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Reflecting on reflection: Framing a design landscape

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Abstract

Designing for reflection is becoming of increasing interest to HCI researchers, especially as digital technologies move to supporting broader professional and quality of life issues. However, the term 'reflection' is being used and designed for in diverse ways and often with little reference to vast amount of literature on the topic outside of HCI. Here we synthesize this literature into a framework, consisting of aspects such as purposes of reflection, conditions for reflection and levels of reflection (where the levels capture the behaviours and activities associated with reflection). We then show how technologies can support these different aspects and conclude with open questions that can guide a more systematic approach to how we understand and design for support of reflection.
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Reflecting on Reflection: Framing a Design Landscape
Rowanne Fleck
University of Sussex
Falmer, BN1 9QH, UK
r.m.m.fleck@sussex.ac.uk
Geraldine Fitzpatrick
Vienna Uni of Technology, Uni of Sussex
Favoritenstr. 9, 1040 Vienna, Austria
geraldine.fitzpatrick@tuwien.ac.at
ABSTRACT
Designing for reflection is becoming of increasing
interest to HCI researchers, especially as digital
technologies move to supporting broader professional and
quality of life issues. However, the term ‘reflection’ is
being used and designed for in diverse ways and often
with little reference to vast amount of literature on the
topic outside of HCI. Here we synthesize this literature
into a framework, consisting of aspects such as purposes
of reflection, conditions for reflection and levels of
reflection (where the levels capture the behaviours and
activities associated with reflection). We then show how
technologies can support these different aspects and
conclude with open questions that can guide a more
systematic approach to how we understand and design for
support of reflection.
Author Keywords
Reflection, reflective practice, sensecam, learning from
experience, design guidelines.
ACM Classification Keywords
H5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g.,
HCI): Miscellaneous.
INTRODUCTION
Reflection, in the sense defined by the Compact Oxford
English Dictionary (Accessed 2010) as serious thought
or consideration”, is a term used frequently in everyday
language. Notions of reflection and reflective practice
have been of interest to the HCI and related communities
for some time, if not as a central notion at least as a
component of the topic of interest. For example, work on
technology support for learning (e.g. Price et al., 2003;
Yukawa, 2003) and play (e.g. Rogers & Muller, 2006)
have drawn on notions of reflection to motivate design
choices, often referencing Boud’s work on ‘reflection in
learning’ where reflection is described as “a generic term
for those intellectual and affective activities in which
individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to
lead to new understandings and appreciations” (p19,
Boud et al., 1985). Support for reflective practitioners,
particularly informed by Donald Schön’s work (1983),
has also been a focus of attention, both for supporting
professional practitioners such as teachers (e.g. Jay &
Johnson, 2002; Lee, 2005), as well as talking about
design itself as a reflective practice (e.g. Brereton &
McGarry, 2000) and reflection in the design process e.g.,
(Smith et al., 2004). Schön describes reflection as a type
of thinking about which enables a kind of problem
solving involving the construction of an understanding
and reframing of the situation to allow professionals to
apply and develop the knowledge and skills of their
profession. Sengers et al. (2005) further talk about the
emergence of ‘reflective design’ that “combines analysis
of the ways in which technologies reflect and perpetuate
unconscious cultural assumptions, with design, building,
and evaluation of new computing devices that reflect
alternative possibilities”. More recently, health has
become a focus for talking about self-reflection,
promoting healthy behaviour change (e.g. Anderson et al.,
2007) as well as promoting greater awareness and
learning to self-manage chronic conditions such as
diabetes (Mamykina et al., 2008).
With the expanding focus of digital technologies from
usability and meeting requirements to the importance of
experience and enjoyability etc., the interest in reflection
and technologies to support reflection has expanded
beyond these more traditional domains to a range of new
areas, with reflection as a topic in its own right. This is
evidenced by a workshop on technology support for
reflecting on experience at CHI2009 (Sas & Dix, 2009).
