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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 in the Writing Classroom


Conclusion -- Works Cited


Before exploring the characteristics of reflection in a networked computer environment, it will be useful to describe how reflection has typically worked in the non-electronic writing classroom.  Dawn Swartzendruber-Putnam in her article “Written Reflection: Creating Better Thinkers, Better Writers” exemplifies good reflective practice that is obviously influenced by Yancey’s 1998 book Reflection in the Writing Classroom.  Swartzendruber-Putnam uses three types of reflection with her class—the writer’s log, the draft letter, and the portfolio letter—which match well with Yancey’s reflection-in-action (taken from Schon), constructive reflection, and reflection-in-presentation. With the writer’s log, Swartzendruber-Putnam makes reflection a habit of thinking for her students: “The section of their notebook labeled ‘Writer’s Log’ is a weekly opportunity for students to step back, think, and write a paragraph about how their writing is progressing and what they are learning”(89).  Yancey would describe this writer’s log as “a place where students can speak on their own behalf so that they too can begin to see how they learn.  The rhetorical situation, then: please tell me as teacher what’s going on”(42).  The second of Swartzendruber-Putnam’s practices, the draft letter, is another instance of what Yancey would call “reflection-in-action.” With the draft letter, students are asked to write a letter addressed to the teacher to accompany a single piece of writing turned in for evaluation.  The draft letter seems to be a conflation of Yancey’s "Writer’s Memo" where writers describe and assess their writing process and the Companion Piece where the “student can talk about whatever they think is important for the reader to know as she or he reads the primary text” (31). (See examples of my own use of the Draft Letter.)

Since Swartzendruber-Putnam describes using the draft letter as coming at the end of a unit where a student selects a single piece out a number of pieces for evaluation, we might see the draft letter as having some elements of Yancey’s constructive reflection.  Yancey describes constructive reflection as coming “between and among the drafts” (51).  Leaning heavily on Schon’s notions of “reflective transfer” Yancey states, “through reflective transfer—or what I will call constructive reflection—we create the specific practice from which we may derive principles toward prototypical models.  In composing a text, a writer invents practice that may have within it certain understandings and strategies that accommodate themselves to another rhetorical situation” (50). Constructive reflection, then, is a derivative of Schon’s “reflection-on-action,” a reflection over multiple writing events and an extended period of time.  We can see a better model for constructive reflection in Peg Syverson’s version of the Learning Record in her Learning Record Online where one of the five Dimensions of Learning consistent across any use of the LRO is "critical reflection."  In "Part B: Analysis of the Learning Record Online," students prepare a mid-term reflection that evaluates all the work they have done in the class up to that point and asks them to make suggestions for their further development during the remainder of semester.  By asking the student to look at their work over a period of time, the LRO fits well with Yancey’s proposition that constructive reflection engages student particularly in making generalizations and finding prototypical models.  (See examples of Mid-term reflections.)

The third reflective practice that Swartzendruber-Putnam uses in her writing classroom is the portfolio letter which fits the standard type of reflective piece to accompany an end-of-semester collection of a student’s work.  Her portfolio letter would be described by Yancey as a reflection-in-presentation.  These reflections are, along with selecting multiple pieces of writing for review, the main tool for conducting a more holistic form of evaluation: “We understood reading as contextual. We therefore wanted students to participate in creating the context in which their texts would be read” (73).  Portfolio letters also, as Swartzendruber-Putnam points out, are used as avenues for students to make judgments on their own writing and learning and as windows to demonstrate whether students understand concepts.

The important thing to note, from my perspective, on Swartzendruber-Putnam and Yancey’s description of reflection in the writing classroom is that the dialogue of reflection happens almost exclusively between the student and themselves and the student and the teacher. They predominantly see reflection as a solitary activity for the reflective writer: "Self-reflection assumes that individuals can access the contents of their own mind independently of others (Qualley 11). Yancey highlights the social and performative aspects of reflection-in-presentation, but such portfolio letters are still most commonly between the student and the teacher/evaluator (72).  Although many writing classrooms establish social "writer's workshop" learning environments where reflective writing pieces may be shared, reflection typically holds some hollowed ground for the individual writer--these individual reflections are of such a personal, individual nature that they should be shared only with the teacher. In addition, because many teachers tend to use reflection for evaluation purposes, they limit the sharing of these reflections to only the teacher.


Next: Reflection in the Electronic Classroom


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