Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reflective Learning ( For Engineering )

Reflective Learning

The Four Stages of Reflective Learning
Reflecting on your experiences, whether they are at work or in the classroom is the best way to ratchet up the learning level of any experience. Reflection strengthens learning and allows you to recognize your areas of growth and areas that need improvement. Reflection is the key part of the 'experiential learning cycle'. Experiential education is defined as "the process of actively engaging students in an authentic experience that will have benefits and consequences. Students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge themselves instead of hearing or reading about the experiences of others. Students also reflect on their experiences, thus developing new skills, new attitudes, and new theories or ways of thinking" (Kraft & Sakofs, 1988). The theoretical learning model below was developed by David Kolb, 1984.

This model can be simplified to:
  1. Experiencing – These are activities from which a student may learn (readings, fieldwork, lab work, problem sets, observations, simulations/games).
  2. Reflecting – the student thinks about the experience (what was seen, felt, thought about) and integrates the new experience with past experiences. (Keeping a journal or log through your work term will help with this process.)
  3. Generalizing – the student develops questions and theories and attaches meaning to the experience.
  4. Applying – the student tests out new ideas, attitudes and behaviours and the cycle continues.

Setting Goals and Objectives
While reflecting will facilitate learning after the fact, setting goals and objectives will initiate learning and increase your chances for positive outcomes. We encourage you to set goals for developing new skills and knowledge on your work terms. While the words "goals" and "objectives" are used interchangeably, goals are generally defined as being broad in nature, while objectives are the clearly defined steps needed to achieve your goals. Your goals should be written in terms of the 'learning outcome' of your objectives. For example:
Learning Goal: To improve oral communications through giving presentations.
Objective: As part of my work term, I will seek out at least one opportunity to develop and deliver an effective and well organized presentation to my co-workers and supervisor.

Develop your Goals the S M A R T Way
Specific: Outline in detail what you wish to accomplish. What, why, how?
Measurable: The goal must be quantifiable; a standard is needed for comparison.
Action-Oriented: Describe activities needed to accomplish the goal.
Realistic: The goal must be attainable, practical and do-able.
Timebound: A time frame is needed; make the commitment.
One way to develop your goals is to think about those transferable skills that employers are looking for and then develop goals and objectives around these:
Transferable Skills: Example of goal: Objective:
Communication Improve technical writing skills By writing a technical report by end of work term, that analyzes a process, describes a project or demonstrates problem solving to improve operations. Report will be graded as Pass/Fail.
Creativity Design a robot
Customer Service Orientation Learn sales techniques
Leadership Volunteer to organize a fund raising or social event for my work team
Problem Solving Learn to break down a problem into smaller parts by analyzing a process or operational procedure, generating alternatives and recommending a solution
Project Management Learn project management software
Self-Directed Learning Develop goals and objectives for work term
Self-motivation/Initiative Achieve work term goals and demonstrate them to my supervisor
Team Work Join a workplace committee
Time Management Assign timelines to tasks
Another way to think about goals you might set is to identify skills needed on the job:
Skills: Example of goal:
People: Improve ability to work with teams and network
Data: Gain experience conducting research and surveys
Things: Work in manufacturing to gain hands-on experience
Ideas: Design a computer program to monitor inventory

You can choose to develop goals around either professional experience, personal attributes or technical expertise. You don't have to wait until you are at work to set your goals but you should integrate them with your actual work assignments and discuss them with your supervisor as well as give him/her updates on your progress.
Kraft, D., & Sakofs, M. (Eds.). (1988). The theory of experiential education. Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education.
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.