The aim of the workshop was “to explore the movement
from designing for experience as interaction with
technology, towards designing for reflection on felt-life
experience captured by technology”. One such area is
reflecting on everyday experience making use of new
sensor-based and mobile technologies, (e.g. Harper et al.,
2007; Lindström et al., 2006). Others talk about reflection
more in terms of provoking new ways of thinking and
seeing. For example, some interactive experiences are
often said to ‘provoke’ or ‘invite’ reflection e.g., (Gaver
et al., 2003; Hindmarsh et al., 2002; Sengers et al., 2002).
However, despite this growing interest, designing for
reflection is still in its infancy, as noted by Sas and Dix
(2009). What is even more in its infancy is some shared
understanding of what it is we are designing for when we
talk about reflection. From the diverse work around
reflection, it is clear that people are working with very
different definitions, and using the same term across very
different domains for very different outcomes. Given this
observation some e.g., Draper (1999) would argue that
reflection is not worthy of prominence in its own right
(talking particularly of learning): “I find there are many
senses of "reflection", and most who use it don't seem to
have reflected on this. If new practice is worth developing
there should be a clear theoretical position behind it; and
if there is a clear theoretical position then at the very least
clear definitions and discussions of how this is and is not
consistent with other usages should be available. […]
OZCHI 2010, November 22-26, 2010, Brisbane, Australia.
Copyright the author(s) and CHISIG
Additional copies are available at the ACM Digital Library
(http://portal.acm.org/dl.cfm) or ordered from the CHISIG secretary
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OZCHI 2010 Proceedings ISBN: 978-1-4503-0502-0
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This unclarity means among other things that perhaps we
all do it anyway […]. After all, "reflection" just means
"thinking", and I'm sure we all agree that thinking is
helpful to learning.
Others, for example Moon, do not agree, suggesting that
there is such a thing as reflection, which is “a form of
mental processing with a purpose and/or an anticipated
outcome that is applied to relatively complicated or
unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious
solution” (Moon, 1999, p98). Much confusion, she
argues, lies in the fact that authors are describing different
purposes for reflection. She suggests therefore that
apparent differences in the notion of reflection across
domains are down to how it is used, applied or guided.
Therefore, while it could be possible to debate about
which definitions of reflection are better or to attempt to
synthesize one definition, neither will be particularly
useful to help inform design decisions about when, where
and how technology could support reflection. We suggest
instead that, for the purposes of design, it will be far more
important to synthesize the diverse understandings of
reflection from the literature in order to pull out aspects
of it for consideration in design.
We proceed then by returning to the literature on
reflection in order to identify a number of aspects thought
to be associated with good reflection. We go on then to
use these aspects to illustrate how technology is, and may
be used in the future, to support reflection, and finish by
drawing out some key concerns for those intending to
design for reflection. The key contribution of this paper
then is to present a theoretically-grounded framework of
reflection as a resource for design.
ASPECTS OF REFLECTION
In this section we outline a number of aspects of
reflection identified in the literature, organized as
purposes for reflection, some of the necessary conditions
for reflection, and types of behaviours and activities
thought to be associated with good reflection which we
have organized into ‘levels of reflection’.
Purpose of reflection
As stated previously, reflection can serve many different
purposes, which in turn influences how that reflection
happens. Drawing on Moon (1999, p98), examples of
different purposes include: learning and the material for
further reflection; action or other representation of
learning; reflection on the process of learning; critical
review; the building of theory; self-development;
decisions or resolutions of uncertainty; empowerment or
emancipation; and other outcomes that are unexpected
images or ideas that might be solutions.
Conditions for Reflection
There are also various points raised in the literature about
creating the right environment or conditions for reflection
that are worth mentioning here. Firstly, reflection takes
time: therefore creating or allowing time for reflection is
essential (Moon, 1999). Secondly, reflection is discussed
by many authors as a developmental process, and people
can learn to be more reflective over time and with support
(Gustafson & Bennett, 2002; Moon, 1999; Ward &
McCotter, 2004). This may not be so much the case for
some purposes of reflection (e.g. the quiet contemplation
of your old holiday snaps for pleasure). However, where
the purpose of reflection is more formal, for example in
reflective practice setting such as teacher training,
structured support or guidance of reflection is of value.
