Student Perspectives


Student reflections

Student reflections

In a subject on Educational Psychology postgraduate education students concluded their study by completing an assessment task (a reflective essay), which required them to reflect on their participation in the scaffolded online discussion. To complete the essay the students were asked to revisit their posts to the discussion and analyse their interaction with other students in relation to the theory of social constructivism. Click here to view the topic of the essay.

The students reflected on their own participation, sharing their experiences and thoughts. The main themes that emerged from the analysis of students’ reflections are:

  1. Safe and supportive environment where the students’ opinions were accepted and valued was important
  2. Clear instructions and scaffolding
  3. Authentic scenarios trigger students’ prior experiences
  4. The diverse views and experiences of peers enrich individual learning
These themes are exemplified in the tabs below through characteristic quotes from students’ reflections (pseudonyms used).

1. Safe and supportive environments were important motivators for expressing the ideas and for learning

I discovered that, for me, the online interactions were acting as social reinforcers ... The approval and praise of my peers was the stimulus that increased my desire to learn and hence, respond knowledgably to forum activities (Melanie)

I felt that the provided strategies, such as complimenting ideas and showing support for other students’ efforts and ideas, acted as great motivation and helped build confidence in my ability to post. Positive responses I received, such as “You have defined the two points well”, directly impacted on my emotional wellbeing within the collaboration process. I learnt that this was important to my continued interest and consequent learning in the forum (Joanne)

Practices and attitudes have been able to be discussed and challenged in a safe and supportive way and often this has led to the development of new understandings, knowledge and the implementation of improved practices (Mary)

During the commencement of the course I was apprehensive about expressing my views and opinions regarding the concepts of our topic and the theories that were under discussion. I was nervous about my opinions being ‘wrong’ resulting in judgment from my peers. However I found these discussion forums as supportive portals of socialization that allowed me to connect with my peers…(Katrina)

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By socially interacting and forming links with others so early in the subject [the Introduction forum] it aided in developing a sense of commitment for me as an online student, enhancing my ability to actively engage with future course content in the subsequent discussion forums. (Betty)

The manner of interaction on the forum was positive by design and was strictly adhered to by all participants and this reduced any feelings of anxiety about making contributions. Overall the interactions were positive and generally all points of view expressed on the forums were supported by sound research (Alex)

Within each of the forums, the author was one of the first members to post to the discussion. This created a sense of vulnerability, as there was the possibility of being misunderstood, or that the author’s understanding of the theoretical concepts may have been at odds with the group; causing a feeling of rejection. This was not the case; however, rather it was the catalyst for in-depth and supportive discourse to take place (Darren)

It was clear that various practices are being implemented by educators across their diverse environments. I feel that the most important aspect of this was that no one was made to feel that their chosen method was wrong or inferior to someone else’s. There was a level of professional respect and it was evident that each participant was able to clearly state why they had chosen their preferred method and how it would look within their setting (Mary)


2. Clear instructions and scaffolding

I found the forum guides a fantastic tool I could utilize to aide the construction of my posts. These guides were a form of scaffolding to provide support, information and a structure of how the discussion posts should be composed (Katrina)

The reflective contribution by the facilitator after each discussion cycle was incredibly useful in acknowledging responses, elaborating further and creating a response that both active and passive users within the forum can construct from (Harry)

The course structure, and forum guidelines reflect the process of scaffolding by the More Knowledgeable Other so that we became capable of independently applying the skills for reflection (Eleanor)

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I believe that the way that the tasks were organised and the guidance that surrounded the tasks impacted on the effectiveness of students’ collaborations and on the quality of the interaction among the group members. Small groups, clear guidelines that were accompanied with extension notes enabled us to engage with each other appropriately. This directly impacted on my ability to learn. The scaffolding created a positive and safe environment. Positive strategies such as complimenting each other and finding common ground to agree on created a sense of belonging within the forum. I found the assisted teaching provided for the posts was in fact clear evidence of the value of scaffolding (Joanne)

