satisfactory. Instead, focus on a point that seems to recur
and/or that seems to puzzle you and try to explain the problem. For example, ?Each
time I used the expression ?such that?, my teacher underlined it and put an (!)
exclamation mark. There must be something wrong with the expression, but I am not
sure. I will talk to her and ask for clarification? is much more beneficial than saying
?I need to practice grammar?. Similarly, the explanation ?my topic sentence is
misleading because it does not clarify that I will talk about the reasons why people
create online identities. I should have written ?people create online identities for
mainly two reasons? rather than saying ?more and more people prefer to create online
identities?? is a better example of reflection than the statement ?my topic sentence is
Especially when you are reflecting on a particular kind of task for the second time
you may feel that you have already covered everything. In those cases, you can focus
on a single issue like a logical fallacy and build your reflection on it.
Remember that the aim of these reflections is to help you cope with the problems that
haunt you and develop good habits of thinking. Give yourself a chance to bring out
the best in you?
Appendix 2: The Reflection Task for Mini-presentation 2
Grade: 3/ 2/ 1/ US
Reflect on your second mini-presentation.
Reflect on your first and second mini-presentations. Can you notice any improvements in the second
one? If so, in what areas has there been an improvement? Please, be specific. How do you explain the
How far were you able to stick to the development plan you made after your presentation? Explain.
Are there any persistent problems? What are they? Please, be specific. How are you planning to deal
with these problems? Are they problems that can be solved in the short-term or do you need to make a
Is there anything you could have more paid attention to or do differently to improve your final
What did you learn from the two experiences about your presentation skills/ study skills/ personality
traits? Have the experiences made any positive or negative emotional changes in you? Explain.
A good reflection has the features listed below.
? displays numerous evidence of the thinking process and your awareness of your
strengths and weaknesses in relation to the task.
? traces the possible reasons that may have caused problems and/or that may have
contributed to success of the presentation
? links new learning to prior knowledge and experiences.
? is solution and learning oriented.
? expresses emotions clearly.
? is written using correct and clear English.
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