Finally, as reflection is time consuming and not
necessarily something that comes naturally to people in
all situations, they usually need a reason to reflect or at
least encouragement to do so (Gustafson & Bennett,
2002; Moon, 1999).
Levels of reflection
From the definitions presented earlier we can see how
different definitions of reflection often incorporate some
of the types of behaviours and activities associated with
reflection for a purpose. In some domains, in particular
those related with learning from experience, the
behaviours and activities thought to be associated with
reflection are often organized into different ‘levels’ of
reflection, and presented as a means to identify reflection
occurring, or to evaluate that reflection. Whilst there is
much discussion about the validity of attempting to
evaluate reflection (e.g., see Sumison & Fleet, 1996) the
idea of such levels of reflection is useful to us here as
they indicate what it is that is considered as reflection or
reflective thought and behaviours in the literature.
However there is disagreement between authors about the
levels, what falls into each ‘level’, and even at what level
reflection begins to occur. In general though, higher
levels are considered most reflective, and any example of
reflection would be judged as being at the highest level
for which there is evidence. It is also suggested that the
lower levels are prerequisites for higher levels (Hatton &
Smith, 1995). For the purposes of design, as we shall see,
these lower levels are particularly relevant as they point
to technology support opportunities from which higher
levels of reflection may follow.
We present below five different ‘levels of reflection’, R0
(the lowest) to R4 (the highest), synthesized via critical
engagement with these diverse literatures on reflection, in
particular literature about teachers’ (and professionals’)
reflective practice and learning from experience; and
further refined through the iterative application of early
versions in case studies of technology-supported
reflective practice of teachers (see Fleck 2008
(unpublished thesis) for a detailed discussion). While
developed with respect to teachers’ reflective practice, we
suggest that the general principles of the levels are
broadly applicable to other domains.
R0 Description: Revisiting
Description or statement about events without further
elaboration or explanation. Not reflective.
The R0 level is description. Many authors (e.g. Hatton &
Smith, 1995; Manouchehri, 2002) describe a category of
discussion or writing that is a purely descriptive revisiting
of events, with no indication of the types of thought
described in categories below. In fact, Hatton and Smith
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reported that up to 60-70% of their students’ writing
fitted this category, and although Davis considered
anything their students wrote in reflective exercises as
reflective (as this was the students’ intent), much of it
was considered unproductive (Davis, 2006).
R1 Reflective Description: Revisiting with Explanation
Description including justification or reasons for action or
interpretation, but in a reportive or descriptive way. No alternate
explanations explored, limited analysis and no change of
perspective.
The R1 level occurs when explanations accompany
descriptions. Unlike R0, discussion or writing is
considered by many authors to actually be reflective only
if explanations or justifications are provided for actions in
the revisiting of events (Hatton & Smith, 1995;
Manouchehri, 2002). This first level of reflection is
variously distinguished from higher levels: for example,
Hatton and Smith (1995) include only explanations given
in a reportive or descriptive way; Ward and McCotter
(2004) state analysis is limited and there is no change of
perspective; and Lee (2005) states that no alternate
explanations are explored. Others might still not consider
this definition evidence of reflection (e.g. Davis, 2006;
Kember et al., 1999).
R2 Dialogic Reflection: Exploring Relationships
A different level of thinking about. Looking for relationships
between pieces of experience or knowledge, evidence of cycles
of interpreting and questioning, consideration of different
explanations, hypothesis and other points of view.
Level R2 goes beyond reflective description with or
without explanation, to probe relationships emergent in
the descriptions. It is often referred to as dialogic
reflection, as it primarily involves seeing things from a
different perspective (e.g., Jay & Johnson, 2002;
Manouchehri, 2002) and considering alternatives (e.g.,
Davis, 2006; Ward & McCotter, 2004), aspects of an
ideal conversation with another. Searching for
relationships between ideas and experiences in order to
generalize from them and reach a different level of
understanding is also associated with this level of
reflection (e.g. Davis, 2006; Lee, 2005).