Teacher presence [was] particularly valuable in prompting increased sharing of experiences and guiding extended discourse in relation to certain aspects being discussed. A direct example of the prompting of increased sharing is the statement, “I am intrigued about your previous experience with behaviourism in relation to animal training – how very interesting! I would love to know a little bit more”(Teacher). This comment was so positive and provided such validation of my prior experiences that I could not resist engaging further in discourse (Alana)

Clear directions were given about the nature of the interaction that was to be adopted when dealing with others indicating the need to encourage and support one another and productive ways to challenge or extend the views presented by others (Alex)

Each member within our discussion group contributed to each forum by responding to the initial question, clarifying own opinions, presenting alternative ideas or by responding to each other in order to maintain quality discussions (Patti)


3. Authentic scenarios trigger students’ prior experiences

It was important for the teacher to set valid discussion topics so that the participants can share both prior knowledge and newly acquired concepts through their readings and experiences, providing an environment where students are learning from each other (Kath)

Whilst being engaged in the online forum discussions it has become evident that learning from the experience of others in various positions within the field of education is an effective tool. I have been able to effectively connect what I am learning to previous experiences and possible future situations within my field and make connections with other likeminded learners (Mary)

…by drawing on real-life, case-based scenarios, the forums also provided an invaluable opportunity to read and understand my fellow educators’ pedagogical beliefs. This helped me to conceptualise my own pedagogy as a work in progress and enlightened me to the fact that effective teaching relies on one’s ability, not to seek-out a universal formula to teaching, but to draw on a variety of educational theories to form one’s own “philosophy of teaching”(Jamie)

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I believe that my cognitive engagement with this unit’s discussion forums aligns with the ‘reflective practitioner’ stance … as I related content to past experiences, identified changes in personal practice, and worked towards the co-construction and negotiation of knowledge whilst actively reflecting on the beliefs that influenced and guided my actions (Alana)

The focus was on motivation and the different methods that two teachers used to motivate their students in class. We were asked to choose which teacher’s methods we preferred and why. I chose the teacher who allowed the students to have a choice in their topic being studied and who they want to work with. This is because I believed that intrinsic motivation was more beneficial than the extrinsic motivation provided by the second teacher. I also suggested that the teacher allows students to have a choice in how they present the information as some students do not like giving verbal presentations, which is something I could relate to. In response to my post, two other students commented on what I had written. Both students had supported and agreed with my post, however they both wrote about another point that I had not even considered (Michaela)


4. The diverse views and experiences of peers enrich individual learning

One of the most valuable aspects of participating in the Online Discussion Forums was the opportunity to hear the unique perspectives and experiences of my peers who came from a diverse range of backgrounds and teaching areas…This diversity led to a number of different insights and perspectives on the provided teaching scenarios which allowed me to look beyond my own worldview and question my assumptions about teaching and learning (Jamie)

The online discussion forums that have been conducted within this course have provided me with an opportunity to not only present my personal ideas and opinions regarding case studies, theoretical viewpoints and teaching practices but have also been a supportive medium to examine and observe the various opinions of other professionals in the teaching field (Tanya)

This was a fascinating experience, as it provided an insight into other education disciplines, and facilitated new perspectives. The notion of presenting alternatives through personalised justification was a useful experience as it challenged ideas but not the person. Within 'discussion forum 4' there was a visible change in people's perspectives and understanding as the discussions progressed (Darren)

Engagement with my peers gave me the opportunity to contemplate the course material deeply and to build upon the knowledge I had acquired through lectures and readings (Melanie)

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The ability to socially interact was valuable in learning the content as ideas proposed by others allowed an examination of different perspectives and the responses resulted in reflection on beliefs. Sometimes beliefs were confirmed and at other times challenged and ideas were then modified or rejected (Alex)

Participation in the online forums provided a multidimensional and valuable learning experience (Kath)

