Ruijie Zhao
Department of Humanities
Parkland College

Why Reflection?


Learning Environment
--blogs as a tool


Blogs and Postwriting










Reflection is defined as the “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey, 1993, p. 9). Ng, Lan, and Thye (2009) conclude, “[t]eachers must be reflective so that they will always find purpose and direction amid a sea of changes and not implement changes merely for the sake of change or because of top-down policy directives" (p. 201). In agreement with Ng, Lan, and Thye, Zeichner and Liston (1987) declare that “[m]ore reflective teacher actions will lead to greater benefits for the teacher and for all of his or her pupils” (p. 25). These researchers’ attention to reflection does not alter the reality that reflection is not as highly valued in education as it should be, and the composition field is not an exception. Yancey (1998) indicates that “[r]eflection has played but a small role in this history of composing. A single published article links reflection and composing process: Sharon Pianko’s ‘Reflection: A Critical Component of the Composing Process,’ published in 1979” (p. 4). Yancey continues, “One often undervalued and little understood method of identifying what we know and of understanding how we come to know involves what, in the last ten years or so, has been called “reflection” (pp. 5-6).

Because “reflection is a critical component of learning and of writing specifically” (Yancey, 1998, p. 7), I purposefully integrated reflective learning in my developmental writing courses to challenge students to exercise their agency and give me the opportunity to reflect upon the effectiveness of my own teaching. Spalding and Wilson (2002) note that “Reflection is a mysterious concept to many students who enter our graduate-level, secondary teacher education program at a large, Southeastern university” (p. 1393). If reflection is mysterious to graduate students training to be educators, to many college developmental writers who are freshly admitted to college, it probably is equally if not more mysterious. To demystify and learn from reflection in college composition classrooms, I introduced it in the teaching of writing to help students understand reflection, and eventually benefit from it.

Spalding and Wilson (2002) admit that “[w]e realized that we must demystify reflection if students are to take ownership of their journals and use reflection as a vehicle for personal and professional development” (p. 1394). Yancey (1998) concurs with the power of reflection to assume “agency and authority,” urging the field to generate ways to integrate reflection in teaching (p. 20). The writing process is a social and collaborative process during which students converse with different social groups and constantly make decisions regarding the style and content of their work. Likewise, for instructors, the teaching process involves planning, creating syllabi, executing class plans, and assessing students’ learning outcomes. The successful choice of teaching materials and methodologies is, to a large extent, decided by students’ reactions. The positive and negative reactions from students shape the teaching of writing, and reflective instructors have the chance to self-evaluate based on students’ responses/reactions and needs. Since reflection can engage student writers and instructors in a decision making process during which they constantly challenge themselves and strive for perfection, it  benefits both students and instructors. Yancey accentuates, “Reflection is both process and product. The processes of reflection can be fostered in several ways. Inviting students to reflect in multiple ways is inviting them to triangulate their own truths, to understand and articulate the pluralism of truth” (p. 19). Recognizing the importance of reflection in the postwriting stage, this study invites students to reflect in a networked digital environment and investigates how reflection in this space helps students to gain agency and authority while also building a genuine dialogue between the instructors and students. The following sections elaborate on how students and instructors benefit during the postwriting process in a blog-mediated learning environment in a developmental writing course.



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