Month: October 2011

OER 11: Highlights

Here’s a short video of highlights from OER 2011: The Impact of Open on Teaching and Learning



Interview with George Siemens

You can see the edited footage of my interview with George Siemens below or on YouTube.


I interviewed George during his time as a research fellow on the OLnet project, and he has some pretty interesting things to say about open learning, OER and e-learning more generally…

OER as Educational Philosophy

Here are the slides from my presentation to the Computers and Learning Research Group.  My basic argument can be summarised as follows

  1. Discourse about Open Educational Resources (OERs) has reached a point of maturity and needs to be (at least) supplemented with explicit focus on Open Educational Practices (OEPs)
  2. Focus on OEPs weakens the link between OERs and learning objects
  3. OEPs are potentially much further-reaching and more radical than OERs
  4. While OERs themselves are not aligned with a specific educational philosophy, there are distinct values associated with the OER movement
  5. The Enlightenment concept of education as Bildung may help to flesh out a distinctive educational philosophy pertaining to OERs/OEPs

See my other SlideShare presentations here.

Theories of Reflective Learning

Dewey is credited with instigating the modern discourse about reflective learning.  Although Dewey is a prominent philosopher of education, you don’t encounter him much on philosophy course in my experience.  As a progressive thinker who emphasizes the empowering aspects of education, one of the things I’ve been hoping to get out of H808 is a more detailed exploration of his ideas.

Dewey thought of reflection as a preoccupation or dewlling upon things that puzzle or disturb us, and saw reflection as a kind of precursor to action.  (This might be one way to understand his innovation: rather than regarding reflection as a mulling over of the past, Dewey’s reflective energies are future-facing.)

Schön (who wrote his PhD thesis on Dewey) went on to distinguish ‘reflection-on-action’ from ‘reflection-in-action’.  The former refers to the kinds of tacit knowledge we reveal in the way we carry out tasks and approach problems.  The latter occurs after the fact, and is often conscious and/or documented.

One of the most prominent names associated with reflective learning is David Kolb.  Kolb turned Dewey’s ideas about experiential learning into a more structured learning cycle.

Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell argued that Kolb’s model is too focused on the perspective of the educator.  They attempted to simplify the model in such a way that emphasized learner perspective (especially emotional experience).

The simplified version replaces concrete experience with ‘something happens’; reflective observation with ‘what happened?’; abstract conceptualisation with ‘so what?’ and active experimentation as ‘now what?’.


Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company.

Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. in C. Cooper (ed.) Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley

Pedler, M., Burgoyne, J. and Boydell, T. (1991, 1996) The Learning Company. A strategy for sustainable development, London: McGraw-Hill.

Schön, D.A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

H808: Reflection and Learning (Core Activity 2.4)

I’ll be concentrating here on Jenny Moon’s (2005) Guide for Busy Academics – Learning Through Reflection.  I was certainly appreciate of its short length, and it seemed to deliver the key points in an efficient way.  Moon begins with the commonplace idea of reflection, suggesting that we can think of reflection as either purposeful activity or as a state of being.

Moon suggests that four ways in which reflection can support learning.  These are pace (slowing down learning); ownership (appropriation); metacognition (thinking about ones own learning); and sensemaking (structuring material).

Here’s Moon’s definition of reflection.

Reflection is a form of mental processing that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve an anticipated outcome.  It is applied to gain a better understanding of relatively complicated or unstructured ideas and is largely based on the reprocessing of knowledge, understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess.

I’m unsure about Moon’s emphasis on the emotional content of reflection.  On the one hand, it is understandable, given that one of the accepted purposes of reflection in learning is to allow the learner a sense of appropriation over the material.  But it seems to me that the emotional aspects are somewhat overstated in this piece, because one of the points of reflecting is to attempt to transcend ones immediate reactions or personal context and try to understand a concept or problem in a wider sense.  Moon seems to indicate an awareness of this when she alludes to the idea that reflection is a way of exercising emotional control over learning.

I’m keener on the idea of reflection as sensemaking that is presented in the context of deep and surface learning, though I would suggest that we are still in the realms of individual reflection when in practice there is often an intersubjective element to reflection.  This is certainly the case in my own subject area, which is dialogic in nature.   It’s also the case that in philosophy students are actively encouraged to write in the first person, which Moon identifies as a potential barrier to reflection.

One thing that did come across in Moon’s piece is the central place of reflective learning in the e-portfolio/PDP approach.  In some ways, the e-portfolio approach can be understood as a way of making explicit the kind of reflection that is often happening in a less obvious way as part of learning.  I’m not sure, however, that this is necessarily facilitating more (or better) learning on the part of the student:  after all, you don’t have to consciously construe what you do as reflection in order to be reflecting meaningfully.