Unpacking the critical reflection criteria

There are two sections on the criteria sheet for your critical reflection posts. The first section deals with analysis and critical discussion, and the second section deals with mechanics and communication.

Let’s unpack the criteria.

iPhone 6 unboxing courtesy Romazur via Wikimedia under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license
iPhone 6 unboxing courtesy Romazur via Wikimedia under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Analysis and critical discussion

First, you must read

Yep, you’ve got to read (and/or watch, listen etc). Basically, you’ve got to engage with what other people have to say on the topic.

The criteria for a high distinction are:

  • Blog entry shows strong awareness of key issues discussed in weekly learning materials.
  • Presents a strong, coherent and valid argument (where appropriate).
  • Strong evidence of independent investigation, questioning and analysis.
  • Ability to effectively synthesise information from a variety of sources. Independently takes and understands multiple perspectives and through these can provide an insightful and/or exhaustive critical discussion of the issues at hand.
  • Incorporates own opinion and original ideas into discussion, with strong foundation in theory and examples.
  • Presents thought provoking questions or statements to further the discussion.

You’ll notice I’ve italicised some words here. And they all have something in common: they refer to using information. To satisfy the criteria, you need to

  • read or watch the weekly learning materials
  • undertake your own searching and reading
  • use information from a variety of sources
  • engage with theory.

But it isn’t enough to just read or watch the material. You’ve got to do something with the information.

You need to analyse, synthesise and critically discuss

Let’s take another look at the criteria, one-by-one, this time focusing on what you need to do with the information you’ve engaged with.

Blog entry shows strong awareness of key issues discussed in weekly learning materials.

In your post, you must demonstrate that you are aware of and understand the issues or concepts discussed in the weekly learning materials. You aren’t limited to using the weekly learning materials to help you understand the key issues, but you do need to read those materials and you need to show us you’re aware of the issues and where that awareness came from. That means you need references to support your discussion of the issues.

Presents a strong, coherent and valid argument (where appropriate).

Your post should present ideas in a logical sequence to support development of an argument. If you’re not making an argument (and it’s rare that you won’t be), you still must present your ideas logically and coherently. It’s like telling a story. Plan your post as a sequence of ideas that together form a whole story.

Strong evidence of independent investigation, questioning and analysis.

This means you need to go and find your own information, think carefully and critically about it, interrogate it, question it and the viewpoints it presents, and analyse it. Don’t just assume that everything you read or watch is true. Pull things apart. Think critically.

Analysis requires you to do more than describe what you’ve read in the literature or experienced in social media. It’s not enough to tell us what the literature says on a particular topic. You must go further. Tell us why it’s important, what it means, how it contradicts or supports your own thoughts. Dig deeper.

Ability to effectively synthesise information from a variety of sources. Independently takes and understands multiple perspectives and through these can provide an insightful and/or exhaustive critical discussion of the issues at hand.

Synthesis is about looking for like and unlike ideas in the literature and then pulling those ideas together to create something new – your synthesis of the ideas in the literature. It’s a bit like creating a thematic summary of what you’ve read in the literature. Taking and understanding multiple perspectives is about engaging with more than one viewpoint on the topic. Don’t just assume that what the teaching team say or what one article says is gospel. You need to explore the issues from different viewpoints. You are looking to provide insight on the topic. Don’t just repeat what you’ve read elsewhere. Critically engage with what you read. Draw conclusions.

When you synthesise information from a variety of sources, you have to reference those sources. Likewise, you should reference the different perspectives or viewpoints you present.

Incorporates own opinion and original ideas into discussion, with strong foundation in theory and examples.

We want to hear your opinion, but we want to know that you have read the theory and that your opinions have been developed in an informed way. Every opinion you present should be underpinned by theory or an example or both. Theory should be referenced.

Presents thought provoking questions or statements to further the discussion.

Blogs should be conversations between the author and their readers. To attract comments, you need to engage your readers somehow. One good way to do this is to ask questions, but it can be just as effective to make a thought provoking or contentious statement.

We know whether you’ve done the reading

That sounds a bit ‘we know what you did last summer’ ish, only less exciting. Nevertheless, it’s true. It is abundantly clear to us when students have not worked through the learning materials or done their own research. And not just because you haven’t referenced anything. We can tell by the viewpoints you present, the way you use terminology, and the depth of your analysis.

You must read, demonstrate you have read, and acknowledge sources by referencing them.

I cannot stress this enough: you must do the work – in the form of reading, watching, analysing and synthesising – or you won’t pass. I think sometimes students assume that writing blog posts is easy and that this is therefore an easy assignment. That is absolutely not the case.

I expect that preparing and writing each blog post will take you at least a couple of hours, probably more. If you’re not spending a few hours reading and crafting your posts, chances are, you’re not engaging at the level required.

Don’t forget, class time in this unit is significantly reduce in recognition of the fact you are working independently online. You still need to put 12 hours a week into the unit (and every other unit you’re enrolled in too).

Ok, let’s crack on with the mechanical stuff.

Media mechanics and communication

Here are the criteria:

  • Post is extremely well structured and flows logically and convincingly to conclusions.
  • Entry makes significant use of the affordances of social technology, which may include highly appropriate contextual linking, use of highly relevant images to enhance the post or convey meaning, very effective incorporation of other media.
  • Sources (including for images and other media) are always attributed correctly and appropriately for the medium (no reference lists!).
  • Tagging and categorising of post is excellent and effectively describes the content of the post.
  • Length or duration of entry highly appropriate to context (minimum requirement specified in description of learning activity).
  • Language used is highly appropriate to the audience and context.
  • Fluent, professional style and tone. May be informal, but still appropriate in a professional context.
  • Sentences skilfully constructed: unified, coherent, forceful, varied and well-structured.
  • Excellent use of standard grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • No proof reading errors.

These are pretty self explanatory. There are two key messages.

Quality matters

Craft your posts. Focus on the quality of writing.

Don’t confuse informal with unprofessional. Informal is fine, but you still must write well constructed sentences and paragraphs that are grammatically correct.

Get someone else to proofread your posts for you.

Use the affordances of the technology

You also need to use the conventions of the medium. In a blog post, references should be supplied through contextual hyperlinking (hyperlinking words in your post to the source). You should also try to include images and links to related information where appropriate.

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