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Reflective Writing Annotated Example: A First Draft


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Student Submission:
John Doe
Education Course 600
Instructor: Jane Smith
May 4, 2015

Reflecting on my Recent Conference Presentation

In May of 2015, I gave a presentation on the cognitive benefits of walking at the Learning Specialists Association of Canada’s (LSAC) annual conference. In preparing for my talk, I decided to follow a fairly standard structure. First, I would provide an overview of recent research; I would then put participants into groups for an active learning component; and finally, I would bring the whole group together for a larger discussion to share ideas. While the general structure of my presentation was rather conventional, the nature of my active learning component was not. This was of particular concern to me prior to my presentation.

My plan was to put participants into groups of three and then ask them to go on a 15-minute walk to reflect on and discuss the research I had presented. Given the nature of my topic, this seemed like an appropriate activity to have participants engage in. Nevertheless, asking people to leave the classroom during a session struck me as risky. I worried that some participants would use the walk as an opportunity to leave the session altogether, and I would end up with a much smaller group for the discussion. Even if everyone did return from the walk, I worried that this activity would fail to inspire participant learning. This was more than a baseless fear, as I had never conducted or participated in a walking activity before. I had no idea how it would go. And knowing that I was presenting to a group of educators who are advocates of active learning only increased my worry.

As a presenter, when I put participants in groups to engage in a learning activity, I will normally check in on the groups to ensure they understand the task, and to answer any questions they may have. In this talk, however, this wasn’t an option. Participants wouldn’t be confined to a classroom, but scattered all across the campus. After presenting the research and describing the walking activity, I simply watched as the participants left the classroom in their groups of three. I was the only person remaining in the room. I felt very strange. I felt like I was somehow failing in my capacity as a presenter. What kind of presenter asks participants to leave the room for an extended period of time so that he can hang out all by himself?

The library classroom I was presenting in had glass walls, which allowed me to see into the library. I watched as one group conducted their walking session in the library. They followed the walking format that I had suggested. First, two people in the group discuss the implications of the research and the third person trails behind reflecting. Every few minutes, this set up would shuffle so that everyone gets a chance to discuss with the other two members and to reflect on their own. As the walkers paced up and down the library in this triangular set-up, they looked rather strange. I can only imagine how odd it must have looked to passersby not aware what was going on. I then thought of the many groups now sprinkled around the university campus walking in this strange way, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. This humorous aspect, in addition to seeing this group taking the task seriously, helped to put my mind at ease.

The first couple of groups that returned to the classroom informally told me that the walking activity was very effective. At this point, I felt completely at ease because I knew that at least some participants found the activity useful. After the other groups returned, I facilitated a group discussion that generated a lot of novel ideas. The walking activity turned out to be a resounding success.

As I reflect on this presenting experience, it now occurs to me that my initial worry about the active learning activity was misconceived. My concern was ultimately rooted in my wanting to manage the experience and outcome of the activity, but this entirely misses the point of active learning. These learning opportunities offer the potential for exciting, unforeseen developments precisely because they are undetermined. I now realize that this uncertainty needs to be embraced not feared.