R3 Transformative Reflection: Fundamental Change
Revisiting an event or knowledge with intent to re-organise
and/or do something differently. Asking of fundamental
questions and challenging personal assumptions leading to a
change in practice or understanding.
Whilst dialogic reflection is described as looking for
relationships, considering alternatives and seeing things
from a different perspective, level R3 is about
transformative reflection and includes the idea that the
reflector’s original point of view is somehow altered or
transformed to take into account the new perspectives
s/he has just explored. It is suggested that in order to
achieve this perspective transformation: “it is necessary to
recognise that many of our actions are governed by a set
of beliefs and values which have been almost
unconsciously assimilated from the particular
environment” (p23, Kember et al., 1999). Such a
transformation is thought to follow from and build on
earlier levels of reflection: other points of view or
alternate explanations are considered so reflectors’ own
initial assumptions are challenged and their ideas
restructured or reframed. This might ultimately lead to a
change in practice, or if the purpose of reflection is not
linked to action, at least a fundamental change in
understanding.
R4 Critical Reflection: Wider Implications
Where social and ethical issues are taken into consideration.
Generally considering the (much wider) picture.
This final level of reflection, R4, is termed here critical
reflection (a term sometimes also used to describe the
type of reflection classified as transformative above, (e.g.
see p251, Ward & McCotter, 2004)). It involves taking
into consideration aspects beyond the immediate context,
for example moral and ethical issues, and wider socio-
historical and politico-cultural contexts (Alder in Hatton
& Smith, 1995; Kember et al., 1999; Ward & McCotter,
2004). Reaching this level of reflection is reportedly very
rare (e.g., Kember et al., 1999; Moon, 1999; Ward &
McCotter, 2004).
TECHNIQUES FOR SUPPORTING REFLECTION
In presenting these aspects of reflection organized as
purpose, conditions and levels we are moving away
from defining reflection per se to highlight the issues to
consider when understanding the enabling role that
technology can play in facilitating reflection.
There are many ways to create the time for and guide and
encourage the different levels (types of behaviours and
actions) of reflection we have highlighted above, most of
which can be tailored to the specific purpose of reflection
required. Moon (1999) provides a comprehensive account
of many of these, including: writing techniques; use of
reflective questions to explicitly guide or structure
reflection; techniques for making use of dialog and
discussion; various non-verbal techniques; encouraging
review or revisiting of materials or events; using
evaluation (for example assessments) to encourage
reflection; using ill-structured material; and any other
method for creating situations which require aspects of
reflective thought such as those which challenge initial
thinking and assumptions, or require the making of
judgments or the integration of new and old learning.
Missing from her account though is a discussion of the
vast potential offered by technology to support reflection
not only via these techniques, but in new ways too. Using
the aspects defined above, we go on here to provide a
preliminary outline of ways technology can and has been
designed for reflection. Following this we present a case
study which illustrates these techniques in practice for a
particular purpose.
Supporting R0: Technology for Revisiting
R0 is the level at which technology can provide
significant support in providing informational resources
for reflection. Although, as discussed earlier, simply
stating what is known, looking at information or data, or
looking back on events or experiences is not considered
reflective on its own - it is often the foundation on which
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later reflection is based. Any representation of existing
information or knowledge can form the basis for
reflection on that information be that oral, written or
pictorial. The non-technology technique of writing or
journaling for reflection on experience is valuable in that
it provides a record of experiences (and usually
reflections on these) over time that can be looked back
over, shared or compared. Supporting memory by
providing a record of knowledge, events, experiences and
thinking over time is the most obvious way that
technology can be used to support reflection.
Technology can be used as the tool through which
knowledge and experience is recorded in a direct
extension to the non-technology techniques above. For
example, electronic portfolios (e.g. Loh et al., 1997) can
replace pen and paper journals, allowing the addition of
all sorts of electronic data to be ‘journaled’ and
subsequently reflected on. Life-logging (e.g. Allen, 2008)
could be considered an extreme case of journaling, where
all available data from everyday life is recorded and kept
to support future reflection. The attraction of keeping
electronic records, in terms of reflection, is that they can
be more easily searched, reorganised and shared (and they
take up less space). Other non-technology techniques for
representing knowledge, including spatial-mapping
techniques like mind-mapping can similarly benefit from
digitisation.
