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Rueben's Venus

Reflection in the Electronic
Writing Classroom

L. Lennie Irvin, San Antonio College




The Importance of Reflection
Reflection as a Catalyst

Reflection in the Writing Classroom
Reflection in the E-Writing Classroom


Reflection as Observation
Reflection as Refraction
Reflection as Coherence



Reflection as Refraction


Conclusion -- Works Cited

  So far I have discussed reflection as a significant catalyst for learning, and I have noted that even observation is a form of reflection that has enhanced potential in the electronic classroom. In my discussion of classroom examples of reflection as observation, I mentioned the importance of students producing a text generated from their observations of peer writing. But what is to become of these newly created reflective pieces? Another illustration will help demonstrate how reflection as refraction might work in an electronic writing classroom. For example, if you were teaching how to write lead sentences for introductory paragraphs, you might have students post a draft of their introduction in a bulletin board and then ask them to read the posts of their peers. As students read, they would create a reflective piece that identifies two good and two bad instances of lead sentences and discusses the differences (perhaps even having them look again at their own lead sentence and suggest possible adjustments). But where does this new reflective piece go? Why not share it too?

One powerful technique, then, that practitioners of reflection can use in the networked setting is to have students share reflective pieces over the computer network.  For years, I have used what I call “Process Journals” where students post to the network a reflective piece that calls on them to write about their writing.  These Process Journals are similar to Swartzendruber-Putnam’s Writer’s Log.  Each week, students respond to a prompt about their writing experience, post it to the network, and spend ten to fifteen minutes reading the reflective posts of their peers.  Students not only gain the benefits of writing such a “reflection-in-action” piece in isolation, but the whole writing community is able to gain deeper understandings through the sharing of these reflective pieces. Here is an example of a Process Journal topic I used in a class recently:

Write about your experience with revision. Talk about your views and past experience with revision in general. Then discuss your experience with revising the Essay #1. What is hard? What do you think is important about revision. What helps you with revision? Often revision involves receiving feedback from a reader--how does it make you feel to receive this kind of feedback? How is this feedback helpful for reworking your piece.

Quite simply, sharing reflective pieces puts the knowledge gained from reflection in a broader context.  If, as Pat Belanoff contends, reflection “can enable the reconstituting—if only momentarily—of a unified self, which certainly enables one to act more effectively” (421), then sharing and reflecting upon these reflections may fragment that “unified self” and stir the student to reconstitute a more complex and synthetic understanding.  Carol Pope uses the term “refraction” to describe this movement beyond reflection where the same activity is seen but from a different angle: “I have to do more than hold a mirror to myself and the class; I have to turn the mirror and see the class from different angles. …I call this process Refraction.  Refraction, an extension of reflection, suggests an added way of seeing”(180).  Reflecting upon reflections, then, is a kind of “refraction” that heightens and deepens the learning gained from reflection.  Certainly, students in a traditional writing classroom can share reflections in small groups, but the computer network makes this sharing easier and more “multitudinous.”

In Yancey’s concluding questions about the suitability of computer networks, she voices some uncertainty about the social context for reflection.  She asks, “What is the affect of public audience on reflection?”  We might restate the question as, “How does it make the student feel and react to the fact that they are posting their reflections for everyone to read?”  Should individual reflections be made publish? Of special concern for Yancey here would be the effect of audience on self-revelation.  Would the sharing of reflections inhibit self-revelation and stifle the reflective act?  My answer to these concerns is no—not necessarily.  First, if a pedagogy of sharing text frequently is used (and I use if from the first day of class), students get used to posting their writing before their peers.  The dynamism of the spectator-participant role helps them feel engaged with the group and more comfortable “performing” before them.  Partly they feel more comfortable because others are posting their reflections as well.  In addition, most reflective prompts in a composition classroom are about students’ writing experience and don’t call on them to reveal highly personal or intimate experiences (as is evident in Bolter’s article).  Finally, even if a student did feel inhibited in his or her reflection because they feared baring their soul before the group, other students might not have been so inhibited.   As a spectator, the inhibited student is still able to “refract”—affirm, question, rethink—his or her own experience by reading the posts of his or her peers.


Next: Reflection as Coherence


Introduction | The Importance of Reflection | Reflection as a Catalyst | Reflection in the Writing Classroom | Reflection in the E-Writing Classroom | Reflection as Observation | Reflection as Refraction | Reflection as Coherence | Conclusion | Works Cited
by L. Lennie Irvin, San Antonio College