Reflection is hard: Teaching and learning reflective practice in a software studio

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Conference Proceeding
ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 2016, 01-05-February-2016
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© 2016 ACM. We have observed that it is a non-trivial exercise for undergraduate students to learn how to reflect. Reflective practice is now recognised as important for software developers and has become a key part of software studios in universities, but there is limited empirical investigation into how best to teach and learn reflection. In the literature on reflection in software studios, there are many papers that claim that reflection in the studio is mandatory. However, there is inadequate guidance about teaching early stage students to reflect in that literature. The essence of the work presented in this paper is a beginning to the consideration of how the teaching of software development can best be combined with teaching reflective practice for early stage software development students.. We started on a research programme to understand how to encourage students to learn to reflect. As we were unsure about teaching reflection, and we wished to change our teaching as we progressively understood better what to do, we chose action research as the most suitable approach. Within the action research cycles we used ethnography to understand what was happening with the students when they attempted to reflect. This paper reports on the first 4 semesters of research. We have developed and tested a reflection model and process that provide scaffolding for students beginning to reflect. We have observed three patterns in how our students applied this process in writing their reflections, which we will use to further understand what will help them learn to reflect. We have also identified two themes, namely, motivation and intervention, which highlight where the challenges lie in teaching and learning reflection.
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