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Reflective learning in education courses: Instructors' conceptions and students' perceived engagement

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Fostering reflective learning has been imperative across disciplines in higher education because of its importance for professional development and lifelong learning. Despite its potentials, however, there is lack of conceptual clarity and models of good practice for developing students' reflective skills. In this manuscript-based dissertation, I explore conceptualizations of reflective learning and students' perceived engagement. Data were collected from instructors of education courses and students who were taking those courses in different programs. A total of 32 instructors and 274 students participated through interview and questionnaire respectively. A systematic review of the reflective learning literature indicated qualitatively distinct conceptualizations ranging from reflective learning as understanding content and experience to examining sociopolitical contexts of education. Strategies for promoting reflective learning include modeling and explicit instruction, journal and autobiographic writing, and topical writing and discussion. A phenomenographic analysis of interview data indicated four categories of instructors' conceptions of reflective learning. That is, instructors who were teaching education courses in a Canadian university understood reflective learning as critical engagement with content, as improving professional practice, as identity development and as developing critical consciousness. A principal component analysis of survey data from students showed four dimensions of students' perceived engagement: transformative, personal, relational, and metacognitive reflection. Subsequent multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) showed statistically significant differences in students' perceived engagement in reflective learning due to differences in their instructors' conceptions and the type of program they were attending. That is, students whose instructors understood reflective learning as critical engagement with content reported significantly less engagement in transformative and personal reflection, and students' whose instructors understood reflective learning as developing critical consciousness reported less engagement in metacognitive reflection. In addition, results indicated that graduate and preservice teacher education (PTE) students reported engaging in more transformative reflection than undergraduate students. Also, PTE students' perceived engagement in personal reflection was significantly higher than undergraduate students. The findings have implications for faculty development, pedagogical practice which include integrating reflection in courses and communicating their underlying values, and further research on the nuances of learning design to foster reflective learning.
119 pages.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
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Thesis advisor: Gebre, Engida
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