The first self-reflections were generally very well done, and helped me get to know more about your learning and engaging styles. Because these were due before we first had a chance to talk about styles of reasoning and argumentation, I tried in general to be more lenient on the support needed for answers to move up to the 10/10 range. We will hope to see a little more support for the next ones, as we begin to develop more skills in critical explanation or support, but if you ever do not understand why you did or did not meet the goal you expected, feel free to reach out!
I do not have too many collective comments, both because people who submitted generally got 8 or 10 out of 10, and because the answers varied greatly. But there are a few things worth briefly repeating that map onto the last tutorial, or which repeat things that were available on the Participation Questions and Answers handout available from the beginning of the term (click here to check it out if you hadn’t before).
- Specificity and/or examples: Recall from the first tutorial that part of the goal of the self-reflections was to work at articulating and supporting our answers in order to convince other people where possible. (See also the Participation Questions and Answers handout) .Providing a more critical level of support or explanation for our answers was part of the evaluation for scoring, but also is meant to help us develop skills toward writing our paper. One way of strengthening our answers would be to add clearer specific details, or to provide examples. It was common to say something like “I participated in group discussions by speaking up. This has not changed because…”. It would help our answers to give more detail about how we spoke up or what we tried to contribute. Did we contribute by sharing something we learned from the textbook about utilitarianism and relating that to the context of disclosure? Or by drawing on lived experience to describe another way of understanding health as also spiritual? Did we ask a clarifying question about what someone meant by a term we hadn’t heard of? Other answers might have mentioned conversations with friends or family members, or people in groupchat: What did we talk about? Where did the conversation go? What did we learn, if anything, from talking with others? More specific details or examples of how and what we contributed would lend more support to the claims we express. We discussed more strategies around this in the most recent tutorial before reading week.
- Explaining non-answers: As I mentioned in the first tutorial, it’s definitely okay not to have answers to questions for a variety of reasons, and that will not by itself prevent us from accessing full scores. To move from a 6/10 to a possible 8/10, our reflections would have to tell us there is no answer rather than leaving the question blank. To move from an 8/10 to a 10/10, our answer would have to explain why we don’t have a direct answer to the question this week. On the participation handout from the first tutorial, for example, says “It’s okay for an answer to say ‘I don’t know if I have a good answer to this, this week, because…’, or ‘I actually don’t think this is a helpful question this week, because…'”, but in each of these cases there is a “because” claim that supports the response given. And as it says in the Participation Questions and Answers handout, “The main goal we should be aimed at is convincing someone that the answer we gave is true, right, or otherwise convincing. Ideally, anyone reading your answer should be inclined to believe it. If there is no available evidence, that’s totally okay! For full marks, you could try to explain why there is not or cannot be evidence, and why someone should accept your answers without. The goal overall is to try to support our claims in case someone might disbelieve us, and this will help as practice for when we write our term papers.” There was no consistency between different people as to which questions was hard to answer or irrelevant to people more generally, so the next reflection will keep all the same questions as planned.
- Concrete plans: Some of our answers to questions about how we could improve said things like participating more, or supporting others more, but did not explain how we would try to do that. In some cases where we did not know how to support others, we didn’t discuss how we might try to learn how to support others. For answers around how we might improve, it would be helpful to have more concrete action plans. What are specific ways I can make steps toward doing better next time? “Participate more” doesn’t always give us the tools to make progress.
- Building for next time: For the next reflections, keep up the level of self-critical reflection we saw in your first early answers. Many of us gave answers about how we thought we could improve on our own engagement or support for others. Did we succeed? Did we manage to follow any of those steps we outlined? Did we realize they were unreasonable or otherwise not well suited for us? In our next answers, it will help to reflect more on what changes we did or didn’t make, and why not. Are we just comfortable participating how we were? Is it too much work to change? And for all of these, why? There are more tools and resources available to us for next time (more tutorials done, more opportunities to change or interrogate our practices, more opportunities to ask the TA questions about participation, more opportunities to learn about support and reasoning, and so on). Make use of these!
- Barriers: Most of the barriers people communicated have hopefully already been better accommodated or dismantled in the last few weeks (things like familiarity, switching up groups, getting further into the course, and so on). I am committed to addressing barriers as they arise or persist over the term. One of the most commonly cited barriers (over 87% of responses!) was ourselves and fears of coming across as badly informed, as not critical, as unprepared, and so on. Those answers almost always said those barriers were just our own to address, but I hope in letting you know that nearly nine out of every ten people who responded felt the same way, it helps in trying to overcome those mental blocks. We’re not alone. We’re all learning with and from each others. And I look forward to more of that over the course.
As always, if you have further questions, you can always email me and/or discuss in office hours or arranged meetings. As mentioned in first tutorials, if a question is too much to answer by email, I’ll suggest we meet in person, but there’s no reason not to try asking by email! These first reflections were very interesting and helpful to read and learn from, and I look forward to your next reflections as well!