In addition, a record of events is often the automatic
outcome of using technology. For example, Seale and
Cann (2000) promoted the use of online discussion
forums to support students’ reflection precisely because
they provide a record of discussions that can be returned
to in the future in a way face-to-face discussions cannot.
Similarly, technology can be used to create visual/audio
records of experience with the use of video, photography,
audio recording technologies. New forms of information
can also be captured through the use of sensor devices,
wearables and additional context information giving
access to information that otherwise might not be
perceptible or available to normal memory.
Supporting R1: Technology to Prompt Explanation
Most authors agree that providing justifications or
explanations for knowledge, events or one’s actions is an
indication of at least low-level reflective thinking. Often
when looking over a representation of one’s information
or knowledge, or looking back at actions or events either
from memory or from a record of those events, people
spontaneously think or reflect in this way. However, a
standard non-technology technique for encouraging more
of this in situations where useful reflection for the
intended purpose is not so natural, is the asking of
reflective questions. These are designed to get reflectors
to think specifically about issues that are considered
important for the particular purpose of their reflection.
Essay questions, for example, are broad reflective
questions to direct thought to the subject matter being
covered. More specific questions might be to direct
attention on the process of what you are doing in order to
learn from it (meta-cognition, self-reflection or reflective
practice.)
Therefore, one way to prompt reflectors to think about
what they are doing and provide justifications or
explanations for knowledge, actions or events, is to ask
them to do this. Such reflective questions can be
incorporated in various ways to technology to promote
this aspect of reflection. For example, in interactive
learning environments, such as Gama (2001), questions
can be used to prompt students as they work through the
system to answer various reflective questions about their
understanding of the problem, their related previous
knowledge and strategies used to answer the problem.
Similarly, annotation technologies could promote
reflection through the use of reflective questioning. For
example Storytellr (Landry in Sas & Dix, 2009)
encourages people to tag their digital photographs with
experience based tags through prompting with reflective
questions such as What emotions (positive or negative)
do looking at this image evoke?” for the purpose of
storytelling with the images later. Experience sampling
techniques can also be used to encourage reflection,
sending prompt questions to mobile devices, triggered for
example by context-sensitive settings (Intille et al., 2003).
Interactive concept mapping tools such as Belvedere
(Paolucci et al., 1995) or Convince me (Schank &
Ranney, 1995) also prompt for justifications and
explanations. They do this by providing skeleton
structures that encourage participants to organise their
knowledge into nodes of information and think about
whether these nodes support each other or contradict
them, and the technology (acting almost like another
person) prompts them to do this if they have not
adequately achieved this.
The presence of another person is also beneficial in
encouraging the giving of justifications or explanations,
as it makes sense to explain things to other people,
especially if they do not share the same knowledge,
understanding or experience as you. Any kind of record
of events or representation of knowledge can form the
basis for discussion between two people allowing each
to ask the other for explanations or justifications where
needed. For example, in the eScience project, children
worked in groups to collect data about their environment,
then talked to real expert scientists via web-chat who
were able to ask them questions of their data (Smith et al.,
2005).
Supporting R2: Technology to See More
We have described how this level of reflection involves a
questioning of events or knowledge, and a consideration
of different explanations, hypotheses or points of view.
This type of thinking can follow from lower levels of
reflection prompted by the techniques already discussed.
It can also be encouraged through the use of techniques
that can enable the ‘seeing of things from multiple
perspectives’ a theme which crops up throughout the
literature on reflection again and again (Ackerman, 1996,
Boud et al., 1985; Schön, 1983).
Technology has the potential to do this in many ways. For
example it can be used to produce a record of events
which can be looked at again; there may be things that
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have been forgotten and a recording can provide time to
focus attention on different aspects of the experience on
each return, especially if some guidance as to what to
focus on is provided (Hutchinson & Bryson, 1997; Sherin
& van Es, 2002), possibly through the use of reflective
questioning.