The forum discourse was a meaningful activity because it gave students the opportunity to critically discuss the course content and, in doing so, construct and internalise our own understanding of the concepts (Elise)

A strong engagement level was present within the discussion as each student posted a response to the previous, building on their answers and providing a different approach at the objective (Erica)

One of the strengths that these forums provided to the online learning community is the ability to allow us from different parts of the world in different time zones to interact at a time that suits the individual group member (Patti)

The most profound impact that it had on me was to change my perception towards the learning process. Previously, learning for me was to learn exclusively from the teacher. While there is no doubt that the teacher is the best and authoritative source for learning, discussion with my peers on various topics allowed me to further refine my knowledge and explore various aspects of the teaching process which is restricted in the limited time period of the class (Abahat)

The other major impact that learning through the online discussion forums was that I could develop my social interaction skills in a meaningful manner (Abahat)

It has not simply been about the pursuit of individualised learning goals, but about the sharing of knowledge in a learning community and the achievement of goals and vision that is beneficial to all of the learners involved. Participation has allowed for me to value the diversity of the group participants and the levels of knowledge and expertise they bring to the forum. The participants involved in the group discussions come from a range of backgrounds, work in varying roles and positions and provide support for the needs of a diverse range of students. Roles of some of the peers involved in the discussions have included support workers, primary and secondary teachers, teachers in support classes and some who are working in other professions altogether such as a fireman (Mary)

While browsing the comments of others within this discussion forum, I found one in particular that resonated with my personal reflection on the case. Melanie, like myself felt that she was able to understand the viewpoint of Ms Brown believing that teachers should “encourage the children in our care to explore the world and use their initiative to discover information for themselves, as this nurtures internal motivation which leads to deeper understanding (Tanya)

The online interactions provided a forum for us to extend on each other’s ideas and knowledge and to also reinforce the learning from our readings and lecture content. Andrew shared some educational goals and often provided specific strategies to support his discussions which I found beneficial for my own learning. His expertise in a field different to my own meant that I was exposed to the unit content being used in a different area and this added to my learning in a positive way (Joanne)

An area that I found particularly beneficial was when the interactions lead to the introduction of new knowledge. In a response to my post. Kylie provided some discussion around the Positive Behaviour for learning Program. As a result I researched the program and this added to my learning in the unit. Through interaction via the forum post my knowledge in a completely new program increased and this will impact on my teaching (Joanne)

[Online] discussions exhorted me to plan ways to incorporate emotional intelligence training into lessons and introduce a greater balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivational techniques. However, my interactions with my peers also encouraged me to rethink strategies for “indirect[ly] mediating” students’ learning experiences in a way which does not stifle their creativity (Jamie)


Reflective Essay

Social constructivist theorists believe that

“[e]very function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (inter-psychological) and then inside the child (intra-psychological)” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57)

Discuss the idea that social interactions play a fundamental role in effective learning and teaching. Reflect on your participation in this subject and particularly in the Online Discussion Forums. You should consider the ways that your interactions with others in these forums influenced your learning in the subject. In your reflection, provide specific examples to support your argument. Then using your reflection and relevant reading consider what this means in your practice as an educator.

To complete this assignment you will need to participate in Online Discussions, using the Discussion Guides provided on Moodle. Note: while the quality of your participation in online discussions is not assessed, the quality of your reflection is part of the assessment criteria.


The Guide

Articulates a set of principles for fostering online discussion in higher education, based on theory, the literature and evidence from postgraduate and undergraduate flexibly delivered courses.

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Student Perspectives

Here we present students’ perspectives on their experience of online discussion, in which the teacher used the Guide.


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Lecturer Vignettes

These vignettes capture the essence of how the FOLD strategies have influenced lecturers’ experiences of facilitating online discussion.

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Resources

The resources in this section are the literature used to inform the Guide as well as presentations made by the Project Team. These will be added to as we continue to disseminate.

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