Structuring the Reflection Process

Coaching Students

The notion of coaching students can be helpful in designing reflection. Schön (1987, 17) notes that students learn skills by practicing them. He suggests solving real-world problems competently requires the artistry of problem-framing, implementation and improvisation in addition to technical expertise. He suggests that the coaching process can help students learn "the artistry of practice."

Under coaching, an experienced individual uses a combination of tips, advice and examples to help students achieve success. Examples of how the notion of coaching can guide the design of reflection are given below:

Schön visualizes the coaching process as a "ladder of reflection" where students and faculty reflect on their actions or prior reflections as well as on each other's actions/reflections. This type of a coaching process calls for frequent reflection and timely feedback.

Viewing reflection in terms of coaching can help faculty structure the reflection process. For example, faculty could start with more open-ended prompts and provide additional structure based on student reflections.

Issues of context are extremely important in developing effective coaching strategies. If teams of students are involved in diverse service activities, faculty could organize coaching sessions for teams. This approach can enhance learning by allowing students to share ideas and experiences. At the same time students may feel more comfortable than in a large class setting.

It may also be possible to involve more experienced students in the coaching process. If faculty can identify opportunities for experienced students to continue their service involvement beyond the course (e.g. through a student organization, work study, or capstone course) then the senior students could be encouraged to coach less experienced students. More experienced students can develop communication and leadership skills while simultaneously providing greater support for less experienced students.

Section two suggested that the intellectual developmental level of students is a key consideration in balancing challenge and support during reflection. Since coaching is a means of providing support and guidance during problem-solving, that discussion applies to the design of coaching. For example, a model of the problem-solving process can help faculty structure coaching. Thus students may need coaching in framing problems, identifying alternatives, etc.

Schön, D. A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

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