Also technology has the potential to allow you to see
more than you could possibly see alone, for example
sensor technologies can record, detect and represent data
or aspects of experiences not otherwise available to
human perception. This aspect of seeing from a different
perspective can mean that more information is available
to the reflector in order to make sense of events, or
consider the implications of their actions. This extra
perspective may be available at the time of the
experience: Back et al. (in Sas & Dix, 2009) describe
anecdotally how wearing a heart beat monitor allowed
them to reflect on the immediate impact of the exercise
they were conducting (running on a treadmill) on their
body. Similarly, in the Ambient Wood project (Rogers et
al., 2004) an Ambient Horn was developed to ‘make the
invisible visible’ by playing abstract sounds to represent
hidden processes, such as photosynthesis, in the wood to
encourage children to consider various different
hypotheses for what was going on in the wood.
Looking back on any visual/audio recording of events is
always literally going to let you see the experience from a
different view-point to your own which can allow you to
see and hear things out of your own scope of awareness at
the time (Fleck and Fitzpatrick, 2009). A record of
collected sensor data can also allow you to look back on
experience with the added extra perspective of more
information available to understand events. In addition,
such records allow you to relate different views to each
other, or to look for patterns that are only observable by
stepping back to get an overview. For example, in the
eScience project students collected wind direction,
strength and carbon monoxide readings at various
locations and put these things together in a replay tool to
try to explain what was going on. Also, Clippingdale et
al. (in Sas & Dix, 2009) suggested the use of sensors to
analyse the patterns of movement of patients suffering
from depression in order to infer information about their
mood states over the day. By encouraging these patients
to log other information throughout the day, it was hoped
that the patents would be able to relate their mood to
other events in their lives, and therapists would be able to
monitor their response to treatment. The purpose of
reflection in the above examples is quite clear cut: the
extra perspective offered by the technology directly lends
itself to the kind of abstractions or links that can lead to
the reflection/understandings intended by the designers. A
similar technique was successfully used to help diabetic
patients monitor and relate their blood sugar levels to
their diet and exercise in order for them to begin to
develop an understanding of this relationship (Mamykina
et al., 2008).
However, similar techniques can be used to encourage
much more contemplative reflection, where designers
have a less clear purpose in mind. For example the Home
Health Monitor (Gaver et al., 2003) is embedded with
various sensors such as light, temperature and door
sensors to monitor people’s activities around the home,
the results of which are then used to give feedback in the
form of a horoscope to allow people ‘to reflect on the
emotional state of their home’. Similarly, the ambient
display ‘dangling string’ (Weiser & Seely Brown, 1997)
consists of a string dangling from the corner of hallway
that whirs and moves in response to network activity,
without any explicit design intention as to what being
peripherally aware of this information will lead to.
An alternate perspective can also be provided by another
person: therefore any record of knowledge or experience
can be used to share that knowledge and experience with
others. As well as encouraging the generation of
explanations and justifications as described earlier, their
interpretation of data or events may differ from yours,
providing a different perspective. Therefore the
techniques discussed earlier which support conversation
can also provide reflectors with this alternative
perspective. In addition, sharing and comparing different
experiences can provide more material for generating
alternate explanations or hypotheses or to the questioning
of knowledge/events, the other aspects of level 2
reflection.
Technology can also provide the means by which
reflectors reorganize their knowledge to see it from
multiple perspectives. For example, digital concept-
mapping software can both allow reflectors to move
nodes around to reorganize their ideas, and to
automatically re-represent ideas in a different format: for
example commercial mind mapping software usually
includes features where a spatial diagram of mixed nodes
can, at the click of a button, be transformed to say a
bulleted list. Visualisation tools can allow the exploration
of data in different formats.
