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The Power of Reflection in Online Learning

make time for reflection
So, this week marks the end of my 8 week Visible Thinking in the Museum Online (VTMO) course.
17 participants from 8 different countries (& 2 continents) came with me on a deep dive into learning how to create engaging and lively discussions about art and museum objects using my method ‘Visible Thinking in the Museum’ (a combination of VT elements and museum education practices).
23 thinking routines and 8 modules later – covering basic & advanced facilitation skills, questioning skills, slow looking, thinking routine selection, how to use information, teaching with objects and more – we are at the end of the final module.
Encouraging reflections have been a big part of this online course.
  • Reflecting allows participants the chance to step back from the course and to analyse what they have learned up to a certain point and to assess how far they have come (from their original goals or from the start of the course).
  • It helps us to learn more about ourselves and how we learn. It also helps the course provider (i.e. me!) to learn about their learning experiences too. When we ask people to reflect on their learning process, they strengthen their own capacity to learn.
  • Reflection can be carried out alone or in groups. For individual reflections, writing is often used, although 1-2-1 conversations also work well. Reflection can also take the form of a group discussion too. It is important to be honest with yourself as you carry out the reflection and aim for dispassionate analysis of your experiences.
So, throughout the course, I gently encouraged all VTMO participants to regularly reflect on their practice; to think about their confidence with their new skills and the connections they were making between different modules or with their own work experience. The aim was to help them develop and recognise their skills as learners.
Here’s how I wove reflection into every stage of the VTMO course.

At the start of the course

Everyone had a 1-2-1 intake with me at the start of the course to share their reasons for signing up, their personal goals for the programme and any questions they had about taking part. I took notes and I would love to share this with participants who complete the final ESP+I reflection (see below)

After each practice session

Participants were encouraged to form practice groups throughout the course – either with fellow participants or with family members or friends. Each week during the live class, we had a ‘check-in’ where participants could share their experiences, thinking about the following:
* What worked well in your facilitated discussion?
*What are you going to work on for next time?
The above are questions that I have got into a habit of using myself after each class, guided tour or educational programme that I’ve led. I always take a few moments to think through what went well and what I could work on for next time. This sort of personal reflecting allows me to keep a record of what went well and to work on new ways of presenting or facilitating the parts that need extra work.

At the end of each live session

Live classes consisted of live discussions using 1 or 2 thinking routines with the group. At the end of each discussion, I always made time to pause and reflect on the previous discussion. For example, after introducing Colour-Shape-Line, I asked the group:
* How did thinking about the colours/shapes/line influence your thinking?
* Did your interpretation and ideas about the painting change over time?
These simple questions just encourage a brief pause, a moment to slow down and time to look back at the previous discussion and think about it as a whole.

Halfway through the course

Reflection gridIn Module 5 I asked participants to fill in a Reflection Grid (see image). This asked participants to think about their current situation in relation to where they want to be in relation to using’ Visible Thinking in the Museum’.
Asking ‘How you are going to get there?’ And ‘What resources will you need?’ Prompted participants to put a plan in place for their development as facilitators.

At the end of the course

Aside from a standard survey, I wanted to have a more comprehensive reflection tool to really think about the course as a whole and for each participant to consider their journey from the beginning of the course to where they are now.
There are a variety of thinking routines that are excellent tools for reflecting (e.g. I used to think…Now I think.., Chalk Talk, Ladder of Feedback, Connect-Extend-Challenge) but I wanted to use a new thinking routine (as it was a new course!). I chose ESP+I thinking routine from the new book ‘The Power of Making Thinking Visible’. This routine looks at the key areas of meaningful reflection by focusing on 4 categories: Experience, Struggles, Puzzles, +Insights. I asked participants to write their reflections and send them to me. The plan is to then share their initial 1-2-1 notes with each participant so that they can see whether they achieved their initial goals and can plan future actions.
Experience: What were some of the key actions or activities that moved your thinking and learning ahead?
Struggles: What were some of the things you struggled with or found challenging and had to overcome?
Puzzles: What new questions came up for you along the way about VT or the application to your work?
+Insights: At this point, what additional or new insights do you have?
Learning to reflect on their experiences throughout the course has helped participants to become more aware of their challenges or puzzles, whilst also giving them the time to recognise their development and successes. As a result, I’ve been able to reflect on the course I created and can continually make additions and adaptations for the next time we run it.
The Visible Thinking in the Museum Online (VTMO) programme is an 8 module online course with a combination of live classes and self-paced learning. Find out more via the button below.