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Liao, Min-Ken

Liao, Min-Ken

Biology Department, Furman  University
3300 Poinsett Highway
Greenville, SC 29613



My Biology Scholars Research Project


Title: Enhancing confidence level in learning via weekly reflection


What is the focus of your investigation?

Using learning journals to engage students has been demonstrated effective.Many educators of elementary and secondary schools, and higher education programs experience great success using this teaching method to enhance the learning of their students.There is no one set way of implementing the learning journals method. Numerous formats have been reported.Some instructors ask students to turn in handwritten learning journals, some electronic ones.Some demand students to record what is learned on daily basis, some weekly.Some learning journals are done in groups, some individually.Some are highly structured, some free form.All these versions of learning journals share one thing in common: reflection.Reflecting upon what was experienced and learned often deepens and strengthens understanding.The objective of this research project is to test whether reflection minus learning journals can be just as effective.My hypothesis is that since reflection is the key ingredient of the learning journal method, reflection alone can achieve certain level of effectiveness.


What resources/references have you found helpful?

Morrison, K. (1996) Developing reflective practice in higher degree students through a learning journal, Studies in Higher Education, 21, pp. 317-32

Park, C. (2003) Engaging students in the learning process: the learning journal, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 27, pp. 183–199

McCrindle A. R. and Christensen C. A. (1995) The impact of learning journals on metacognitive and cognitive processes and learning performance, Learning and Instruction, 5, pp. 167-85

Varner D. and Peck S. R. (2003) Learning From Learning Journals: The Benefits And Challenges Of Using Learning Journal Assignments, Journals of management, Journal of Management Education, 27, pp. 52-77

Bean, J. (2001) Engaging Ideas. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 


What is your approach and/or what evidence will you gather?

The goal of this project is to test the hypothesis of whether reflection in and of it self can be an effective exercise that enhance learning. Students in two sections of the same class with the same instructors will be involved. Students in one section, determined by flipping a coin, will be asked to reflect upon what they have experienced during the week and identify which concepts they need more lecture time.Since there are only three hours of lectures per week, students who wish more time could have spent on a particular concept need also identify which concept they would be responsible for and learn on their own. They then report the outcome of this reflective, mental activity to their instructor via a short email message on Sunday evening.

To positively reinforce this activity, instructors need to address these reflections. Therefore, on Monday (or the first meeting time of the week), the instructors will begin the lecture with a simple practice question to help students better learn the concept most of them identified as challenging.

There will be no extra credits attached to this activity because it will be unfair to offer a point-earning activity to students in one section but not the other. Therefore, currently we just verbally encourage/remind students to reflect on Friday and hope that they will give us the products of their reflections. However, if this approach does not give us satisfying quantity of results, then we will slightly modify our approach. We may include “class participation” as a category of evaluation in our grading scales. For the selected section, the reflection exercise counts toward “class participation”.For both sections, any engaging learning behaviors count toward the participation credits.

We are not comparing the exam averages or grade distributions of these two sections to assess the effectiveness of this exercise. Instead we have developed a course evaluation form assessing how confident they feel about a set of key concepts of the course. If a student feels very confident in explaining a particular concept to another student who has not taken the course, then we can infer that this student understands this particular concept more than another student who does not feel confident in explaining the concept to others. We predict that students who are asked to reflect will have a higher overall confidence level about the course.

After participants have completed the inventories and proved recollections, they will be provided their RP credit (1 RP unit), thanked and excused.

What results have emerged ?

I have designed a course evaluation form as well as the informed consent form for this exercise.  My colleague will ask his students to complete both next week.

Post a thought or two about the results you see thus far.  Link to <Discussion> page for more detailed analysis and thoughts.


What information may be found in your Appendices?

Edit section

Do you have examples of student work, links to projects, explanations of jargon particular to your project?