In terms of supporting the aspects of reflection at this
level, seeing from another perspective in the ways
described above can lead to consideration of different
points of view. The extra information about events
provided by these other perspectives can lead to the
consideration of multiple hypotheses to explain what’s
going on. Finally, where this extra information does not
fit with existing hypotheses or explanations of events,
multiple perspectives can prompt a questioning of
knowledge and even a questioning of events.
Simulation environments (and other similar interactive
learning environments) can also support reflection
through allowing the quick and relatively cost free
exploration of these environments, allowing participants
to experience different possible outcomes, and
reflect/hypothesize as to what might be causing them. In
addition, they can improve on real life environments by
making more information visible (as sensor technologies
can in real life) and allowing for various re-
representations of that data.
Supporting R3 & 4: Transformation
Levels 3 and 4 build on the processes of levels 0-2 where
the resources available for reflection are engaged with at
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deep levels. For example seeing from multiple
perspectives (discussed as a technique to encourage R2)
can also lead to a challenging of original assumptions or
interpretations of data as reflectors question and consider
alternative explanations and hypotheses. Challenging of
original assumptions can in turn lead to a fundamental
change in understanding, which can lead in practice
settings to a change in that practice. Because these levels
are much more about what people are doing with the
information for change and transformation, i.e., more as
internal processes, we will not include any further
specific technology examples here. This is not to say that
technology will not have a role to play in the actual
practice of transformation but that arguably the main role
for technology is in supporting the foundational resources
and processes of reflection.
EXEMPLAR CASE: SENSECAM
To illustrate more clearly how technology can be
designed to support reflection in practice, encouraging a
whole range of behaviours at different levels
simultaneously, we present here a case study of a
technology, SenseCam, that was not explicitly designed
to support reflection but was used to support trainee
teachers’ reflection on practice (Fleck and Fitzpatrick,
2009).
SenseCam is a wearable digital camera augmented with a
number of sensors, such as light, sound and movement,
which automatically trigger it to take photographs as it is
worn around the user’s neck somewhat like a pendant
(see Hodges et al., 2006). When worn by trainee teachers
as they teach a lesson, SenseCam provides a photographic
record of that lesson which can then form the basis for
returning to the lesson experience in order to reflect upon
it. The hope is this will enable the trainees to learn from
this experience and ultimately become better teachers. In
(Fleck, 2008) and (Fleck and Fitzpatrick, 2009) we
describe how SenseCam images were used in a variety of
settings to support this reflection. For example, some
teachers looked through images alone and used them to
self-reflect on their lessons, whilst others reflected
alongside peers or with support from a more experienced
teacher as mentor.
Across these settings, the teachers’ SenseCam recordings
of their lessons were able to support their reflection by
making use of a number of the techniques described in
the section above. Primarily, images provided a record of
events for the teachers to return to (R0), and formed the
basis for discussion with a peer or mentor, with the
opportunity to provide explanations and justifications for
observed events (R1). Secondly, the images were reported
to support a number of the aspects of ‘seeing from
another perspective’ (R2) described above. For example
the images recorded and reminded participants of things
they had forgotten or had not noticed at the time, and
allowed them to notice patterns in their behaviour which
were only observable through taking a step back from
immediate events. In addition, some participants placed a
SenseCam in the room allowing them to capture things
they literally could not see at the time (for example what
went on behind their backs). Further, when reflection
occurred between two or more people, as images were
discussed, participants shared their different perspectives
on events in the classroom. In some cases, such
mechanisms led to higher levels of reflection including
the challenging of original assumptions and a
fundamental change in understanding (R3). These
observations highlight that there is often no clear
distinction between a technique for encouraging one
aspect of reflection and a technique for encouraging
another: and there is a certain circularity to it all with
higher levels of reflection following from lower levels by
making use of the same techniques.
Also, one important way in which the various settings
SenseCam was explored in differed from each other was
in the amount of structure and support given to the
reflectors as they looked through and discussed the
captured images. Mentors were able to use the images as
a prompt to drive the trainees thinking through the use of
reflective questioning, and in general these sessions saw
higher levels of reflection reached than the more open-
ended self-reflection sessions. Following from this, future
trainee teachers’ reflection with SenseCam may be
improved with the implementation of a set of guidelines
for its use, particularly a clear framework for structuring
discussion around images. Looking at other techniques
we have suggested, it is also possible that making some
of the sensor data captured available alongside images
may further enable participants to ‘see more’, which may
in turn encourage further reflection.
