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The author has set up this paper using MLA format. The author includes his name, the course number, the instructor’s name, and the date on the top left corner of the first page rather than on a separate title page (as is the case when using APA format, for example).
The title includes specific words about the theme of the reflection.
The author provides some context for his reflection.
The writer indicates a point of interest for his reflection. The reader may be curious about the nature of the “active learning component” or what might have been different about this presentation versus his previous presentations.
The author uses past tense (identified with the verb “was”) to indicate that this event occurred in the past.
The author indicates that there may have been some hesitation about his approach by using a specific verb (“seemed”). In using specific verbs in the past (e.g., “seemed,” “worried,”), the author is sharing his feelings with the reader.
The author’s use of the conditional tense in this paragraph (e.g., would end up, would fail) tells the reader how he was feeling or what he was anticipating prior to the experience.
The use of “I” throughout the text invokes a very personal, informal tone.
Overall, this paragraph walks the reader through the pre-experience stage. The writer describes his feelings, thoughts, and plans before his conference presentation.
The writer uses this paragraph to move through the “during experience” stage. He describes what the participants did and what he did.
The use of a contraction (“wasn’t” instead of “was not”) invokes a conversational tone).
The use of a contraction (“wouldn’t” instead of “would not”) invokes a conversational tone.
Here, the author is beginning to present his feelings and offer an analysis of these feelings. The author could have extended this analysis by commenting on why he might have felt failure. He could have tried to integrate sources from course readings or external readings that address topics such as feelings of failure, trying new things, presenter preparation, or designing effective instruction.
The author is asking a question that is really directed to himself. This shows the reader that he is trying to think more deeply about the experience. He is questioning his own actions.
In this paragraph, the author continues to describe the situation as he remembered it. He described what he observed (e.g., the setting, the people, the movement of people, and the timeline). The use of specific language and details helps to draw the reader into the reflective writing.
The author has used “strange” several times in this text. Perhaps different words could have been used (e.g., odd, peculiar, out of the ordinary, uncommon).
The use of the word “chuckle” indicates an informal or conversational tone. If the author wanted to increase the level of formality in his text, he could have used the word “laugh”.
The author continues to lead the reader on a chronological journey of the experience (i.e., following a timely order). The description of the experience is quite clear, but additional analytical commentary could strengthen the reflection. In particular, a reader may be interested to know how this experience is related to other experiences and/or if existing research could explain the various feelings that the author had throughout his conference presentation.
The author efficiently ends the description of the experience. He has included some commentary on the level of effectiveness of the experience from his point of view with the inclusion of the words “resounding success”. He has judged this experience as successful because he received informal positive feedback from the participants in his group.
While the author has used past tense relatively consistently throughout the text, he now uses present tense. The use of present tense in this paragraph is appropriate because he is trying to make sense of the experience at the present time.
The author now takes a moment to step back and evaluate the overall experience. He makes a comment about his initial feeling and judges the accuracy of this feeling (e.g., his initial worry was misconceived).
With this sentence, the author has really broadened the discussion about his choice of activity. He does not specifically talk about his own conference presentation, but he comments on the potential of this activity in other situations. It might be worthy to support this type of commentary with course readings or external readings. Perhaps previous researchers have already commented on the benefits of “active learning activities,” and the author’s paper may be enhanced by including support from outside sources.
This is an effective final sentence to end the author’s reflection. It encapsulates what he has learned through trying something new. It indicates to the reader that he has altered his attitude and that he might approach his presentations (and teaching) with more confidence in the future.
Education Course 600
Instructor: Jane Smith
May 4, 2015
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.