A situated approach to student’s reflection processes

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This paper connects with the conference themes “Vocational Education, Labour
Markets and Learning”. In Denmark the social and health care education is part of the Vocational Education System, which combines school attendance and trainee service in the social and health care sector. Throughout the education, the students are required to reflect upon their own learning processes, and how to combine theoretical knowledge and practical skills. The students are required to document their reflection processes in two formats: 1) log writing and 2) self-evaluation according to a list of endpoint work skills. The log and the list of work skills play a central role as entry point in the teachers’ and supervisors’ formal learning dialogues with the students.
Based upon an ethnographic field study at a social and health care college, and at the workplaces where students work as trainees, I have observed that some students find it difficult to use the two formats as reflection tools. Based on Lave and Wengers concept of situated learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991), different reflection formats are analyzed as “boundary objects” (Engeström, 2003), which support or restrict the students’ learning trajectories into the community of the social and health care practice. When the students reject to use some formats or express confusion, the teachers and supervisors conclude that the students’ abilities to reflect are insufficient or even missing. Other possible understandings are unfolded in this paper through an analysis. It seems that school-like reflection formats and examination-like settings cause uncertainty, and thus restricts the students’ reflection processes. In everyday contexts, the students spontaneously initiate reflection processes using other types of boundary objects. These contexts and boundary objects are characterized by
informality, emotional experiences and aesthetic modes of expression. Based on an analysis of these situations, I discuss and argue that a main educator skill is to
recognize students’ diverse expressions of confusion, curiosity and commitment as situated starting points of reflection.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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