DESIGNING FOR REFLECTION
In this paper we set out to synthesize and build upon the
diverse work in the various literatures around reflection in
order that we may better inform design. A review of the
HCI literature highlights the fuzziness in which the term
‘reflection’ is used within the HCI community as it
begins to embrace the concept of reflection as a new
design goal in its own right. However, there is also
fuzziness in the definitions of reflection in the broader
literature. Therefore, rather than trying to precisely define
reflection, we have focused instead on drawing out a
number of aspects - including purposes and conditions for
and types of activities and behaviours associated with -
reflection, which we suggest is a more useful approach
for HCI and design purposes. Based on these we have
suggested various roles for technology in supporting
reflection.
We now go on to draw from these observations a set of
questions (guidelines) that can support HCI designers in
thinking about designing for reflection.
1. What is the purpose for the reflection?
An observation made of many of the papers in Sas and
Dix’s workshop on designing for reflection on experience
(2009) was that the authors did not convey a clear
purpose for reflection, rather phrases such as ‘the analysis
of our identity (Byrne and Jones in Sas & Dix, 2009)
were used. This is perhaps fine: Moon does list ‘other
outcomes that might be unexpected’ (1999, p98) as one of
her purposes for reflection, and often the intention of art
is to promote new ways of thinking and seeing without
222
making any claims as to what this may lead to (e.g. Gaver
et al., 2003; Weiser & Seely Brown, 1997). However, key
to providing a structure for reflection is being aware of
the purpose of that reflection and guiding thinking to that
end: having no clear purpose then might limit technology
only to (providing time for and) provoking reflection -
not to structuring and encouraging it. In this way
opportunities for reflection may be lost.
2. What reflective behaviours do you want to
encourage? Which technologies and techniques can
support these behaviours?
With a clear purpose for reflection, it becomes easier to
identify types of behaviours or thought associated with
that purpose (i.e. those aspects outlined in the ‘levels of
reflection’ framework). The next step then is to identify
techniques (and technologies) for encouraging these
behaviours: either by considering which techniques an
available technology can support, or by identifying new
technologies for a particular technique.
3. Are the conditions for reflection (time, structure,
encouragment) being met?
With the exception of the techniques which make use of
reflective questioning, most of the technology
opportunities we have discussed could be considered as
techniques for enabling reflection by making material
available for reflection and sometimes suggesting links
that could be made. In our case study too, the technology
primarily provided a record of events that formed the
basis of reflection (which was then encouraged through
discussion with others and guided and supported by
experts). We suggest then that it is not just the technology
that needs to be designed to promote good reflection: it is
the whole framework and structure within which the
technology is used. As we discussed earlier, reflection
requires time, benefits from guidance or support, and in
many situations needs to be encouraged. Some of these
aspects may not be achievable by technology alone.
CONCLUSION
In this paper we have highlighted the fuzziness in which
the term ‘reflection’ is used within the HCI community as
it begins to embrace the concept of reflection on
experience as a new design goal in its own right. As a
resource for thinking about designing for reflection, we
have presented a framework which encompasses a
number of aspects of reflection synthesized from existing
literature. We have then used this to illustrate how
technology has been and could be used to support
reflection, concluding with a set of guiding questions for
designers intending to do this in the future. This should
be considered a theoretical starting point for those
interested in designing for reflection especially in
situations such as reflective practice where there is a clear
purpose for reflection. As noted previously though, there
can be a certain circularity in the way reflection occurs:
higher levels of reflection often follow from lower levels
by making use of the same techniques. It is worth
reminding ourselves that in all situations, the technologies
and techniques can provide only the resources and
support the conditions for reflection, but it is ultimately
people who do the reflection.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank the teachers at our schools who participated in
the case studies, from which the framework evolved.
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