Monday, February 05, 2007

Week 1: Reflective Learning and me

Having worked out, at least in part, what reflective learning is supposed to be, we start our learning process....

Stop and think about the ways in which you have approached your learning in the past.
Were you very reflective?
Can you think of any incidents when you used reflection well?

Well. Even as a chemistry student during my first degree we were sent out with a problem and expected to come back with a solution. Not necessarily a perfect solution, but one which had a chance of working.

A typical scenario would be an exercise in what was grandly termed 'retrosynthetic analysis'. You were given a fairly complicated organic (carbon-based) molecule, usually one isolated from nature, and asked how you would go about making it. Never mind that entire PhDs had been spent trying to do that! You were expected to deconstruct the molecule mentally, using bonds that you had learned how to form, and making suggestions on the order in which it would be best to do the reactions. All of this was discussed in a tutorial situation, and every-so-often someone would come up with a truly brilliant solution.

Not me, I hasten to add. I did well enough, but I didn't have the driving need for knowledge that characterised those who were excellent.

Outside of the formal learning environment, the internet has provided a wonderful learning opportunity for me over the past decade or so. My hobbies include edible gardening, knitting and sewing. All of these areas have thriving online communities where problems can be discussed, discoveries shared, and friendships made.

Most recently, I have learned an enormous amount about fitting a pattern to a particular body (mine!) using techniques I otherwise could only have picked up in a face-to-face classroom situation. The site I am on is Pattern Review and it has both free and paid-for options.

My learning here definitely seems to follow the reflective model.

I will try something new, come up against a problem, stop and think, try again, stop and ask for help, and try yet again. Each time, I move closer to the 'correct' solution, and never mind whether my approach is a traditionally accepted one or not.


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