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Wednesday, June 18 • 2:30pm - 3:20pm
CON2.06 – Including Students in the Learning Experience: How Reflective Writing Assignments can be Used to Help Students Engage with Course Content (Room A211)

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Writing-to-learn involves the use of low-stakes informal writing activities that help students reflect on concepts or ideas presented in a course. Writing-to-learn can be a powerful tool in helping students understand and engage with course concepts, and past research has shown that writing-to-learn activities can substantially improve performance on summative assessments (Nevid, Pastva, McClelland, 2013).

Not only is writing helpful for learning, but it is also a skill that students are expected to acquire during their post-secondary degree. However, it can be a challenge to provide writing opportunities that are interesting to students and easy for instructors to implement and grade, particularly in courses with more than 30 students. Reflective journaling is one method that can address these objectives.

Reflective writing can take a variety of forms. The versatility of reflective writing means that it can be adapted to suit a number of different disciplines. For example, reflective writing has been implemented in core science courses by having students reflect on how they understand a specific concept from the course, essentially giving them the opportunity to explain these concepts to themselves (Kalman, 2011). More applicable courses have implemented reflective writing by having students evaluate how the course concepts are observable in their own lives (Nevid et al, 2013). Finally, practical courses have used reflective writing as a venue for student reflection on practical experience or mock simulations so that past experiences can help inform future experiences (Sandars, 2009).

Participants in this session will first hear about the different forms that reflective writing assignments can take, and will be asked to describe which form of reflective writing might best suit their discipline. We will then describe how we implemented reflective journal assignments in two courses, a mid-sized 3rd year course at the University of Toronto in Psychology, and a small 4th year course at St. Francis Xavier University in Human Kinetics. Participants will have the opportunity to see our assignment description and marking rubric for our low-stakes assignments, and learn how each of us have implemented the assignment, taking advantage of online pedagogical technologies. We will also share our end-of-course reflections on how we might change the assignment to better suit the needs of the students and instructors. Finally, we will solicit suggestions from participants on how to improve this kind of assignment and how to scale the assignment for larger 2nd and 3rd year courses.

Wednesday June 18, 2014 2:30pm - 3:20pm EDT
A211 McArthur Hall

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